Nov 16 • 40M

Arizona Equals Sonora

National Book Award Finalist Sonora Reyes joins the Arizona Equals Conversation

 
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Equality Arizona
Arizona Equals is a conversational interview podcast chronicling the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ Arizonans. Listen to new episodes weekly on Wednesdays, featuring conversations with queer people living in Arizona.

On today’s episode of the Arizona Equals Conversation, Jeanne interviews Sonora Reyes, author of The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School and finalist for the National Book Awards. They talk about the complex process of coming out, how writing fiction can be a way to process trauma, and whether the publishing industry is ready for the kind of characters Sonora wants to write.

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Full Transcript

00;00;00;05 - 00;00;27;20

Jeanne

From Equality Arizona, you're listening to the Arizona Equals Conversation. I'm Jeanne Woodbury. I'm the interim executive director for Equality Arizona and the host of this podcast. Each week on the show, I interview a queer person about the map of their life and the paths they've taken through it. Today, I'm really excited to release this interview with National Book Award finalist Sonora Reyes, author of the Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School.

00;00;28;19 - 00;00;49;21

Jeanne

I was actually introduced to Sonora through a previous guest on the podcast, Jesse, one of the co-owners of Brick Road Coffee in Tempe, and I love how that really captures the spirit of the show. You know, as we add more and more stories to the project, it's really rewarding to see how those stories connect to each other, and the picture that paints of Arizona.

00;00;50;25 - 00;01;14;01

Jeanne

I absolutely loved my time with Sonora and the conversation we got to have. We covered some really interesting topics, like online community, processing trauma through writing fiction, representations of autism, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did. But just like this conversation is mostly spoiler-free for Sonora's novel, I'm going to make this intro pretty much spoiler-free for the conversation.

00;01;14;18 - 00;01;29;16

Jeanne

So let's just jump into it.

00;01;33;21 - 00;01;44;03

Sonora

Okay, hi, I'm Sonora Reyes. I am an author, of the book The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School. I use they/them pronouns. Um, yeah!

00;01;45;02 - 00;01;54;12

Jeanne

Alright, thank you!

Sonora

Sorry that was a horrible introduction.

Jeanne

No, it's fantastic, it was fantastic.

Sonora

I'm so bad at intros. Like, what do I say?

00;01;55;11 - 00;02;00;02

Jeanne

Yeah, no, I always, um, I always struggle to know how to talk about myself.

00;02;00;03 - 00;02;01;15

Sonora

Yeah, it's hard.

00;02;02;12 - 00;02;08;27

Sonora

Which is silly because it's like, Oh, I have to do it all the time now. And I still haven't gotten the hang of it.

00;02;10;13 - 00;02;29;13

Jeanne

Well, so anyway, it's pretty informal, but thanks for sitting down with me and talking. I bought your book and I read your book and I really loved it.

Sonora

Aww.

Jeanne

It took me like 60 pages to really figure out where it was going. I was like, This is interesting. And then I got into it. I was like, Oh, this is actually really fascinating.

00;02;29;26 - 00;02;50;01

Jeanne

And one of the things that I wanted to ask you about is, you know, a lot of the book is about levels of being out and what it means to come out and what it's like to be outed. And kind of one of the central tensions, at least in the way I read the book, is between this character, Bo, who's out.

00;02;50;12 - 00;03;16;01

Jeanne

And then the main character, who is not out. And they go to the same school, and there's this tension of like, I'm only going to tell Bo that I'm gay. And I wondered, like, is this something that you have experience with? It's like, it's a really nuanced conversation about being out where it's like, Well, why wouldn't she just come out to this person and have this safe relationship?

00;03;16;07 - 00;03;22;23

Jeanne

And that's a big part of what the book is about.

Sonora

Yeah.

Jeanne

But I really found myself thinking, oh, this is this is unique. This is different.

00;03;23;01 - 00;03;53;06

Sonora

Yeah. And I think the reason why I chose to have Yami be so hesitant to come out is because I really wanted to tell a story where when she comes out, she's fully ready and she's fully, like, embraced herself by that point because the first time she came out, she wasn't. And, when she came out to Bianca and then Bianca outed her at her old school.

00;03;53;11 - 00;03;59;00

Sonora

So that's not really a spoiler; it's in like the first part of the book. The first page, I think.

00;03;59;08 - 00;04;00;19

Jeanne

I think so. Yeah.

00;04;01;28 - 00;04;32;26

Sonora

But so since she experienced that I wanted to give her kind of both, like, options. So she had her coming out experience taken from her. And then the next time she gets to take it into her own hands and do it the way she wants to do it in, even if she has this perfect situation where she, one of her best friends, is gay and out and, and her gay friends parents are very supportive of her friend.

00;04;33;11 - 00;05;06;02

Sonora

And so she knows that like her friend group would be supportive and she knows that like the same situation wouldn't happen again. But then, in my opinion, I don't think you need to have like a reason to not be ready, if that makes sense?

Jeanne

I agree, yeah.

Sonora

So, like, she just wasn't yet, and it just took a little bit for her to, like, she had to kind of dip her toes in a little bit and then find her groove and eventually figure out who she was and figure out when she was ready, so.

00;05;06;09 - 00;05;26;13

Jeanne

I remember at one point she's talking with another character — I don't want to spoil things, but there's another character who we find out is bisexual — and she's saying this thing where it's about, Look, I'm out to this person, I'm out to this person: just because I'm not, like, officially out to everyone. Does that mean I'm hiding?

00;05;26;28 - 00;05;45;24

Jeanne

And does it mean I'm not out unless I go to every single person and tell them one by one?

Sonora

Yeah. [laughs]

Jeanne

That, you know, I'm gay. And I feel like that's something I've heard a lot of people talk about in terms of being out. It's like, well you're constantly coming out. It's not like it becomes a, like a name tag that's stuck to you.

00;05;46;23 - 00;05;51;12

Jeanne

How do you think about that? Like in your own life, in terms of being out and —

00;05;51;18 - 00;05;58;16

Sonora

Yeah, so I think that I'm at the point where I'm very ready to be out like, you know, writing gay books and like —

00;05;58;16 - 00;06;01;16

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;06;01;16 - 00;06;31;06

Sonora

So I do whatever I can these days to like actually show people that I'm like, queer in some way. Like, you know, I cut my hair. I like, I don't know, I feel like I, I want to, like, wear clothes that make me feel comfortable. I want to, like, hang out in very queer spaces and just, like, be around people who I feel comfortable with and I kind of do —

00;06;31;07 - 00;06;52;11

Sonora

So there's conversation in the book where Bo is saying that like, she's like Schrodinger's gay, right? Where she like always has to scream about being gay and Chinese for anyone to like, actually see her. And I totally feel that, like, myself. Like I'm like, I feel like I just I, but I'm past the point of feeling like I have to,

00;06;52;11 - 00;06;54;06

Sonora

And I'm at the point now where I'm like, I want to.

00;06;54;17 - 00;06;55;02

Jeanne

Oh, yeah.

00;06;55;05 - 00;06;57;23

Sonora

You know, like, I'm just like, I'm just always shouting about it.

00;06;58;08 - 00;07;12;23

Sonora

Because I, like, feel ready to, but like, it took me a long time to get there and it took me like a really long time to feel like I was ready to, like, actually do it of my own volition instead of because I felt like I was supposed to, you know?

00;07;13;14 - 00;07;25;23

Jeanne

Right. And in the course of that journey, I mean, what was the thing, was it — you know, you mentioned spending time in really specifically queer spaces and around people. Is that what enabled that or was it just, time?

00;07;26;10 - 00;07;49;18

Sonora

I think just time because I was in kind of a unique situation where like I've talked about this before, where like I — so I wrote the Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School. It's about a lesbian cis girl. I am not cis or a girl or a lesbian. And I used to wear that hat; like her experience is what I experienced in high school.

00;07;50;00 - 00;08;13;21

Sonora

So I still feel like that's my experience because I very much thought that that was me for a very long time. And so I have worn many hats in my life. And I think you're going to see like a lot of different books that like showcase those different experiences because I want to explore like all of who I am and who I was and who I have been.

00;08;14;15 - 00;08;17;22

Sonora

Just so you know, process some trauma.

00;08;19;09 - 00;08;30;14

Sonora

I feel like that's my brand now is just processing trauma through my books, but in a like hopeful way I hope — in a way that feels happy at the end.

00;08;30;27 - 00;08;50;13

Jeanne

Something I haven't gotten to talk about very much with other authors is — and you, you know, you bring up this idea of processing trauma through your books — there's a unique relationship, right, between like an author and a reader or the audience in general, where you can say these things and it's not like someone's looking at you while you're saying them.

00;08;51;00 - 00;09;10;20

Jeanne

But then at the same time, like, I bought your book on a shelf at Changing Hands and it had like a staff recommendation placard. So like a lot of people are reading these and if you put something like that in there, do you feel like it's communication and that's what's helpful in terms of processing or is it just, writing it down?

00;09;10;28 - 00;09;12;12

Jeanne

I guess maybe it could be both.

00;09;12;15 - 00;09;37;02

Sonora

I think both, but I think for me, like I can talk about it all day, but a lot of the time I don't fully process something until I put it in someone else's story so that I can process it without the fear of like anyone thinking, Oh, this is me or this is what I have to say. This is just like, somebody else.

00;09;38;05 - 00;10;02;20

Sonora

It's their story. And I can put as much of my own experience into it as I want and process it in ways that I don't even necessarily like — like I can make this character feel a way about it that I don't feel, and then I can change it and make them feel a different way, and make them feel a different way and process it through exploring like all the different outcomes that could have happened with a specific experience.

00;10;02;20 - 00;10;39;16

Sonora

So my next book comes out in May. It's called The Luis Ortega Survival Club, and it is about a girl named Ariana who — trigger warning for rape — she was taken advantage of at a party and she gets revenge on him with the help of an anonymous pen pal. And so that story is for me, it's, while I never was able to get revenge on anybody, but I processed my trauma through, like, a fantasy.

00;10;39;29 - 00;10;58;19

Sonora

You know what I mean? Where in this fantasy, the bad thing still happened, but it didn't stop her from winning in the end.

Jeanne

Yeah, that makes sense.

Sonora

So, like, I like to process my trauma in ways that feel hopeful in the end and that feel like the trauma still happens. The bad thing can still be there, and you can still experience it.

00;10;58;28 - 00;11;06;26

Sonora

But it doesn't stop you from like, having a fully happy ending, if that makes sense.

00;11;07;04 - 00;11;30;10

Jeanne

Well, and I think I see that in the book I read, you know, you start with this really difficult moment where she's lost her best friend and she's losing her whole community. She's going to somewhere where it's like this double edged sword of, while I can hide again, but also it's not going to be safe for me if I come out potentially.

00;11;30;10 - 00;11;49;29

Jeanne

So it's this, at the beginning it's this total point of trauma, I think. And then by the end, many, many things have been kind of transformed into something positive. And so I see what you're saying in terms of letting all those things actually exist in a real way, but then still giving that ending to the stories.

00;11;49;29 - 00;12;14;18

Sonora

Yeah. Because I feel like for some people, the fantasy is a life where the trauma never happened. But for me, that never felt plausible or anything like within my grasp. Like I could never picture myself, who, who I would be without any of that, because it affected me so deeply and I would love to picture that.

00;12;14;18 - 00;12;37;25

Sonora

And I feel like that is a fantasy that a lot of people need and it's great for it to exist. But I feel like my fantasy is for somebody who is traumatized to get to still win and to get to still have those hopeful, cheerful, joyful moments with their loved ones and themself and like still fully come into themself.

00;12;37;25 - 00;12;56;14

Jeanne

It reminds me of that hypothetical like thought thing of, you know, if you could go back into your life and change something, what would you change? And every time I try to think through that, I'm like, there's plenty of bad things that have happened. But, I don't know what it would mean to change those things. Is that kind of how you feel too?

00;12;56;25 - 00;13;28;03

Sonora

I have a lot of really mixed feelings about it, because I of course, like if I could take away a lot of my trauma, I would. But at the same time, I don't know what that would look like. I don't think I would be recognizable to myself. And that's not to say that like it should have happened, you know, because I don't think it's —

Jeanne

No, not at all.

Sonora

— it's, it's something that of course, I would I would hope for nothing like bad to happen to anyone ever. [laughs]

00;13;28;03 - 00;14;08;24

Sonora

I'm sorry if that was a really loud laugh.

Jeanne

No, it's okay.

Sonora

But I think sometimes it feels more productive for me personally to, instead of wishing that, because it's not something I can ever make happen. And yes, I can try and protect the people around me as much as I can, but I can't — like I can try to provide like a safe environment for everyone that's in my circle and I can be accepting of everyone but that I come into contact with and I can try to prevent like as much bad things from happening to the people around me as possible.

00;14;08;24 - 00;14;27;26

Sonora

But I can't take it away from anyone who's already experienced it. And I feel like it's nice to get to see people who've already experienced it also thriving in fiction, in my personal experience.

00;14;28;01 - 00;14;43;15

Jeanne

In fiction and in real life, too.

Sonora

Of course, yeah.

Jeanne

That's one of the great things about community, and queer community can be a great space for that. I was thinking, okay, going back, looking at our past, I wanted to ask, have you been in Arizona your whole life?

00;14;44;01 - 00;14;45;06

Sonora

Yeah, most of my life.

00;14;45;12 - 00;15;02;00

Jeanne

Okay, yeah. And this book is set in Arizona. And so whenever I, whenever I talk to someone who has grown up in Arizona and writes about like, school in Arizona, I'm always curious, like, what was that like for you? Did you go to a similar school?

Sonora

Yeah. [laughs]

Jeanne

Okay.

00;15;02;23 - 00;15;23;09

Sonora

I won't say the name of the school, but it's very thinly veiled. It's — if you know the school you — like, I'll, just to show you how much I didn't even try to hide what school I went to in this book, people came up to me at my book launch and were like, Did you go to like, blah-blah-blah-blah school?

00;15;24;18 - 00;15;29;06

Sonora

I was like [laughs nervously].

00;15;29;06 - 00;15;32;19

Sonora

That's kind of funny. So like, yeah, people knew.

00;15;33;09 - 00;15;33;19

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;15;34;05 - 00;15;38;02

Sonora

Like people who went to the school would recognize the school.

00;15;38;11 - 00;16;07;21

Jeanne

And I think, you know, in the, in the book, it's, it's pretty modern. It's a relatively contemporary setting. When you had to update that — I mean, there's there's a gay kid being very vocal in the classroom; I think, going back to when I was in high school, that would have been very different, I think — did you have to take some time to think through like, What was it like when I was a student, and what is it like for students now, and then factor that in?

00;16;08;14 - 00;16;25;10

Sonora

Um, so yeah I did. I do think that I — [laughs]. Okay so a lot of people think that I would have self-inserted myself into Yami's character? I kind of did it with Beau.

00;16;25;24 - 00;16;26;10

Jeanne

Oh yeah.

00;16;26;10 - 00;16;31;08

Sonora

So I was the kid that was like, Here's my presentation on abortion.

00;16;31;09 - 00;16;32;28

Jeanne

Oh so you really were doing that.

00;16;32;28 - 00;16;33;23

Sonora

Yeah, I was doing that.

00;16;33;23 - 00;16;34;18

Jeanne

Oh, I love that.

00;16;34;27 - 00;16;38;27

Sonora

Yeah. So I was very outspoken.

00;16;39;09 - 00;16;46;29

Sonora

Like I, I don't remember. [sighs] So I came out at some point when I went there, like I came out at church camp.

00;16;48;14 - 00;16;50;06

Sonora

I, I had to get it out of my —

Jeanne

Oh I gotta hear that story

00;16;50;07 - 00;16;50;27

Jeanne

Gotta hear that story.

00;16;50;27 - 00;16;54;17

Sonora

Do you want me to tell it like, here?

00;16;54;17 - 00;16;55;18

Jeanne

Yeah! Yeah.

00;16;56;12 - 00;17;26;26

Sonora

So yeah, it was at church camp and it was like, you know how they separate the girls and the boys and they give them their different lessons on gender and like how you're supposed to act. And so I was in the girl group and like, we had to learn about, you know, our role in a relationship with a man and like our role in society and all of that.

00;17;26;26 - 00;17;30;18

Sonora

And it was, you know, just toxic, toxic bullshit — oh, sorry, can I cuss?.

00;17;30;20 - 00;17;31;10

Jeanne

That's fine, yeah.

00;17;32;01 - 00;17;59;14

Sonora

It was super toxic, but because it was at church camp and because, you know, there is this feeling of camaraderie at like a camp like that when you're staying the night with these people and you're, like praying together and you're like experiencing this, oh, live music. It's so moving. And everyone's crying and and we're all, like, experiencing this together and like, all these emotions, like, it's a very emotional time.

00;17;59;24 - 00;18;22;22

Sonora

So I felt very close to these people, and we all went around in a circle and we were sharing our experience with — I don't remember what the prompt was, but it had to have been something like what's your experience with, you know, do you struggle with these gender roles, or something like that? And I was like — I like girls!

00;18;22;22 - 00;18;23;13

Jeanne

Like in a circle of people?

00;18;23;26 - 00;18;29;04

Sonora

Yeah, it was like all the girls in there. And it was just silence.

00;18;29;23 - 00;18;32;07

Sonora

Like, nobody said anything.

00;18;32;07 - 00;18;38;00

Sonora

Which was very awkward. But I did have a couple of people come out to me after that who were there, like

00;18;38;20 - 00;18;39;22

Jeanne

Oh yeah. Like at camp?

00;18;39;27 - 00;19;09;07

Sonora

Like secretly. Yeah, at camp. Like, so one of the counselors came up to me afterwards, like, called me aside, and was like, I'm also gay. And I was like, Oh! So yeah, that was an interesting experience. I would not recommend to ever come out during church camp, especially a church camp that is preaching the things that mine was. You know, if you have an accepting church, then that's a different story, sure. But mine was not.

00;19;09;07 - 00;19;35;03

Jeanne

I think those interactions are really interesting where you've come out and then all of a sudden people start to come out to you. Even people who are like authority figures and you're like, a kid. And those relationships sometimes end up being really interesting. Of like, we had whatever friendship we had before, and now I know this thing about you, but I have a very different relationship to it than you do because you've really only told me.

00;19;35;10 - 00;19;42;04

Jeanne

And I've just told everyone. How did that end up going? How did those things continue?

00;19;42;05 - 00;20;12;25

Sonora

We kept in touch for a while. I was probably 14 at the time and we kept in touch until like, we, I think we still have each other on Instagram. I felt grateful that she told me because I was feeling really alone. Like when it happened, cause I was feeling like, oh my gosh, like, why did I just do this?

00;20;14;03 - 00;20;35;02

Sonora

But I think it didn't surprise anyone because I also was like — it was before confession. I was like telling the priest, like, why should gay people have to confess being gay? And, you know, and I was like, it doesn't makes sense! I was like, Can you explain it to me? I think a lot of people were like, like looking at me, like, maybe?

00;20;35;02 - 00;20;37;25

Jeanne

There's something's going on here.

00;20;37;25 - 00;20;41;12

Sonora

Yeah, so I don't know that they were surprised, fully, but I don't think they were expecting me to say it out loud.

00;20;42;05 - 00;20;50;26

Jeanne

Yeah, no, that makes sense. I mean, even like confession in general, sometimes historically it's about confession to your peers instead of just —

00;20;50;27 - 00;20;51;09

Sonora

Yeah.

00;20;51;24 - 00;21;22;00

Jeanne

In confidence. So that's essentially what you're doing. But yeah, those relationships are so interesting. I also came out in a church setting.

Sonora

Oh, really?

Jeanne

Not like at church, but very publicly to people in my church and had those interactions of like, Oh, here's this person who is like a mentor, and now they're coming out to me and here's just like kind of a just a few, not a ton of people, but a few people coming out to me and then not actually being out afterward.

00;21;22;10 - 00;21;34;27

Sonora

Yeah.

Jeanne

And it really can be a special relationship, but it can also kind of hold you back in some ways because they're processing it in a really different way than than you are.

00;21;35;21 - 00;22;09;15

Sonora

For sure, yeah. And I think that what helped me then was I wasn't the only openly gay person at the school. There were — I was a freshman. There were two seniors who were together and I never met them. I never talked to them, but like they were my heroes. So like I had like kind of I don't know if I would call them role models, but like they were my like, I had them a little bit on a pedestal.

00;22;09;15 - 00;22;21;14

Sonora

Like, I was like, Oh, they're out there happy. Like, blah-blah-blah-blah, and then I had like other people who were like, so they were like ahead of me in my journey, right? Of coming out. And then there was people who were behind me like, who hadn't come out at church camp yet.

00;22;21;14 - 00;22;21;21

Jeanne

Yeah. [laughs]

00;22;23;09 - 00;22;43;11

Sonora

So yeah, I think it was important to me to be able to see that I wasn't the only one like in any time of that, even if it felt like I was, especially because there were none of my peers were. But. And I mean, I later found out some of them were like,

Jeanne

Of course.

Sonora

You know, of course.

00;22;43;12 - 00;22;50;04

Sonora

Like statistically speaking, it couldn't have just been me. Like it definitely is, um, there's going to be more.

00;22;50;13 - 00;22;50;19

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;22;50;28 - 00;22;51;25

Sonora

But yeah, so.

00;22;51;25 - 00;23;03;27

Jeanne

Did you find yourself turning into those role models for other people? Did you do that consciously? Like, I'm going to be very out as a way to kind of message to other people.

00;23;04;24 - 00;23;33;21

Sonora

So I don't think I, I — so I realized I kind of had like a bisexual awakening in high school, like, so I only went to Catholic school for my freshman year and then I, you know, had a lot of traumatic experiences and I begged my parents to send me to public school. They finally did. So then when I was in public school, I realized like, oh, I don't just like girls, like, you know.

00;23;33;21 - 00;23;52;22

Sonora

So I, then I kind of had like a little bit of a — it was, it was weird. I had like a big, like, I was very vocal about being queer. I didn't have the term queer at the time. I was just like, Oh, I'm gay or oh, I'm bi. And if I was dating a guy, I would say I was straight.

00;23;54;03 - 00;23;57;24

Sonora

But if I was dating a girl, I would say I was gay, which is not how it works

00;23;58;03 - 00;24;02;20

Jeanne

Not really.

Sonora

So I wish I could tell my past self like, don't do that.

00;24;03;03 - 00;24;08;04

Sonora

But like, I was just like, Oh, I am like, whoever I'm dating, that's my sexuality.

00;24;08;04 - 00;24;12;00

Jeanne\Sonora

Like, because I was very monogamous and like, very, like, you know, well I'm not anymore, but —

00;24;12;00 - 00;24;13;24

Jeanne

Oh right.

00;24;13;27 - 00;24;31;16

Sonora

So, like, I don't think I ever consciously tried to be a role model, but I know that I was to some people just because I would talk about it and I wasn't like shy about it and like people knew that I was queer. Like people who knew me knew. Like, if they didn't know me that well, they might not have known.

00;24;31;16 - 00;24;59;21

Sonora

But if they knew me, they probably knew. So, like, I think I had some people who like came out later in life or like who told me that like it was helpful, you know, to like, see somebody else, like, you know, talking about it even if, like, if I wasn't like out yet, it was like, oh, I'm just like a super enthusiastic ally.

00;24;59;29 - 00;25;05;13

Sonora

Like, yeah, you know, he ally-to-queer pipeline.

00;25;06;04 - 00;25;07;01

Jeanne

That's real.

00;25;07;01 - 00;25;09;06

Sonora

It is. [laughs] Yeah.

00;25;10;00 - 00;25;36;22

Jeanne

I really liked your reference earlier to the Schrodinger's gay thing that Bo says, and being really vocal because that's kind of the only way you have to potentially connect your experience to other people. I guess part of the experience for Bo is that she's adopted, so she doesn't have a real connection to other Chinese people. And I actually really loved the way you handled that whole thing with her parents.

00;25;36;22 - 00;26;04;00

Jeanne

But I feel like that can be a thing in general for people who aren't white the same way it can be for people who are queer, especially in a state like Arizona. I've talked to a couple Asian-American people on the podcast and they've spoken about like the way it can feel really alienating in Arizona just because of like the geography of Phoenix and the way things are separated.

00;26;04;00 - 00;26;16;22

Jeanne

And you can be isolated a lot of the time. Do you feel like you have those kinds of experiences too, of that kind of isolation? You did mention like you have these really queer specific spaces to hang out.

00;26;17;07 - 00;26;45;00

Sonora

Yeah, I feel like recently I have started to feel a lot less isolated just because I've started to really dive into like my heritage and my own like ancestral like practices and stuff like that. So I feel a lot less isolated, even if I'm the only one doing it that I know it's like [laughs]. So I had a psychic reading.

00;26;45;02 - 00;27;08;26

Sonora

It was like from a medium and they were like basically telling me that like my ancestors were there; they were like, Oh, they give you permission. Like you're allowed to — it's like you're not alone. You know what I mean? Like there's, they're there, like with you, experiencing this. And so that was very confirming for me to be told that like — and I know this is kind of off-topic.

00;27;09;09 - 00;27;25;12

Jeanne

Well no, I mean, it's amazing because I think a lot of the time when I think about, Okay am I alone, I think about, Am I around other people now? But that idea of, well, what you're saying, I think it's a really great way to feel not alone.

00;27;25;12 - 00;27;57;04

Sonora

Yeah, definitely. And I feel so much like healing through like my ancestors and through, like not even just ancestors, but the people that I know who have passed. Like, just, um, I recently got very into like, you know, I'm Mexican. So like we do celebrate Day of the Dead, but my family was never super into it because my grandma was very like, very Catholic and like very like traditional, like oh, demonic.

00;27;57;06 - 00;28;27;13

Sonora

You know, and so like I recently started like reconnecting with stuff like that. And I feel a lot more, I feel a lot closer to like my ancestors and the dead and like the people around me who are just there all the time that I can't see. I feel like they're there and I feel like they, you know, so at least culturally speaking, I feel very surrounded. At least now.

00;28;27;13 - 00;28;51;00

Sonora

I definitely felt very isolated growing up. And because like we're very like — I say, we're assimilated, like my family, like my parents speak Spanish, like my family all speak Spanish, my grandparents didn't speak any English — but at the same time, we were very assimilated in the sense of like, for example, if we're at a restaurant, and they get our order wrong.

00;28;51;00 - 00;29;04;00

Sonora

It's like, Oh, you cannot say anything. Like, You don't you don't make a scene. You don't, you don't cause trouble for people, you know. Like it's very much like, you have to stay in your lane kind of thing. Like.

00;29;04;21 - 00;29;07;23

Jeanne

So like hiding almost; not, not hiding, but.

00;29;07;23 - 00;29;21;25

Sonora

Almost, and it's like, oh, well, it was ingrained in me that like I think maybe I'm not supposed to be seen that much. And so I as a teenager, rebelled against that, like, Oh, everybody look at me! [laughs]

00;29;23;10 - 00;29;23;19

Sonora

But yeah so.

00;29;24;11 - 00;29;26;04

Jeanne

It's kind of the impulse of an author.

00;29;26;05 - 00;29;28;13

Sonora

Yeah, yeah.

00;29;30;00 - 00;29;33;04

Sonora

So I've definitely felt like both extremes of that.

00;29;33;17 - 00;29;50;02

Jeanne

That makes sense. What are some of the ways you have found queer community? I always will tell people like, it took me a while. I've lived here my whole life and I was still just like, okay, I'm out. Where is everyone? I don't know.

00;29;50;17 - 00;30;11;02

Sonora

Yeah, I think at first it was online. That was where I learned the words to describe myself. That was where I found other people like me who were like — the communities that I was in online, they were very, very queer. Like I would join spaces like that. Like in back then it was like Facebook groups, you know, like —

Jeanne

Oh, right.

00;30;11;03 - 00;30;35;19

Sonora

It was like queer feminists or like it was, it was like a lot of intersectional groups and like. So I knew a lot of queer people from that and a lot of activists. And so they gave me kind of the tools to figure out who I was and to say like — that was when I like figured out like, Oh, I am trans, I'm non-binary.

00;30;35;19 - 00;31;06;18

Sonora

Like, this makes sense. This fits more than like any other label that I've ever, like, found. I was like, Oh, there are words to describe this. Like, This is so cool. So online was definitely big. And then like, you know, Tumblr and Twitter, like, like I definitely found community there. And then like it wasn't until — I didn't really find, like I found like little, little communities of support in-person but not queer communities.

00;31;07;07 - 00;31;08;15

Jeanne

There's a distinction there, yeah.

00;31;08;17 - 00;31;26;06

Sonora

Yeah, yeah. Like I was in, you know, like I went to college town where like everyone there, like, got so close and really loved each other and stuff, you know? But it wasn't a queer community. It was like a community of people who were accepting, but it wasn't like the same as like being surrounded by other queer people.

00;31;26;06 - 00;31;46;01

Sonora

And like — so it wasn't until like in person, honestly, until very recently because I started going to Brick Road, which is a like queer owned coffee shop, for anyone who doesn't know. And like there's just like the flags everywhere. And like I started going like right before June, which was when they like put up all the flags.

00;31;46;01 - 00;31;47;02

Jeanne

That's when they really got into it.

00;31;47;02 - 00;32;06;08

Sonora

And then they had cookies with all the flags and everything. And I was like, Oh my God. Like, this is like the norm here. Like, this is really awesome. And so like, I found community there and then from there I found Queerizona, because they meet at Brick Road sometimes. And so I found that other group, and so.

00;32;06;22 - 00;32;11;08

Jeanne

I feel like that's all really East-Valley-centric.

00;32;11;08 - 00;32;11;22

Sonora

Yeah.

00;32;12;01 - 00;32;13;18

Jeanne

Have you been an East Valley person most of your life?

00;32;13;24 - 00;32;39;09

Sonora

I'm East Valley, yeah. So it's like where I am. So it's been really helpful to find that. And then I know one-n-ten is like for youth. So I kind of like started learning a little bit more about them and like, it's not my community but like I want to be like, you know, I used them as like my preorder incentive was like, you know, you buy a book, a dollar goes to one-n-ten, like that kind of thing.

00;32;39;09 - 00;32;47;18

Sonora

So it's just like there are things, there are communities out there and they're like everywhere, it's just hard to find if you don't already know where to look, which sucks.

00;32;48;15 - 00;32;48;25

Sonora

You know?

00;32;48;25 - 00;32;52;02

Jeanne

Yeah, it's true. It's not like the people don't exist.

00;32;52;03 - 00;32;52;15

Sonora

Yeah.

00;32;52;27 - 00;33;13;23

Jeanne

But it's, I think especially in the East Valley, it can be really hard to find. And for a lot of people I talk to, it's like, yeah, within the past year because of a group like Queerizona or because of just like a literal coffee shop, Brick Road. Like now there's this connection for people. And it's, it's really remarkable I think, that it can be that specific, but then really meaningful.

00;33;13;23 - 00;33;29;04

Jeanne

You know, before we wrap up, is there anything that you can share to like, promote your work? If people want to find your book, if people want to keep up to date with anything else coming out?

00;33;29;04 - 00;33;59;03

Sonora

Yeah. So I am, um, my website is sonorareyes.com. You can find pretty much everything on there. My book is sold — The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School is sold anywhere books are sold, so you can find it online anywhere or at Barnes & Noble and local bookstores, you can always request it there if it's not already there. And preorder my second book, which comes out in May.

00;33;59;03 - 00;34;22;13

Sonora

I'm super excited. I hope that you like it. And yeah, you can find me on: Twitter is SonoraReyes, Tumblr is Sonora-Reyes, Instagram is Sonora.Reyes, and so is TikTok. But I don't really use TikTok, so I don't know why I even mentioned that.

00;34;23;24 - 00;34;24;20

Sonora

I have like one video.

00;34;25;20 - 00;34;28;06

Jeanne

Oh my god, but you mentioned preorders for your book.

00;34;28;06 - 00;34;28;17

Sonora

Mm hmm.

00;34;29;11 - 00;34;37;21

Jeanne

I read the little description for your book. It sounds really fascinating. I mean, what you're telling me earlier — but it's about an autistic character.

00;34;37;21 - 00;34;38;05

Sonora

Mm hmm.

00;34;38;19 - 00;34;49;17

Jeanne

I'm autistic. And so I was like, ah this is interst—

Sonora

Me too!

Jeanne

Oh, cool. So is that why you decided to write an autistic character specifically? Also, it seems like the character is, um, nonverbal, is that —

00;34;49;26 - 00;35;13;19

Sonora

She has selective mutism, so she is semi-verbal. So at school she doesn't talk. And most people think she's completely nonverbal, but it's just, she just has selective mutism. She only talks when she feels fully comfortable and when she's not stressed out, which is like a — I don't want to say symptom — it is a trait of autism for some autistic people .

Jeanne

Yeah it can be.

00;35;14;09 - 00;35;42;06

Sonora

So like I wanted to write about that because I was selectively mute for a lot of my life until like middle-school, high-school-ish. But even in middle school it was like on and off and then in high school it was on and off, but yeah. So I wanted to write that experience. I wanted to like, I realized I was like, there are not a lot of books out there with like nonverbal or semi-verbal characters or even autistic characters in general.

00;35;42;20 - 00;36;11;02

Sonora

I did feel like I had to put myself into a little bit of a box with the Lesbiana's Guide just because I was like, I don't think people are ready for all of what I am. All my intersections in a character, and they're still not ready. And I one day would love to write a character who is, you know, autistic and Mexican and a quarter Chinese and walks with a cane and has schizoaffective disorder.

00;36;11;02 - 00;36;26;16

Sonora

So bipolar and schizophrenia and, did I already say autistic? And ADHD and everything that I have and everything that I am, I do not think publishing is ready for it. So I am slowly going to like trickle those things in one book at a time.

00;36;26;16 - 00;36;33;02

Jeanne

Well now I'm realizing you divided that up amongst

Sonora

Other characters

Jeanne

Most of the characters, yeah, in Lesbiana's Guide.

00;36;33;08 - 00;36;55;00

Sonora

Yeah, I do have other characters that I explore those things through. I just don't think publishing is going to accept a book with like all of that in one character, which is really sad because like people like that exist. Like I'm right here.

Jeanne

Exactly.

Sonora

But I am slowly trying to break that mold like one book at a time and see if they'll eventually just, they just won't even notice one day.

00;36;55;00 - 00;36;56;24

Sonora

They think it'll be all okay.

Jeanne

Eventually, yeah.

00;36;57;11 - 00;36;59;03

Sonora

Like, I'm ten books in and it's like, we're there.

00;36;59;06 - 00;37;08;11

Jeanne

And I think partly that's just escaping the trap of like Own Voices, like, it has to be representation. But you're just writing characters, it's not —

00;37;08;11 - 00;37;22;13

Sonora

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I would like to write a super, super, super intersectional character one day, but for now I have like characters where I explore like one or two things through each.

00;37;23;09 - 00;37;45;23

Jeanne

I'm really excited to read this. I mean, I record a podcast, I'm talking all the time. It's like my whole job basically, is to speak and communicate, but I do also have that experience sometimes, especially in really stressful situations where it's just gone, I don't have that anymore and I don't think people really understand what that's like at all.

00;37;45;23 - 00;37;55;05

Jeanne

I mean, I don't have a real full picture of it except from my own experience. But usually when it's discussed or when I try to Google things about it, it's parents —

00;37;55;05 - 00;37;56;28

Sonora

It usually is, yeah.

00;37;56;29 - 00;38;02;25

Jeanne

Talking about their kids, as you know, maybe not even really people. It just, here's this kid I have to take care of.

00;38;02;25 - 00;38;09;20

Sonora

Yeah, I found a lot of good stuff with the actually autistic hashtag on Tumblr specifically.

00;38;09;28 - 00;38;10;04

Jeanne

Yeah.

00;38;10;20 - 00;38;31;25

Sonora

Like I just, that's where I figured out I was autistic and it should have been so obvious, but it wasn't because my parents don't believe in or at least they didn't believe in like, you know, therapy or psychiatrists or anything like that when I was a kid. So I just never got diagnosed as a kid. Yeah. Sorry, I know we were trying to wrap up.

00;38;31;25 - 00;38;45;12

Jeanne

No no no. I mean, this is fascinating, but yeah, no, thanks for talking with me about that and talking about all these things with me

Sonora

Yeah, of course.

Jeanne

I think people just don't get to hear about the autistic experience from hashtag actually autistic people.

00;38;45;12 - 00;38;46;07

Sonora

Yeah. Yeah.

00;38;46;17 - 00;38;48;19

Jeanne

So I'm really glad we were able to talk about that.

00;38;49;28 - 00;38;57;25

Sonora

Yes! So hopefully, hopefully I can continue writing autistic characters. I do have other books that I plan to write with autistic characters too. So I'm like really excited.

00;38;58;02 - 00;39;02;12

Jeanne

Oh, that'll be great. Yeah, I'm excited. Well, thanks for talking with me and good luck with everything.

00;39;02;12 - 00;39;04;02

Sonora

Thank you so much.

00;39;04;02 - 00;39;26;00

Jeanne

Thanks again to Sonora for being my guest on the podcast. If you'd like to read their book, you can find it wherever books are sold. And if you'd like to listen to past episodes of the podcast, you can find the entire archive on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or our own website at EqualityArizona.org/Stories. And when you're there you can sign up to add your own story. I'd love to talk with you.

00;39;26;23 - 00;39;45;23

Jeanne

With the midterm elections behind us, it's time to start looking ahead to the 2023 legislative session. And if you want to get involved as an advocate, we have a meeting this Saturday at the Tempe Public Library. This is our first civic advocacy jam, which we're going to be doing monthly from now on.

00;39;46;15 - 00;39;58;28

Jeanne

This is a really important moment and we need you on our team, so I'd love to see you there. Thanks again for listening and I'll talk to you again next week.