by Maulik PancholyOn shelves 10.9.19!
Over the years, Pride has held various meanings for me. For many, the most recognizable symbols of this month are the Pride parades that happen all over the world. These parades are a celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community. They are a chance to revel in the face of the arduous struggles we have worked so hard to overcome and a way to energize our community as we race towards our collective future.
But, as a kid - and even now - I remember hearing people in the media talk about these celebrations as being “too in your face” or as something “people shouldn’t have to see.” They made these celebrations out to be debaucherous and the very things hate groups use to demonize LGBTQIA+ people everywhere.
I remember my first Pride parade. It was in Chicago, while I was still in college. I wasn’t even out yet. But a group of friends were going, and I worked up the courage to join them. Imagine me, a teenaged, closeted, insecure kid watching these floats go by. Watching the beauty of people feeling safe to fully express themselves. The joy. The complete abandon of being able to say to the world, “We’re here. We love ourselves. And there’s everything right about that.”
I remember leaving at the end of that day, the remnants of the parade still scattered in the streets, walking home with my friends and questioning all the fears and doubts inside of me. Why was I still so afraid? When would I be able to celebrate myself?
Years later, after finally having come out, I remember going to Pride in San Francisco. This time with a group of queer South Asian friends. To be able to celebrate multiple facets of my identity - fully - in a public setting, without fear, was incredibly emotional for me. It felt healing. Necessary. It made me understand, in a deeply personal way, the importance of these parades. These moments when we all come together.
In my book, The Best at It, the characters also engage in a celebration: Holi, the Indian festival of colors. Holi celebrates the coming of spring: a time for forgiveness, repairing relationships, and the triumph of good over evil. This moment in the books also happens to be a turning point for the lead character, Rahul, in his journey to accepting that he is gay.
Writing this blog post made me reflect on how my very first Pride parade affected me - and how the experience of it was so different than many of the things I was hearing in the media growing up. It also made me think about how writing fiction has the power to do just that - to create an experience for the reader. I hope my book will create an experience for young people that might be different than what they expect – an experience which allows them to celebrate themselves and others more fully.
It’s why I’m also excited that there are more and more books in the middle grade space exploring LGBTQIA+ experiences. I’m so honored to join the ranks of writers like Alex Gino, Tim Federle, Kacen Callender, Raina Telgemeier, Jackie Woodson, and Richard Peck, just to name a few. They are all writing stories I certainly could have used as a kid: stories that foster understanding and love.
This year is World Pride in New York City, the city I call home. As millions come together to celebrate New York’s Pride parade, I hope you’ll check out a book featuring an LGBTQIA+ character. And maybe more importantly, share it with a young person in your life.
About the Author
Maulik Pancholy is an award-winning actor whose television work includes 30 Rock, Whitney, Web Therapy, Elementary, Friends from College, The Good Wife, The Comeback, The Sopranos, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and more. He is also the voice of Baljeet on the Emmy Award–winning animated series Phineas and Ferb and of Sanjay on Sanjay and Craig.
Maulik is the recipient of an Asian American Arts Alliance Award and the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award. In 2014, he was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. While at the White House, he helped launch an anti-bullying campaign called Act to Change, which he continues to lead today. Maulik lives with his husband in Brooklyn, NY. This is his debut novel.
Praise for THE BEST AT IT
⋆ “The protagonist’s devastatingly honest voice pulls readers deeply into a fast-paced journey… heartbreakingly authentic.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An emotional, earnest, and genuine journey to self-love that had me crying, laughing, and cheering Rahul on from beginning to end. Hilarious and heartbreaking and truly touching—I wanted nothing more than to reach through the pages and give Rahul a big hug for being brave, determined, and the best that he can be.”
— Kacen Callender, Stonewall Award-winning author of Hurricane Child
“A funny, fun, big-hearted book filled with characters to adore. Rahul’s journey toward learning to stand up for himself and finding his place in the world is achingly emotionally authentic and deeply resonant. This novel is a joy from beginning to end.”
— Anne Ursu, award-winning author of Breadcrumbs and The Lost Girl
“Maulik Pancholy’s story of an Indian American boy trying to come to terms with all facets of his identity while proving his own worth is at once exuberant and heart-wrenching, brightened with assured, lived-in details and a hero we love from the very first page. Every middle schooler will find themselves in this book. A wonderful, heartfelt debut.”
— Soman Chainani, New York Times bestselling author of the School for Good and Evil series
About the Book
Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather, Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you’re really good at and become the BEST at it.
Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul’s brain. While he’s not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won’t be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge…. But what if he discovers he isn’t the best at anything?
Funny, charming, and incredibly touching, this is a story about friendship, family, and the courage it takes to live your truth.