The Importance of Books, a guest post by Aden Polydoros
When I was first invited to write this guest post in November 2022, I was planning to write about my upcoming MG fantasy book, RING OF SOLOMON. Perhaps a piece on how RING OF SOLOMON was the kind of book I would have loved to read as a kid, with a gay Jewish protagonist and an adventurous plot inspired by Jewish folklore. However, with the unprecedented rise in book bannings and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation targeting marginalized youth, I feel the need to use this opportunity to talk about books and their significance to me.
Book bannings deprive marginalized and at-risk youth of a vision of a future. They do not protect children; they prevent children who are isolated and suffering from being able to read about characters who are like them—characters who find love, get retribution, heal, or just survive.
Books saved my life.
Until this last year, I would have told you that my teens were my darkest years. I would have told you that I had moved beyond that time, climbed my way out of the depths of depression and a trauma that took me years to identify, face, and name.
But as a queer author, who just ten years ago was a queer teen of 17, I’ve felt myself slowly losing my footing—step by step slipping into that same familiar state of despair and emptiness and solitude that darkened my life from 12 to 18. Now come 2023, and with the unprecedented legislative attack on trans and queer youth, and the repugnant, fascist assault on literature by LGBTQ+ and POC authors, I feel in free fall.
I know I alone can’t drown out the rhetoric that dehumanize the LGBTQ+ community or stop the legislation depriving trans youth of life-saving medical care, but I draw some power from knowing I can write books for queer teens and speak out against the injustice. And maybe my books will help save a reader in need, give them a voice to describe their experiences, or help inspire them to speak up on their own.
This attack on LGBTQ+ literature is not normal. It should not be seen as justified, earnest, or appropriate, and whereas school boards are progressively attempting to legislate and control their students’ bodies, book bans and social media bans are a direct attack on the very places of refuge that, for many of our nations’ youth, are one of the few places where they can feel safe and truly at home.
Books have always been hugely important to me. In elementary school, I would read for hours as my mom rode horses. I carried that passion into my adolescence.
As a teen, I read horror and thrillers. Having dropped out my freshman and sophomore year due to severe depression, skipping between three different schools in two years before moving to online school, I had plenty of time on my hands.
I would read for hours in my bedroom—Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Sydney Sheldon, HP Lovecraft, and more. It’d be four o’clock in the morning, and I finally turned the final page on the latest thriller I’d gotten from the library. And I wouldn’t be depressed, because as soon as I shut the cover, there’d be an afterglow that lasted for hours, where I would think about the story and imagine myself in it.
Some days, those books were the only thing keeping me going. Because I wanted to read the next book in the series, or maybe the author had a new book coming out next month. I was also writing collaborative stories on online forums at the time, since although I adored books by my favorite authors, none of those books featured queer or Jewish protagonists.
Eventually, I moved from writing collaboratively to writing alone, trying to complete and publish a novel. I wrote my first at fourteen, and two more in my mid-teens, which were terrible and will never see the light of day. Even the four manuscripts I wrote in my late-teens and early 20s are currently trunked.
RING OF SOLOMON, my MG fantasy novel coming out on February 21, will officially be my fifth published manuscript. It’s a book about Zach, a gay twelve-year-old boy who finds a magical ring at a flea market and accidentally summons the king of demons, Ashmedai. The novel is based on Jewish folklore concerning the mythological ring that King Solomon used, that gave the wearer the ability to talk to animals and control shedim (morally ambiguous demons in Jewish folklore), and how King Solomon used the ring to force the sheyd Ashmedai to help build the First Temple.
Although I’m excited for the book to come out, I can’t help but feel some trepidation knowing the environment it is going to be released into. I never expected my books might be targeted for their content, and it worries and saddens me to know the direction our country is heading. I hope that RING OF SOLOMON will reach middle grade readers who need it, and find some joy and solace in joining Zach, his friend Sandra, and their reluctant ally Ash in stopping a centuries-old secret society from bringing forth the apocalypse by summoning the three biblical beasts born at the dawn of creation.
Meet the author
Aden Polydoros is an award-winning author of young adult fantasy and horror. His books include THE CITY BEAUTIFUL, BONE WEAVER, and the forthcoming RING OF SOLOMON and WRATH BECOMES HER. Along with receiving starred reviews from School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, BookPage, and Booklist, his gothic fantasy novel, THE CITY BEAUTIFUL, won the Sydney Taylor Book Award and was a finalist for the Lambda Award, the National Jewish Book Award, the Cybils Award, and the 2022 World Fantasy Award. The novel was also selected for the 2021 Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballot, and was declared a Best YA Book of 2021 by New York Public Library, BookPage, Buzzfeed, and Tor.com.
About Ring of Solomon
“Will keep you on the edge of your seat and grinning until the last page!” —Greg Howard, author of The Whispers and The Visitors
This exciting and adventurous start to a middle-grade trilogy follows a queer boy and his family as they try to halt the chaotic effects of a mysterious ring, drawing upon Jewish mythology to navigate magic, mayhem and the search for pride in one’s identity.
The little beachside town of San Pancras is not known for anything exciting, but when Zach Darlington buys a mysterious ring at the local flea market, his quiet little hometown is turned topsy-turvy by monsters straight from Jewish folklore and a nefarious secret society focused on upholding an apocalyptic prophecy.
Zach discovers that the ring grants him strange powers, and he’s intrigued; maybe he can use the ring’s strengths to halt the slew of anti-Semitic and homophobic bullying he’s experiencing at school. But soon the ring brings unexpected visitors—Ashmedai, King of Demons, in the guise of a preteen boy named Ash, and the local chapter of the Knights of the Apocalypse, a secret society intent on completing a creepy prophecy that will bring three monsters to Earth to start the events of the end of times.
Now responsible for the ring and its consequences, will Zach and his friends, with the help of Ash, be able to stop the Apocalypse and save the world?
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication date: 02/21/2023
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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