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Not Just a Tomboy: Alicia Tuckerman on why representation in YA literature matters.

March 15, 2018

Words || Alicia Tuckerman

Alicia-TuckermanI grew up on a farm about twenty kilometres from a town called Gulgong in the New South Wales Central Tablelands.

I had the type of childhood that might come to mind when glamorising the good old days, when the world was perceived to be a safe and uncomplicated place. It was a life of sock tans and climbing trees, swimming pools and skinned knees, and it was pretty uncomplicated.

I was a tomboy – lots of girls who lived on properties were. I played sports, I got dirty and spent my weekends playing Xbox and fixing up paddock bashers with the boys who lived up the road. To an extent, my environment protected me. Make-up and dresses weren’t practical and no one ever questioned why I didn’t wear them. And I don’t want to say that being a lesbian in rural Australia was easier than being a gay boy, but it sure was easier to get away with. At school, the first sign of femininity or weakness shown by a boy – he was gay. All it took was for a boy to show an emotion and the other boys would taunt and tease the poor kid until he cried. I was just a tomboy, but there comes a time in a lot of tomboys’ lives when they hook-up with one of the boys up the road, and that wasn’t me.
original_if-i-tell-youWhen I realised I wasn’t just a tomboy, I went in search of books to help me make sense of what I was feeling. I looked in my school library, the town library, the libraries in the neighbouring towns, but I couldn’t find anything. YA books with queer characters either didn’t exist or simply weren’t available in regional Australia. This complete lack of representation only reinforced my feelings of invisibility and otherness – if there weren’t even any books about people who felt the same way I did, perhaps there was a reason for it.

In the wake of a recent article which eluded to the idea that queer teens in 2018 didn’t need stories like Love, Simon, I found myself wondering about the validity of a book like If I Tell You. Are queer teens in 2018 so evolved and sure of themselves they don’t need to see themselves in stories? Are books about fear and bravery and prejudice outdated?

And thankfully the world is changing. Australia now has marriage equality and there is significantly more queer representation in the media. But I don’t believe that simply because there have been some positive steps that these stories of trepidation and love and bravery are obsolete. Similarly, it’s important not to diminish the fears and prejudice that still exist for many teens learning to accept themselves and struggling to be brave amidst the challenges to their identities.

My hope is that my words might one day help save someone else, because it’s time to write ourselves into the narrative.

About If I Tell You:

What if the secret is more damaging that the lie?

I never planned on falling in love in Two Creeks, but since when has life ever followed a plan?

The day I fell for Phoenix Stone, there was no warning. She shattered the world I knew.

This is a story about being seventeen and growing up in rural Australia. Falling in love for the first time, following your dreams and disappointing your parents. Being brave enough to live your life, even when life is terrifying.

In fear there is bravery you can either cling to the edge or have the courage to jump. But what do you do when you’re left spiralling through the freefall?

Be proud. Be seen. Live life fearlessly.

You can read our review of If I Tell You, here, and purchase a copy here.

About the Author:

Alicia Tuckerman is a driving force for young LGBT voices within Australia. Raised in rural NSW before she left home at the age of sixteen, she accepted a position to study at the Hunter School of Performing Arts. Described as having an overactive imagination as a child, she recalls writing stories her entire life.

Alicia attributes surviving her teenage years to the comfort, release and escape writing offered and she hopes to inspire the next generation of readers and writers to embrace their true passions. Alicia was inspired to write If I Tell You after finding a lack of YA novels featuring two central lesbian characters. She draws on her life experiences to explore the joys, triumphs and cruelties of modern day adolescence and considers there is no fantasy world she could create that is more terrifyingly beautiful than the one we ‘re expected to live in.

Alicia is a lawyer and now lives in the Swan Valley region of Perth with her wife and two children, where she does most of her writing in the small hours before the kids wake up, or on her daily commute to the office!


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