R. Eric Thomas addresses more than 100 students at Carver High School for 18th Bookmarks Festival

R. Eric Thomas addresses more than 100 students at Carver High School for 18th Bookmarks Festival
October 05
11:05 2023

By Felecia Piggott-Long, Ph.D.

The Bookmarks Festival is a community-wide celebration of books and their authors. R. Eric Thomas brought the Festival to Carver High School on Friday, Sept. 22, as part of Bookmarks Authors in Schools program. Thomas is the bestselling author of “Here for it: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America,” a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and the young adult novel “Kings of B’more,” a Stonewall Honor book. Thomas is a television writer and a Lambda Literary Award-winning playwright, as well as the host of The Moth in Philadelphia. His book, “Congratulations, The Best is Over!” is a collection of essays that are humorous and relatable to young adults.

Thomas loves to create characters that show readers how to survive the worst of circumstances.

“I am always trying to create Black characters who are not defined by their trauma. Sometimes we read about people of color, queer characters. We read because something bad happened to us, but that is not the reason we exist. You will read books about queer characters and their memoirs, and we will see how valuable we are to the world,” said Thomas. “I try to put other images of these people into the world. I love to talk about the American Visual Museum in downtown Baltimore. This museum is full of works of art designed by people who are incarcerated, homeless, in mental health crises, people who would be described as non-artists because of their circumstances.

“I grew up in the city of Baltimore. It is a city I know well. I know its crime, violence, drugs. My parents live there. They live in a neighborhood. There is redlining there. People can literally draw a line on a map in the neighborhood that only people of color are allowed to live in there. I wanted to tell a different story of Baltimore,” said Thomas.

Thomas found it valuable to take photos of familiar streets and landmarks in Baltimore. He took photos of certain restaurants, the BDP (Baltimore Police Department), the Baltimore Cemetery, row homes, murals, dirt bikes, porch houses, porch decks, fire escapes, etc. “The photos help me to remember specific details. When I take a photo, it helps me to remember the space, to focus, to remember,” said Thomas. “You may not be a writer nor an artist, but you are all storytellers. When you take a picture, you express  yourself as an artist.

In the ‘Kings of B’more,’ Linus and Harrison must decide, how do we stay in each other’s lives? I wanted to begin the story in a place that is unavoidable and universal. I began the story in the cemetery. The cemetery is symbolic. Is this the death of Linus’ and Harrison’s friendship? Both of them were entering the eleventh grade. Both of them were 16. Both of them were queer. Linus is relocating to Charleston, South Carolina. What will become of their friendship? How can you tell someone that you care about him? How will they stay in one another’s lives?” 

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