I thought I’d post a quick hello (Hi!), and thank you to everyone who commented and shared messages of support (Thanks!). Last week was an intense week, both professionally and personally, and I really appreciate your words. While I haven’t heard back from the school regarding last week’s events, I’ve been made aware of the school’s response, copied in below:
FROM THE PRINCIPAL
Over the last few days, there has been story in the media that involves [Redacted school name]. I am writing to you to clarify some of the details about that story.
In 2015, author Will Kostakis was invited to the College to speak about writing and, in particular, his first novel, The First Third. The talk to students was well-received and Mr Kostakis was invited back to speak to the Year 7 and Year 8 students at the end of March this year. At that presentation, Mr Kostakis would have the oppor[t]unity to promote his new novel, The Sidekicks, which was about to be released.
Part of the due diligence that teachers undertake in preparation for these visits is to ensure that what is being presented to students is content and age-appropriate. Because The Sidekicks had not been released and therefore read by teachers, a request was made to Mr Kostakis to reference his first book in his presentation to students. Mr Kostakis’ blog had indicated that his new novel includes a same-sex relationship between two young people. Without having had the opportunity to read the novel, and to ensure that the content was appropriate for Year 7 and Year 8, a request was made to Mr Kostakis to reference his first novel rather than his soon-to-be-released one. I want to make clear that Mr Kostakis’ invitation to the school was not withdrawn.
As a Catholic College, we are inclusive and compassionate and tolerant. I am disappointed that there could a perception anywhere that would suggest something different than that. Of course, the teachings and the ethos of our Catholic faith sit at the heart of who we are and what we do. We also take our responsibilities to our students and our parents very seriously. The request to Mr Kostakis was made in this context.
Thank you for your understanding with this matter and for your continued support of the College.
My return visit in March was intended as a book launch for The Sidekicks. While some might argue that you can’t have a book launch for The Sidekicks without the book, The Sidekicks, I have sought to clarify whenever interviewed that I was only told I could not talk about my new book (as evident in the initial Buzzfeed article).
I respect the school conducting its due diligence. I had, erroneously, assumed that since The First Third was deemed “age-appropriate” (it features a same-sex relationship, consensual casual sex organised through a gay dating app), then a novel that features a similar sub-plot, written with similar language, would be equally appropriate.
I call it a sub-plot because it is “sub” to the actual plot. The Sidekicks is about three different young men navigating grief after the sudden death of a close friend, learning to be more accepting of each other’s difference. There was no mention of the sub-plot on my website beforehand, because I wanted the reader to experience that part of the story unspoiled.
In the school’s email requesting that The Sidekicks launch event go ahead without The Sidekicks (which again, is not technically cancelling the event), it was stated:
We have a concern about promoting your new book at our school as it is a Catholic school. We were reading over your blog and I think it might not be appropriate, and parents might not be happy.
The only blog post that touched on same-sex attraction was my own “coming out”, a personal reflection on how a former partner’s cancer diagnosis made clear just how my being in the closet during our time together diminished his significance in my life.
In embracing The First Third, and its representation of diverse sexualities, the school did prove it was inclusive, compassionate and tolerant. The school then rejected The Sidekicks for not being content or age-appropriate without reading it, based on a blog post I wrote about my own personal experiences.
I need to make this clear: I am a male author who is attracted to men. While my experiences inform who I am, and how I write, that is not all I am, that is not all I write. When I visit schools, my main priority is to foster a love of reading, and I cannot do that without promoting my own work.
In the spirit of being inclusive, compassionate and tolerant, I would suggest that the school treat a book that features two boys kissing in the same way it would treat a book that features a boy and a girl kissing.
Loving someone is never age-inappropriate.