Hold My Hand
Published by: Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date: May 21st 2019
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Alek Khederian thinks about his life B.E. and A.E.: Before Ethan and After Ethan. Before Ethan, Alek was just an average Armenian-American kid with a mess of curly dark hair, grades not nearly good enough for his parents, and no idea of who he was or what he wanted. After he got together with Ethan, Alek was a new man. Stylish. Confident. (And even if he wasn’t quite marching in LGBTQ parades), Gay and Out and Proud.
With their six-month anniversary coming up, Alek and Ethan want to do something special to celebrate. Like, really special. Like, the most special thing two people in love can do with one another. But Alek’s not sure he’s ready for that. And then he learns something about Ethan that may not just change their relationship, but end it.
Alek can’t bear the thought of finding out who he’d be P.E.: Post-Ethan. But he also can’t forgive or forget what Ethan did. Luckily, his best friend Becky and madcap Armenain family are there to help him figure out whether it’s time to just let Ethan go, or reach out and hold his hand.
Hold My Hand is a funny, smart, relatable take on the joy and challenges of teenage love, the boundaries of forgiveness, and what it really means to be honest.
- I am attracted by the book cover and the storyline. It feels light hearted but you tackle big social issues. How did you balance it?
As a closeted double genocide descendant, comedy is a survival mechanism. My people – the Armenians, the Jews, the Russians – are pros at using comedy to defuse, to deal, to surprise, to cope. I suppose it wouldn’t occur to me to tackle big social issues any other way. And also, what sounds more boring that big social issues sans comedy?
- In reading your bio I must ask if there are echoes or reflections of your own experiences in life?
The entire thing is made up. Any resemblance to real life is 100% coincidental. I’ll give you an example – Hold My Hand is set in a (fictitious) town in Central New Jersey approximately 40 miles south of New York City called South Windsor. I grew up in a non-fictious town in Central New Jersey approximately 40 miles south of New York City called East Windsor. See – no resemblance at all.
- As you come from both an Armenian/Israeli what was the impetus to make the character Armenian vs. Israeli?
Maybe it’s because I grew up feeling closer to my mom (Armenian) to my dad (Israeli). Maybe it’s because I grew up in a predominately Jewish suburbs, so being Armenian made me feel special-er. Maybe it’s because Armenian stories aren’t often told. Maybe it’s because the Armenian genocide isn’t acknowledged. Maybe it’s because Armenian appears before Israeli alphabetically.
- As a parent I am thrilled that today’s generations have a freedom of expression, was there a goal to help LGBTQ teens while entertaining?
OMG yes – when I was a teenager, we had so few LGBTQ characters and they were all victims of assault, HIV poz, or both. Most of the queer people I know (and I’m in the theatre, honey, so I know lots of ‘em!) do not define themselves by their queerness, or at least not solely by it. I wanted to tell those full stories. And because I’m a theatre person, for gods sake, yes, keep it entertaining. Ha-cha!
- I also love that you tackle issues of honesty, forgiveness and teenage love. Those transcend to every culture and every sexual inclination which opens a broad audience. Forgiveness is often hard for people, what did you tap into to harness the feelings and convey them in paper?
As someone who is incapable of forgiveness, I had a lot of work to do. First, I had to imagine that I had a heart, instead of a cold dark lump of coal that powered my body.
But seriously… I am blessed to have people in my life who forgives other people (like me) with great and effortless grace. My husband Rafael comes to mind, as does my work wife Mary Beth Bunge, who is Episcopalian. I like Episcopalians.
- Anything else you would like to share with our visitors at❧Defining Ways❧?
I typed up all my responses to this whole interview and then MY COMPUTER DIDN’T SAVE THE DOC and I redid it all because I care.
Thanks Michael, best wishes for the greatest success, M.C.V. Egan
Michael Barakiva, author of One Man Guy, is a theater director and writer of Armenian/Israeli descent who lives in Manhattan with his husband, Rafael. He is a graduate of Vassar College and the Juilliard School, an avid cook and board-game player, and a soccer player with the New York Ramblers.