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Author Brian Broome is keynote speaker at the annual LGBTQ literary festival in Gulfport

Black man with beard looks to the right of lens, a brick wall in the background
Courtesy of Blue Flowers Arts
Broome's memoir is a coming-of-age story in essays about blackness, masculinity, and addiction.

This year’s event will feature published and emerging authors from across LGBTQ+ and allied communities with panels, individual readings and workshops.

In his 2021 memoir "Punch Me Up to the Gods," Brian Broome talks about up growing up Black, gay and poor.

This weekend, the creative writing professor and occasional Washington Post columnist will share his story at the ReadOUT Literary Festival in Gulfport.

WUSF's Cathy Carter recently spoke with the author for a preview.

Brian, in your memoir, you talk about how isolating it was to be a sensitive black boy growing up in rural Ohio. So, let's talk about representation. What do you think it would have meant to you to see someone like yourself reflected more in pop culture?

Well, I think in the 70s, and 80s, you know, everything was just so white and straight. Basically, it makes you feel like you don't exist. People say all the time that representation is important. And it is, it absolutely is. I mean, even now, you can see the YouTube and TikTok videos of young black girls seeing a black Ariel, the mermaid, you know, and the looks on their faces. And when you don't see yourself represented, people then can tell you exactly who you are. And that's how it affected me. I let everybody tell me who I was in terms of being, male in terms of being black in terms of being gay. There was no foundation upon for me to build because I never saw myself, so, I just let people tell me who I was. And I think there are a lot of people who walk around like that sort of allowing the prescriptions of gender and race and all these things, these sort of invented things, to tell them who they are.

In addition to being a bestselling author, you're also a creative writing professor at West Virginia University. I'm sure you have heard some of the headlines coming out of Florida regarding education, the prohibiting of public schools from offering an advanced placement course in African American history, some of the book bans, what do you make of all of this?

Brian Broome's memoir, Punch Me Up to the Gods, was the winner of the 2021 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction.

I have an article in the Washington Post right now about the 1619 project and what I think is happening down in Florida. I think it works toward once again, trying to make certain people disappear, or blend into another kind of people, and that's not what this country keeps telling us that it is. I think that it harms black children, obviously, to not be taught our history. And I think it has just as much of a deleterious effect on white children, or to all children, to not be told the truth and to be denied access to information, it's draconian. It's very strange why they're doing this now. And the only thing that I can think of is that they are afraid of something. And I think what they are afraid of is the loss of a certain kind of power that they have. DeSantis can ban all the books he wants, but I don't think you're going to make people disappear, you're not going to make people just sort of behave the way you want them to. They are afraid of the feelings of white children over the education of black children. And first of all, I think our children can handle it, they can handle hearing the truth, I think they can read the truth and understand it and begin to work with it towards a better life for all people in this country.

You are the keynote speaker at the LGBTQ Literary Festival in Gulfport this weekend. Can you give us a little bit of a sneak peek of what you might be sharing with the audience?

My story in Punch Me Up to the Gods is probably one that you know, Governor DeSantis would want to ban. I mean, in the end, I talk about racism, I talk about homophobia, I talk about, you know, the ways in which it affected me. So, I'm looking forward to sharing that story. My speech is about encouraging people from different backgrounds to tell their story. Because the one thing that I recognized from writing my book, when I first was writing it, I honestly thought that maybe six people would read it. And I thought that those six people would be other black gay men. And what I found is that a lot of different kinds of people identified with the themes in this book; themes of not fitting in, themes of wanting to be somebody else or feeling in some way that you are wrong because of the way that you are born. Feeling less than. Those kinds of themes, I think, resonate with a lot of people who don't get their stories told often enough. So, I'm looking forward to encouraging people to tell their own story and make sure other people are listening to it.

Brain Broome will be at the Gulfport Library and live-streamed at noon Sunday.

A book signing will immediately follow.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.