A moving piece from author Benjamin Dean on his reading history and the reasons he writes today, “for the children of today who don’t have to feel invisible.” Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow is a spectacular and joyful novel, full of heart and humour. It is currently Waterstones Book of the Month!
When I was little, I read about everything and anything. Teenage spies working for MI5 and saving the day? Yep! Stories where worlds were filled with dragons and fairies and goblins? You bet! I read about dogs that could talk and toys that could come alive, about witches and wizards, vampires and werewolves, monsters and demons and everything in between. I saw characters that were none of these things – just strands of an author’s imagination weaved together into something magical. But, despite all the mythical and make-believe things I read about in the pages of books, the one thing I never found was the most important – myself.
Growing up as a Black LGBTQ+ kid, I always knew I was a little different, even if I didn’t have the words to describe how or why. I was fortunate enough to have a secure knit of friends, but even though I felt included and showered with love from those closest to me, I still couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I was…outside? It was kind of like being underwater, when you can still hear the sounds but it’s a little distorted, like you’re in a bubble that’s removed from everything else.
My friends could only help so much since they couldn’t live a day inside my head and completely understand my perspective or experiences, even if they tried their hardest to do so. I started to feel that I was some kind of alien, that maybe there wasn’t anybody around who was like me and maybe I was the only one who felt the way that I did. The books that I had access to, the TV shows and the movies, the magazines and the newspapers, they all described people who were nothing like me at all — that were actually the complete opposite of me in almost every way. I wanted so badly to see myself and people like me reflected in those pages. It would’ve been the comfort I needed to know that, even if I was different, that was okay.
Now I’m 27 years old and I’ve seen more of the world and the people in it. Some of them are like me, and when I see them in the pages of the books that I read, I smile, because now children can see themselves where it matters and understand that they are valid and important, no matter what.
I write for the children of today, who can walk into a shop (when restrictions allow…) and find themselves on bookshelves and in pages; for the children of today who don’t have to feel alone or lesser than; for the children of today who don’t have to feel invisible. But I also write for the children of the past, who are now adults like me. We might not have been able to see ourselves when we were younger, but we can definitely see ourselves now.
Me My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean (out now, Simon & Schuster Children’s Books)