the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Kosoko Jackson

Author uses platform to accelerate acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community and people of color with his debut novel

November 1, 2018

He is a GLAAD Rising Stars Grant recipient and is breaking down walls in young adult literature with his upcoming debut novel, “A Place For Wolves,” proving that queer people of color are marketable, and that their stories are meant to be told.

26-year-old, Kosoko Jackson, was born and raised in the D.C. Metro Area and has worked in non-profit communications for the past four years.

His thriller novel is about an African American queer teen, James Mills, who travels to Kosovo with his parents on their final USAID tour. It is the first international trip without his right-hand woman, his sister. During the trip, Mills has many coming-of-age experiences, but also falls in love with a Brazilian son of engineers.

The novel takes place during the Kosovo-Serbian conflict, which has James separated from his parents. Him and his boyfriend go through a set of obstacles in order to reach safety before the whole country is at war.

Below, Jackson tells amp what he hopes readers take in from reading his novel, how he is creating change with his grant, and the legacy he hopes to leave as a POC queer writer.

You had a mission you wanted to accomplish writing this novel, to prove that LGBTQ+ and POC characters can exist. What does that mean for up-and-coming authors and readers?

We are doing a lot of good things in literature. We have an obsolete diversity in our books in both racial and sexuality. I think a lot of young adult authors believe that books are what we call windows and mirrors, they allow readers to see themselves in new ways and they also allow people to step into their shoes. That is why I started writing, it is super important that people of color, and especially marginalized people who have double minorities. If you are a person of color and somebody LGBTQ+ – that you can see positive role models in your life that you might not be able to see in real life, that you can see inside of books.

Authors Annie-Marie Lemore (left) and Kosoko Jackson (right) speak at local school, 2018. 

How was the process like creating this story and forming these characters? What inspired you throughout the writing process?

I started writing books that were science fiction fantasy, so shifting to a historical thriller took a lot of research. I got to dissect the art of writing a thriller, which are usually linear books, because I have to keep a high pace, and understand how to put that into play. But, also giving homage to queer identity in the queer perspective and the African American perspective. I mean, James is a black person in Kosovo, where there are no black people. That had to be something that was handled with care and understand how that will affect his point of view, so that it felt real and authentic.

Why should readers read your novel? And what do you want for them to take in from it?

It’s really important to see yourself in books, especially as a queer POC. We have some great queer POC authors right now like, Mark Oshiro and Adam Silvera. Those are really great Latinx authors, but, we really don’t have as many queer POC African American authors as we should, and I think that's a subset that really needs to be better represented. I think there is a swing now in all forms of media that we need more representation, but, that is kind of like a buzzword – it has to be done through the wallets. Companies say that they want it, but, if there is not a financial sign that these books and movies are actually selling, then they won’t happen. From a personal side, It is a comedy, it has love, it has action, and I think it has a lot of things that people really like in their books. I hope everybody across the spectrum likes this book, but, I really wrote it for queer boys. I just hope people see that James is a fucking bad ass dude.

Kosoko Jackson at the 2018 NYC Rising Stars Luncheon. Getty Images for GLAAD.

You were recently awarded the 2018 GLAAD Rising Stars Grant, what do you hope to accomplish with the grant?

I am creating a mentorship program for queer authors. It is currently in the works. The mentorship program will allow young, queer, up-and-coming authors to get a free month mentorship with a published or soon to be published LGBTQ+ author that will help them, not so much with editing the book, but, the craft and the steps that they have to take as a queer author in this industry.

What legacy do you want to leave behind as an author?

Well, hopefully, I will have many books to make that legacy, this won’t be my last. I really want to make a legacy where we see that queer POC are a marketable thing. If you are not queer, if you are not a POC, our stories are relatable, just like any other story. I hope this book not only shows readers and POC readers that your stories and your identity matter and are worth it, but, it shows marketing companies that these stories are profitable and that they really need to invest in POC creatives and POC storylines.

“A Place For Wolves” is available for pre-order on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indie Bound. It will be available on April 2, 2019.

Harold Daniel is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and senior at Florida International University studying broadcast journalism. He currently serves as an intern for Good Morning America on ABC.

the voice and vision of a new generation