Toronto-based non-binary and queer author, Ronnie Riley (they/them), recently released their debut middle-grade novel Jude Saves the World with Scholastic Canada. Here, they share the importance of championing marginalized voices.
Riley began writing Jude in early 2019. After writing a chapter, they shelved the original manuscript, but could not get Jude’s story out of their head. They picked the manuscript back up in 2020 and wrote it in about a month.
“I’ve never drafted a book so smoothly before," they said, "but Jude Saves the World’s first draft came quickly and effortlessly.”
“Jude Saves the World was an apology to my 12-year-old self," Riley explained. "It was an apology for not having the language to describe how I was feeling, not having a sense of community, and feeling like I was alone in the world."
“I want readers to know those big confusing feelings aren’t wrong or something to be ashamed of — I want to give them the language I didn’t have so they can find themselves sooner and, hopefully, understand those big confusing feelings a little better.”
Since the novel's release in April 2023, Riley has received countless emails and feedback from both parents and youth thanking Riley for helping them or their children feel seen and heard.
“It is a magical moment for me, to know that kids are reading and connecting with Jude’s story," they said.
The middle-grade novel centres around 12-year-old Jude Winters, and their journey navigating their ADHD, sharing their non-binary status with their grandparents —and creating a safe space in their community.
“I write books I wish I had as a kid, featuring queer characters, friendship and hope,” said Riley.
Riley decided to publish Jude Saves the World with Scholastic, the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books. For them, the choice was an obvious one.
“Scholastic book fairs are one of the fondest memories I have of my childhood,” mused Riley. “There’s something about receiving one of the flyers, begging my mom for more books, and checking out new and exciting books on the shelves that can’t be beat. Their direct reach to kids is a huge bonus.”
Riley is an advocate for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community through and through, taking to social media to share and highlight other marginalized authors' works and spread the word about these much needed stories and their creators.
“For more privileged communities, there are thousands and thousands of books for people to see themselves in," they said. "For marginalized communities, there are handfuls or low hundreds. Considering the current climate in the U.S. with book bans, anti-trans laws, and other anti-marginalized movements—not to mention countries all over the world—I feel like it’s about to become even harder to publish marginalized stories."
“We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere," they continued. "We’re going to keep fighting for our stories to be heard, because they matter. Marginalized stories, marginalized representation, and marginalized voices matter.”