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Who I Wish I Had Been

Brooke Skipstone
Brooke Skipstone Author Interview

The MoonStone Girls tells the story of a couple struggling to find inner peace, and love, amid a homophobic society. What were some sources that informed this novel development?

Society is still homophobic in many places, in fact most places. I know many people who would be very uncomfortable if their children came out as queer, which is why almost half of homeless teens are queer. Many teens in high school in Alaska try to be their true selves at school where teachers are told to keep their students’ sexual identity private because of the fear of how their families might react.

I know exactly how Tracy felt during her arguments with family about politics and civil rights and LGBTQ+ rights. And I know the inner struggle of hiding truths from yourself and others, the battle between fear and anger that you experience fear. And especially the confusion of why you don’t seem to fit into expected gender roles. In many ways, Tracy is who I wish I had been years ago.

I enjoyed how authentic your characters felt. Was there anything from your own life that you put into your characters?

I played classical piano (dead white men’s music) for years before teaching myself guitar and banjo and writing my own songs. I live in Alaska and have been to Denali National Park many many times—camping, backpacking, and shooting pictures.

Authors always project some bits of themselves or others into characters. I do the same, but my characters actually exist in my brain. While I am writing, my characters are real. I almost feel they are already fully formed human beings that I get to know as I write. I hear them and see them. Like movies in my head. I do not make lists of features or personality traits, then build the characters. As crazy as this sounds, I often feel they are more real than the people I encounter daily.

What were some ideas that were important for you to convey in this book?

So many. We must find the courage to be and discover our true selves and feel empowered enough to reveal one’s self to others. It is better to regret what you’ve done than regret what you never tried. I never swam naked in Wonder Lake when the mountain’s image was mirrored on the water, but I had the opportunity and now wish I had. Everyone should find a creative outlet so they can make some sense of their world through music or dance or poetry/prose, or art—anything. I can’t imagine living without being able to write. Finding a partner in creativity like Tracy did with Jackie is a blessing.

As one of my characters says—It is far better to offer encouragement than criticism. There is too much intolerance, too much judgment of others, too much condemnation.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have many ideas and have not yet decided. I write quickly when I find a story. I finished two books in 2021—Crystal’s House of Queers and The Moonstone Girls. I believe Moonstone is my best, so my next must be more significant in scope and purpose. Possibly revolutionary.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

Tracy should have been a boy. Even her older brother Spencer says so, though he wouldn’t finish the thought with, “And I should have been a girl.”

Though both feel awkward in their own skin, they have to face who they are—queers in the late 60s.

When both are caught with gay partners, their lives and futures are endangered by their homophobic father as their mother struggles to defend them.

While the Vietnam War threatens to take Spencer away, Tracy and her father wage a war of their own, each trying to save the sweet, talented pianist.

At seventeen, Tracy dresses as a boy and leaves her parents in turmoil, with only the slimmest hope of finding peace within herself. She journeys to a girl with a guitar, calling to her from a photo, “Come to Alaska. We’d be great friends.”

Maybe even The MoonStone Girls.

The MoonStone Girls

The MoonStone Girls by [Brooke Skipstone]

Brooke Skipstone’s The MoonStone Girls is the story of Tracy, a seventeen-year-old who leaves her home to discover herself and pursue her dreams. She and her brother are gay, and when this fact is revealed to their family, her father violently opposes it. The turmoil of the Vietnam war, the pain of losing her beloved brother, and the calling of an unknown girl from Alaska push Tracy to undertake a soul-searching journey. 

We see how Tracy cross-dresses as a boy and starts dating Ava because society wouldn’t accept two girls who are in love. Tracy continues to defy gender stereotypes and attempts to find her own place in the world. She finds her ideal partner in Jackie, and what follows is a beautiful love story. 

The author’s handling of the lesbian relationship is different from standard romance tropes. Their relationship is shown to be deeply embedded in friendship, understanding of the mutual struggles, and revolting against a homophobic society. This powerful emotional turmoil is delivered through potent and impassioned language that will steal the heart of readers. I really enjoyed how the physical proximity between the women has been described with such clarity that the reader can fully grasp the nuances of their relationship. 

The stigma surrounding the queer community in the 1960’s has been portrayed articulately through the stories of Tracy, Spencer, Jackie, and Jeff. Sadly enough, the stigma still continues to pose a threat to the community, and that’s why the novel is a relevant read today.  

Tracy’s emotionally-resonant journey of self-discovery, dealing with grief, bearing the rage of a homophobic father, and ultimately finding her way through life and putting her heart and soul into the music band MoonStone Girls is captured in vivid emotional detail that feels authentic and is relayed in a story that is absolutley enthralling.

Author Brooke Skipstone is an exceptional storyteller and one that is able to capture the uniqueness of their characters in a way that makes those pieces really stand out in ways that are captivating. The LGBTQ+ commentary throughout the novel is sincere and sheds a much needed light on the variety of issues that the community faces even today. While this novel is high in social commentary it never forgets to entertain the reader with intriguing characters and a compelling plot that will make this book hard to put down.

Pages: 397 | ASIN: B09MP9FF3Q

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