“If it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.”
There are a few reasons why I chose to open my YA novel Tash Hearts Tolstoy with this quote. First, it’s by Leo Tolstoy, the literary love of Tash’s protagonist, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka. Ding! Second, it’s taken from Anna Karenina, the source material for Tash Zelenka’s viral web series. Ding, ding! Third—and most important of all—it captures the heart (pun totally intended) of Tash’s story. Ding, ding, ding! WE HAVE A WINNER. PERFECT OPENING QUOTE.
As Tolstoy points out, love is as unique and diverse as the people who experience it. The fact that human love varies in its objects and expressions–well, that’s just common sense. If we accept that love exists on a beautiful, sprawling spectrum (which I for one do), then nothing could be more natural. And really, how fantastic is that?
Unfortunately, society sometimes has a tough time catching up with common sense. Sometimes it’s inexpressibly difficult to be a teen whose expression of love doesn’t line up with what’s incorrectly labeled “standard.” And that sucks. I know, because I was one of those teens. But you know what makes me really happy in the good ol’ year of 2017? The Young Adult books that are fighting back the forces that make teens feel isolated and alone. YA shelves are filling with stories that represent and affirm LGBTQIA+ teens. And stories are powerful. I wouldn’t be an author if I didn’t believe that truth.
I’ve been impacted by so many YA stories, from None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio to If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo to How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake to Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits by Jaye Robin Brown to The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. And there are so many more titles I could list here—many stories for many loves.
Stories that star LGBTQIA+ individuals are invaluable because, yes, they develop empathy and understanding in teens with different experiences; but most of all, because they allow teens with the same experiences to see themselves on the page. To know that they are not alone. To know that they are protagonist-worthy. To know that their expression of love—whether it be romantic or not—is known and seen and embraced.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy is the story of a girl who loves web series, Tolstoy, tea, period dramas, and her best friends. She’s also a girl who loves romantically and not sexually. Her story is not hers alone; it belongs to anyone who has felt and loved the way Tash does. Hers is one of many loves worth celebrating, not just during this Summer of Love, but every day of the year.
So let’s hear it for love, in its many kinds and many, many hearts—including your own.