Chatting With Meg Elison About Investigating Rural Poverty in “Find Layla”

Author Meg Elison writes extremely queer books; her Road to Nowhere series is “queers in the apocalypse.” There are few queers in dystopic work, and Elison, a Philip K Dick award winner, wanted to write about queerness at the end of the world outside of “the importance of continuing the species. I wanted to write queers in the apocalypse and people who refuse to reproduce, or who looked at reproduction or the theory of gender as a fragmented thing even in the face of human extinction.”

Elison’s latest is a young adult novel titled Find Layla, a book that holds up the realities of poverty and neglect for teens in the age of social media. It’s the sort of novel that my pretentious ass wants to describe with words like “searing,” and “bold” but if we set that aside, Layla is an incredibly lovable character in terrible circumstances in rural Southern California. Her love of science inspires her to borrow a video camera and shoot the biome that is her life. The black mold in her house, her mother’s neglect, and the difficulty of her life go viral, and she loses her brother through Child Protective Services.

“When I started writing for young adults, I realized how really important it was to represent the kind of fierce independence and self governance that I picked up from queer women. There were so many books that I read as a kid that don’t have a romantic or sexual component, like there’s no boyfriend. But there’s still the imposition of patriarchy and the male gaze on the way that a girl defines herself in just about every book, and I wanted to write about a girl who defines herself in her own way, and fights against her own injustices and is kind of a stealth queer. I didn’t make Layla overtly queer because I didn’t want to introduce a love interest but it is very much a part of who she is and her extreme fixation on her best friend.”

Read the rest of this article on Autostraddle and the rest of this interview is up on my Patreon.

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