It has been recognized by the American Library Association for their annual list of Rainbow Books - outstanding novels for LGBTQ children and teens.
Swimming to ChicagoWhen I received the info on this book, I became curious to find out: Why did the author choose for his main character to be Armenian-American? Any specific reasons for that?
A Young Adult Novel by David-Matthew Barnes
Reeling from his mother's suicide, seventeen-year-old Alex Bainbridge retreats from the world around him, often finding solace on a secluded island behind his house. As an Armenian-American living in a small Southern town, Alex struggles to fit in. His close friendship with the outspoken Jillian Dambro is his only saving grace, until he meets and falls in love with Robby LaMont - an introverted new student at school. As the year unfolds and the lives of the adults around them unravel, the three teens form an unbreakable bond, vowing to do anything to stay together - even if it means leaving everything behind.
I asked these questions directly to David-Matthew Barnes. He explained to Unzipped: Gay Armenia his motivation to make the main character of Swimming to Chicago an Armenian-American teen:
“When I started writing SWIMMING TO CHICAGO, I knew I wanted to explore a culture and society that had not been given the attention and focus it deserved, especially where teenagers are concerned.
I considered making the character of Alex an Iranian-American teen, mostly due to my emotional response to the execution of Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari. But, I felt their story was told beautifully by Jay Paul Deratany in his stage play HARAM IRAN.
I continued researching and soon discovered articles about gay rights (or the lack of) in Armenia. The more I read, the more I became certain that Alex needed to be Armenian-American. Most importantly, because - to my knowledge - a young adult novel written by an American author has never featured a gay Armenian teen character as its protagonist. I hope that not only Armenian-American teens will identify with Alex, but also other young people from conservative cultures would as well.
While working on the novel, I found and read an article. This motivated and inspired me to write Alex's story. I knew it was one that needed to be told.”
Selected for 'Best of the Books' by The Washington Blade!
"I love books that can destroy their own labels...Davud-Matthew Barnes' marvelous Swimming to Chicago will doubtless be put on the YA shelf...a well-told tale...that will engross readers of all ages...riveting..."
Jerry Wheeler, Out in Print
"I found myself unable to put it down..."
Sara Power, Books Your Kids Will Love
"A beautiful love story told from a host of different perspectives which allows us to truly appreciate the interconnectivity of our world."
Carsen Taite, Author of Nothing but the Truth and Do Not Disturb
"With what has been happening with our gay youth, David-Matthew Barnes gives us a book that is so important...It is not often that I come upon a book that pulls me in so completely...it could be a combination of wonderfully drawn characters, a terrific plot and great writing. Barnes gives us three terrific characters in Alex, Robby and Jillian...I found myself cheering our heroes on and wanting to take them by the hands and lead them through."
Amos Lassen, Reviews by Amos Lassen
"Is there a way to give a book six stars? Because this book is definitely 5-plus...David-Matthew Barnes writes beautifully, his characters are vivid and his plot is a winding road of twists and turns...I cared so much about the characters, I couldn't stop reading...This is a lovely, lovely read..."
D. Jackson Leigh, author of Call Me Softly and Long Shot
"The author’s knack for dialogue is indicative of his experience as a playwright. Conversations are honest, gritty, and profound, and most importantly, germane to the story and its outcome."
Christopher Verleger, EDGE
"This was a heartbreaking story...I enjoyed the book. It made me think once again about how we need to fight for acceptance...this book highlighted the need to stop bullying and the fears gay high school students have when deciding whether or not to reveal their sexuality."
"Like many teenagers, Alex just wants to belong and to be truly liked...Swimming to Chicago provides twists, shock and escape..."
Amy Steele, Entertainment Realm