The young-adult novel, "The Vast Fields of Ordinary"
The young-adult novel, "The Vast Fields of Ordinary" is the story of Dade, a young man growing up gay in Iowa and his eventful summer between high school and college.
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Nick Burd finds a lot of creative material in the stories of alienated teenagers desperate to connect. His debut young-adult novel, "The Vast Fields of Ordinary" is the story of Dade, a young man growing up gay in Iowa and his eventful summer between high school and college.
He is working at a local supermarket, his parents are on the verge of divorce, and he hasn't told them his biggest secret.
The book has been described as semi-autobiographical. "Whenever you write something, you put parts of yourself in there, so I do think the book is autobiographical, but not just in terms of the main character. There is the obvious connection that I am from Iowa, and I was gay, so we have that in common. I also look at the other characters everyone from Pablo (Dade's love interest), Dade's mother, to somebody like Fessica, the girl he goes to school with. I think that there is parts of myself in all of those people."
The books title is a literal description of the Iowa countryside in Burd's eyes, but also a metaphor.
"The title was the first thing that came to me. I used to be in a band, and I wrote lyrics. This phrase just dropped into my head one day. There just seemed to be a story behind it. It describes the landscape of Iowa, obviously, it's very vast and nothing's there. It's also a way of feeling different and looking around and feeling like everybody else is not different."
There are some scenes in the novel that are graphic. Dade says that he initially started writing the novel to appeal to adults, but half-way through, he decided to change the appeal of the story to young adults.
"After a series of events, it was decided that we would release it as a young adult novel. Some of the scenes have been toned down a little bit, but there is some more graphic material in there than you might find in a regular young adult novel."
Along with being gay and in Iowa, the fact that Burd is African-American had a big impact on his adolescence.
"I always knew I was different before I really knew I was gay." He humorously recalls discovering his own gay tendencies at the age of five or six. "I said something to my mother that made her realize that I was probably gay. I told her that I wanted to marry George Michael."
"Growing up in Iowa, being both black and gay, my experience was not terrible. I know that there is probably white gay kids or white straight kids who've had worse upbringings than me, and worse social environments. But, I did feel very different, and kind of like an outsider...It's gotten me to where I am right now, so it's a good thing."
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