HOLDEN SHEPPARD’S book Invisible Boys is an emotional tale of growing up gay in a small country town.
Like the protagonists, the Perth author had to hide his homosexuality during his teenage years in Geraldton.
Sheppard managed to stay under the radar at a huge emotional cost, but others were less fortunate.
“You didn’t say you were gay, and those who did were bullied,” he says.
With Invisible Boys taking out three prestigious literary awards before hitting the bookshelves, Sheppard jumped at an invitation to give a series of author talks at his old high school.
Initially hesitant talking at a Catholic school about sexual identity, mental health and suicide, the 31-year-old was heartened to discover a lot has changed since he studied there.
“There’s been a big shift in my home town. They said they wanted the kids to know about those things.”
The book’s title is a nod to a teenage Sheppard feeling “invisible”, because he had to hide his true self.
“I wrote it for anyone who has struggled or still is. I want the pain of these characters to be visible to the world.
“I want the world to understand that boys and men suffer, and for gay boys in particular…this struggle can feel like the end of the world, but it isn’t.”
Sheppard, who writes young adult fiction, now lives in Perth and is a staffer at Edith Cowan University.
Printed by Fremantle Press, Invisible Boys took out the $12,000 TAG Hungerford award, the $15,000 Kathleen Mitchell Award for Australian writers under 30, and the Ray Koppe Residency Award.
He’ll be joining eight Fremantle Press authors including WA Premier’s award- winner Julia Lawrinson, Helen Milroy (Wombat, Mudlark and Other Stories) and Steven Hawke (Out of Time, The Valley) at the Great Big October Book Fest at the Fremantle Art Centre October 24.
The event is like a literary Oktoberfest with beer, bratwurst and book readings.
It’s free, but bookings essential at fac.org.au
By JENNY D’ANGER