I have written and illustrated a children’s book about coming out, self-love and acceptance. The story takes place in Cucuy Town where creatures appear less scary and more bizarre. The main character, Alphie, is an amphibian-like creature who explores himself while exploring the city he calls home, “Cucuy Town”. Cucuy Town is a parodied version of Chicago and the backgrounds display many of Chicago’s iconic architecture, ways of transportation, and diverse neighborhoods.
The book is intended to serve as a resource for younger audiences (ages 10-18) to engage with in order to help them understand that it is okay to be openly queer. I’ve included internal conflicts throughout the book that give the audience a better understanding and appreciation of the experiences queer people go through. At the end of the book, Alphie is confident and comfortable being openly gay. My overall goal is to have children realize they can be happy being themselves, just like Alphie.
The process of creating creatures for this world is participatory and enjoyable. Illustrating creatures allows me to take my observations from the world around me, mix and match the elements in my head, and bring them back to our world in a new way. Throughout the process I represent many people who I am close to. I ask them their top two favorite animals, a fruit, and a vegetable. This allows me to fuse colors, textures, and forms from those elements into one unique creature. Creatures are more digestible and fun for a young audience to engage with. It also allows there to be no clear distinction between male and female, allowing for children to understand that there is no one way men or women have to look. Leaving room for interpretation allows for multiple diverse perspectives amongst audiences.
Many of the experiences Alphie has are references to moments in my life where I felt anxious or joyous. While creating the book I wanted to focus on the way certain situations made me feel instead of replicating the scenario itself. I focused on moments specific to queer experiences but broadened them up for anyone to be able to relate to. Feeling alienated because of your sexuality or gender is something queer people constantly go through; my work helps anyone who has experienced feeling like they don’t fit in better understand the struggles that queer people encounter.