Comics are a great medium to get stories in front of kids and Lemonade Summer is a new comics anthology that’s hoping to make the most of that. Currently running a kickstarter campaign, this anthology by Gabi Mendez features seven stories about queer, transgender and non-binary youth coming of age, learning important things about themselves and fostering friendships with each other, all while going on summer adventures. The premise is sweet, the art is cute and the project itself is important — there just aren’t enough stories for queer kids about queer kids.
Even better, Cow House Press realizes how important it is to get these stories in the hands of the kids that need them. That’s why this kickstarter features a number of pledging options that will allow backers to donate additional copies of the book to libraries and youth centers, at discounted prices!
We had a chance to have a short chat with creator Gabi Mendez about her intentions for this adorable anthology.
Rogues Portal (RP): Is this your first major comic? What else have you worked on in the past?
Gabi Mendez (GM): I’ve never worked on anything so big! A few of the stories have been self-published and sold at smaller events. I’ve done this with stories that aren’t in the book as well; one an eight page sci-fi about hope for humanity, the other a story I made as a companion to another friend’s story that had to do with a monster stealing panties from a summer camp as tribute for protection from the goat man. This book is the majority of my finished comics though!
RP: What inspired you to focus on queer stories for kids? What do you hope to accomplish with this book?
GM: I think representation is very important. The LGBTQ stories that reach major media honestly tend to be tragedies, and the stories for queer youth tend to be about the struggle of being closeted and coming out. This is absolutely a reality most of us go through, but while I don’t want to shy away from those narratives, I think we deserve more. Queer kids deserve to see themselves as pirates, as witches, as the kids we were just trying to navigate adolescence with the happy endings we seek.
RP: From what did you draw inspiration for these stories specifically? Are there references to your own childhood?
GM: There are many many references to my own childhood, yes! Even from the tiny details, like the neighborhood Ro an Ella walk through; that’s my neighborhood down to the coffee shop with the old men. And in the case of Witching Hour, being distressed and finding solace in a long bike ride. A lot of them are based on experiences I think we’ve all had. Falling out with friends, not wanting to be who we’re told we have to be, making new friends, missing old ones before they’re even gone. Chole (from the story Aventurera) and I share the issue of having a nickname people rarely pronounce right (those are Hispanic vowels!)
RP: Do you have a favorite (or two) of the 7 stories that are included?
GM: I think Aventurera and Ro & Ella are my favorites, though I’m very attached to all of them. They are both the oldest and the newest stories in the collection. I think I relate most to those main characters. As a kid I was like Ro, wanting to be friends with everyone and jumping in to things too fast, speaking too soon. Meanwhile, Chole’s identity is based off my own, especially as a teenager; she’s Latina and bisexual, not good at talking about her feelings but feeling way too much. Both stories are very positive slice-of-life type stories, which are my favorite to make and read.
RP: What are some of the overarching themes that span multiple of the stories? What are you really trying to say with this anthology? What do you want people to take away from it?
GM: The biggest themes in Lemonade Summer are friendship and finding the places you belong. What I really want people to take from this book is that queer people exist everywhere, trying to navigate life just like everyone else. No matter how different people may seem, there will always be things we have in common with each other. The most important thing we can do in life is have empathy for each other, it’s easier than you’d think.
RP: What’s next? Do you have any other interesting projects in the works?
GM: I am working on a series of stories with a magical realism bent for a slightly older audience, which is new for me! Have you ever looked at the path the sun makes on the ocean at sunrise or sunset and thought that maybe you could cross it? That maybe it leads somewhere else? I definitely have. So perhaps I’ll publish those stories together, but for now I’m just trying to survive grad school.
RP: Is there anything else I didn’t touch on that you’d like to share?
GM: Lemonade Summer may be my art and my stories, but it’s a project that a lot of really cool and talented people came together to make happen. Cow House Press is made up of and supported by the best people, all with a vision to populate the world with fun diverse books!