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Black queer character at center of local author's new book

Leah Johnson's "You Should See Me in a Crown" features a high school girl growing up in a small Midwestern town.

INDIANAPOLIS — A Ben Davis High School graduate is getting some nationwide attention after publishing her first book. 

Leah Johnson's debut novel is in the young adult genre, titled "You Should See Me in a Crown." It's about a queer Black high school girl growing up in a small Midwestern town.

She said she used parts of her life as inspiration for the book.

"I'm really fortunate that I loved Ben Davis," she said. "But also growing up where I grew up, I was constantly contending with environments in which I was the only Black person in different spaces."

"One of the reasons why it's so crucial to have Black characters, Black queer characters, disabled characters, you know, running the gamut of identities, is because kids deserve to know that their stories are valuable, that their happy endings are going to be held to the same standards as anyone's happy endings."

Leah says that's especially important for young people.

"You know, straight, White girls aren't the only ones who deserve huge love stories," she laughed.

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"You Should See Me in a Crown" is getting national recognition, but Leah said that books with diverse characters and diverse authors are not a new phenomenon, they are just coming at a time when people are more open to them. 

"There have been queer writers since the beginning of time — queer Black writers since the beginning of time," she said. "The thing that has kept us from reaching everyone's shelves in a lot of cases is homophobia and racism. So this is an opportunity for all of us to decide that these stories matter, and we're going to make sure we make space for them."