By TRILBY BERESFORD | Reporter
“What if you knew a secret from history that could change the world?”
Palisadian Lee Wind poses that striking question on the front cover of his debut novel, “Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill.” As we all know, pictured on the $5 bill is 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. This particular secret concerns the possibility that he was in love with close friend, Joshua Fry Speed, as alluded to in their written correspondence.
“I went to the library and read ‘The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln,’” Wind said on the phone with the Palisadian-Post, adding that he related to the sentiments expressed by Lincoln in his affectionate letters to another man.
The impetus for this research expedition and subsequent literary pursuit was the fact that Wind said he was troubled by the false façade of history that school children are taught: Everybody important was white, male and cis-gender.
Not only is that simply not true, Wind recognized, but it’s so wildly inaccurate that it’s actually providing a disservice to the youth of today whom are navigating their sexuality with trepidation.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Wind felt compelled to “introduce the idea that history is complicated and people are complicated.”
Crowd-funded on Kickstarter in six days, “Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill” follows 15-year-old Wyatt as he steers through the “treacherous waters of his sexuality.” Providing an authentic voice, he was written as a version of Wind himself. “Wyatt is a lot braver than I was—he comes out at 15, I didn’t come out until I was in my 20s,” Wind admitted.
Among the supporting characters is an African-American attorney with an openly gay son, who, like any “diverse” character on screen, shouldn’t stand out for being unusual, but in this day and age still does.
“The book is a tool for empowerment for kids, not just LGBTQ+ kids,” Wind emphasized. “Every reader is faced with the same question [that Wyatt happens upon].” It’s already a semi-finalist in the BookLife annual writing contest.
In addition to Wind’s literary activities, he is the director of marketing and programming at the Independent Book Publishers Association and the official blogger for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Wind’s role is to “help empower the voices of independent publishers,” reinforced by his profound belief that books should be judged on the quality of the writing, not who the publisher is. “That’s my Clark Kent job,” Wind said with a laugh, clarifying that his superhero job is writing stories inspired by our untold history.
Spare moments in Wind’s schedule are spent working on his personal blog, “I’m Here, I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?” which serves over two million readers.
Toward the end of our chat, Wind noted that there are countless examples of historical figures who lived outside traditional gender boundaries. Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok could be jumping off points for challenging research that can only result in the reward of accurate knowledge.
“The resistance that people have to diversity might be because people are worried about losing their seat at the table,” Lee hypothesized. “So, let’s get a bigger table and add more chairs.”
Visit leewind.org to learn more about Wind and his new book.