Arts & Entertainment
A Young Author's 'Detroit' Debut
Coming-Of-Age Novelist Talks First Book
By Jerome Stuart Nichols
Originally printed 3/21/2013 (Issue 2112 - Between The Lines News)
For many, the trek from Nigeria to Ghana to Duram, N.C. would be a lifetime of travel. For 18-year-old Duke University student, Tegan Joseph Mosugu, it was just the first few steps on his journey. Now, that journey has taken him from Duke to the streets of Detroit in his debut novel "The Detroit Queer."
Released in March 2012, "The Detroit Queer" follows a boy named Jimmy as he comes to terms with and eventually embraces his sexuality. Being that he's gay, black and Christian, that isn't an easy task.
"Queer" is a coming-of-age story that, like many others, focuses on themes of love and acceptance. But it is, perhaps, the unique urban Midwest setting and unconventional main character that will help it stand above the rest. It also probably doesn't hurt that Mosugu was able to draw inspiration for the main character and story from his own life and experiences.
The Lagos, Nigeria-born author, who identifies as bisexual, experienced much of the same shame and self-doubt that Jimmy experiences. When talking about what that time was like for him, Mosugu shares his feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability.
"At first I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was the only one," he says.
"When I was about 12, I knew that there was something off but I wasn't really sure exactly what was off," he says. "It didn't really happen until I was maybe 15, 16 that I was starting to understand my identity."
The road to writing "Queer" began as just a desire to write a book. From there Mosugu developed the character of Jimmy and eventually found the setting that would give the story its flavor.
"I didn't know how this was going to take place. I don't know what happens. I'd just like to write a book," he says. "So, I was like, 'Let me create this special character who happens to be black, Christian and happens to be from Detroit, of all places.'"
According to Mosugu, the choice to use Detroit as the setting for queer came from a desire for authenticity and personal connection for the readers.
Although it started as just a desire to pen a book, once the wheels began to roll on "Queer," it quickly became a cathartic experience for the first-time author. It was also an experience that, by his assertion, allowed him to grow as a person.
"There was a part of me that felt relieved, but there was also a part of me that felt growth," he says. "It's OK to feel relieved, but if you're not growing and learning while you're feeling relieved ... I think that it was good for me."
It seems that lately Mosugu has been doing a lot of things that are good for him. Not only is he a published author by 18 but he was admitted to Duke at just 16. He even runs his own company, 1520 Products LTD. Later this month he'll sit in on the youth advisory board at Ruth Ellis Center and, at 8 a.m. March 26, present during Affirmations' Gay Business Networking.
According to Mosugu's personal website, 1520 is in the business of "entertaining and teaching us on key and important aspects of life (such as marriage, sex, etc.) through the playing of games which will allow us to laugh but, at the same time, pass a message of what is the right or ideal way."
Established in 2005, 1520 currently offers two card game products that claim to help you reach your "ideal or perfect situation."
That search for the ideal situation is part of what led him to attending Duke, where he majors in American history and minors in philosophy. He also serves as an opinions columnist for the University's paper, The Chronicle.
With his accent and excited manner of speech, it may be generally difficult to discern what the young maverick-in-the-making has to say. But it is within his short profile on The Chronicle's website that the picture becomes clearer.
"Be fierce, be real," he says.
Authenticity and ferocity seem to be a recurring theme with the author, student, budding business man and sometimes model. Not only does that seem to be the theme for his life but, for Mosugu, that's the theme of "Queer" as well.
"The book is more, I guess, about living a life that is very, very true to who you are. So as long as you're able to find the courage to live a life that is who you are, I think that's the greatest accomplishment ever. No matter what people say and no matter what people think you should be."
For more information on Mosugu's March 26 Affirmations presentation, visit http://www.goaffirmations.org.
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