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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown - Book Review & Interview

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Review by Suze

Jo's father is a reverend. He has a popular radio show and Jo hopes that one day she can follow in his footsteps. Jo has been out for a long time and her father has always been her greatest supporter. That changes when he remarries. They move from Atlanta to Rome. It's a big step for Jo to leave the big city behind for a small village. As the new in-laws are conservative Jo's father asks the impossible of his daughter, to hide that she's gay and lay low for a year. Will she be able to pull this off?

Jo agrees to her father's wishes and becomes a more demure person. Because of her new image she easily fits in with the popular crowd at her new school. However, one of Jo's new friends has a sister, Mary Carlson, Jo can't seem to stay away from. Jo is being torn apart inside because she thinks she has to keep her promise to her father, but she can't help falling for Mary Carlson and it seems like Mary Carlson feels the exact same way. What should she do, deny herself the chance to love and be loved because of her father's wishes or fight for her own happiness?

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is a fantastic story. Jo is an incredible main character. She's strong, smart, resilient and she has a big heart. She also knows who she is and she's confident in her own skin. My heart ached when I read about her father's request. Jo is such a great person and he asks something awful of her that felt entirely wrong, only because it will make getting along with the new family easier. It's a perfect subject for a story and I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough to find out what Jo would do, if she and Mary Carlson would have a chance together or not. They're a sweet couple and I kept hoping they would get their happily ever after.

Jaye Robin Brown has a wonderful warm writing style. Her vivid descriptions of Rome and its inhabitants are making her story come to life really well. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is a thought-provoking story. I liked how Jaye Robin Brown writes about the combination of being gay and being religious. She does that in a way that constantly made me think, feel and wonder. I admired how she does this while telling an impressive heartwarming story. I enjoyed reading about Jo's happy moments and the kind way she treats people. I was also surprised by the depth of the family scenes and its interesting dynamics, which is something that makes the story very good. I absolutely loved Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit and highly recommend this terrific book.


Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is perfect for readers who love YA stories with main characters that are beautiful inside and out.

About Jaye Robin Brown

Jaye Robin Brown, or Jro to her friends, has been many things in her life--jeweler, mediator, high school art teacher--but recently she's taken the plunge into full-time writer life. She's a Southerner at heart, by way of Alabama, then Atlanta, and for many years just outside of Asheville, but now she's moved north for a bit of city living. Boston baby! And though she'd like to think brownstones might find a way into her fiction, she figures kudzu will always be what comes to her imagination first.

Her debut young adult novel, NO PLACE TO FALL, came out in the fall of 2014 from Harper Teen. It's about dreams, singing, friendship, love, betrayal, family, and mistakes. It's also a love song to small town girls and mountain music, both of which shape the area that Jaye now calls home. In April 2016, a companion novella, WILL'S STORY: A NO PLACE TO FALL NOVELLA, released from Epic Reads Impulse, a digital only imprint, and follows Will McKinney's side of the story. Her sophomore novel, GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT, released August 30, 2016, also from Harper Teen, and is the story of Jo Gordon, the out lesbian daughter of a moderate evangelical minister and what happens when he marries for the third time and they move from Atlanta to small-town Northern Georgia. It's a love story and a look at the sometimes conundrum of having faith and being queer.




1) Can you tell a bit about yourself?

I love to laugh. I’m a bit of introvert in social situations with new people. I’m very loyal to my friends though not always the best at staying in touch. I’m happiest in my barn with my horses. I hail from Southern US but now live in the Northeast and recently learned to operate a snow blower. Berries are my favorite fruit.

2) Can you descibe the main characters of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit in seven words each?

Jo: Preacher’s daughter who loves Jesus and girls.

Mary Carlson: Waiting on the one, hopes she golfs.

3) In Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit a father asks something impossible of his daughter, to hide an important part of herself, being gay, from everyone in her new hometown, where did you get the idea for this story?

This part of the story is a bit of my own story, though for me it came later in life, not in high school. I came out and met my partner in Atlanta, and after about a year we moved to rural North Carolina. And though I was open and out among certain groups of friends, I was closeted in my job as a teacher. So it was pretty easy for me to see this dynamic. And it’s not all that unusual for LGBTQ folks to have situations in which they feel safe being out and others in which they don’t talk about. No matter where you live or what age you are.

4) You write about faith in an open way with a great message about the freedom to be who you are, what inspired you to do this?

I’m a hugely spiritual person and though I’m not as focused on Christianity as Jo Gordon, I love me some Jesus. And as an LGBTQ person, I get tired of the messaging that Jesus (or whoever your chosen diety is) isn’t for us. It feels hypocritical and hateful. To quote the magnificent Lady Gaga, “We were born this way.” And if the Divine made us, then we are loved too. I wrote a book that I wanted and needed for myself, a strong counter-message to the churches that tell us we are flawed in some way.

5) You’ve written a story about a girl who’s already out of the closet, but has to go back in, what’s so interesting about this angle?

In Jo’s case, it made her question the sincerity of her father’s acceptance. Up until this point, she believed that he embraced her 100% as who she was. I found the dynamic of this relationship change interesting and compelling. And as I mentioned above, I think being in and out of the closet is a pretty much all-the-time situation for many LGBTQ folks.

6) Joanna and her father move from a big city to a small town. You’ve lived in both as well, what are the best parts of the countrysides and what do you like about living in the city?

In the country I love small-town community, nature, how multi-generational things are. You can see the stars and rarely hear sirens and people will leave excess zuchinni in the back seat of your car if you leave it unlocked. City is vibrant and active and I love the pedestrian nature of getting places. There is more diversity and more cultural opportunity and fabulous food. My dream home? In the country with a portkey to the Back Bay area of Boston.

7) When did you first start dreaming of becoming a writer and how did your career develop after that?

I always wrote. It was something very natural to me and I didn’t think about it being a “thing.” Though at one point I did set a goal of being published by thirty. Which happened in the form of a magazine essay. In 2009, I decided to get serious about being published for young people and three years, and six manuscripts later, I sold a book. My advice to anyone wanting a career in writing is to read, hone your craft, and write, write, write. Also learn about querying agents and what happens when you get signed. There’s loads of information out there on the Internet about this. SCBWI is a great place for those interested in writing for young people to start.

8) You write about LGBTQ teens, what’s the best thing about this genre for you?

Well I don’t know that I’d define it as a genre in and of itself. My characters just happen to be LGBTQ which I think is not so uncommon for contemporary settings these days. And fortunately, more and more publishers are making space in their lists for all sorts of characters.

9) Where do you read and where do you write?

My favorite place to read is in the bathtub. I also read when I fly and try to choose books I can part with so I don’t fly home with them (I’m not much of an e-reader person). As for writing, I have a home office that is lovely, but I often migrate to the couch downstairs. When I’m sick of working at home, I either go into Boston to work at the big Copley Square Public Library or pop over to The Unlikely Story’s café to have a coffee and soak in the great indie bookstore atmosphere.

10) What are your plans for the future?

Currently I’m working on my 2019 book for Harper Teen which is tentatively titled, THE MEANING OF BIRDS. It’s a non-linear timeline about a girl who loses her girlfriend unexpectedly in the now and is learning to navigate her grief, and in the before, we see the blossoming romance between the two. Threaded throughout is the theme of the healing power of art and how we shape ourselves through our choices. Then I will have a fourth book with them at some point after that, either 2020 or 2021. In addition, I’ve started doing dressage with my horses and taking painting classes. I just bought an easel and now my office is half writing space, half painting studio. Mostly I plan on living life fully and paying attention to the things that matter.

Thanks so much for reading GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT and for the opportunity to chat! Jaye.


  1. Nice to meet you Jaye! *waves hi*
    Thanks for sharing with us

  2. When I see it Iw will grab it. Thanks for your interview

  3. I liked the review. The book sounds good.

  4. Thank you for the lovely review and interview :)

  5. I'd like to see how Jo's & Mary's friendship & relationship grows.

  6. I liked the interview it really made me want to read the book.

  7. I'm a southern peach myself. Quite a clever interview here!

  8. Sounds like a great read, I can't imagine picking up and moving to another country, and then if you have to hide the truth about yourself as well!

  9. I had to look up the 'kudzu' that's mentioned in Jaye's bio. That was almost an hour ago! It's a fascinating plant - grows at a foot a day! No wonder it's got 'creepy' (excuse the awful pun) connotations!