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Saturday, July 20, 2024

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Arts + CultureLitA love of baseball doesn't quite come 'Out of...

A love of baseball doesn’t quite come ‘Out of Left Field’ for this queer youth

Local author Jonah Newman's semi-autobiographical graphic novel tells a tale of self-discovery on the diamond.

The author of Out of Left Field is named Jonah Newman, and the character in the book is named Jonah Newman, but the Bay Area-born comic artist admits he fudged some of the facts. He never hit a walk-off grand slam in high school baseball, though “that would’ve been so cool.” And he didn’t join the baseball team because he had a crush on one of the players.

“Jonah the character joins the baseball team because he has a crush that he doesn’t really understand,” says Newman, now based in New York. “I got into baseball for a number of different reasons, one of which was that I wanted to be cool and accepted by kids my age, and they were all playing baseball—and I may or may not have had crushes on some of them.”

The semi-autographical graphic novel combines Newman’s twin loves of cartooning and baseball with a coming-of-age story that many queer youth will find relatable. Newman will discuss it at the Ferry Building on Sun/14, Rainbow Community Center in Concord on Mon/15, and the Daly City Public Library on Tue/16.

The Jonah Newman in the book is a history and film nerd who’s initially hopeless at baseball, but as he works his way to the climactic (fictional) grand slam, he comes to terms with his queerness and realizes that maybe being like all the other kids isn’t the most important thing in the world—though his love of the game, as with the real Newman, remains.

“Not everyone plays baseball in high school, but I think most of us have some mixture of figuring out who we are and having first relationships and making mistakes and wanting to be accepted by our peers,” says Newman. “Once I started bringing that in and sorting out how it interacted with my experience in baseball, that was the key.”

Author Jonah Newman

Newman grew up in Mill Valley and attended University High School in San Francisco. Though his love of baseball didn’t come until high school, he’s been a writer and artist since childhood. “I used to make my own novels, and they were like 20 pages,” he says. “They were self-written, self-illustrated. I would print them off my parents’ printer and charge my family members way too much money to buy them.”

As he grew older and absorbed graphic-novel classics like Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, the idea of telling a complex story with words and images appealed to him. The central tale in Out of Left Field is obviously much smaller-scale than the sweeping historical backdrops of those works, but Newman’s sweet and simple story makes a statement simply by being an inspirational queer story aimed at teens.

A page from ‘Out of Left Field”

“Books by and about queer people make up an overrepresented slice of the books that are challenged and banned throughout the country,” says Newman. “I think the hope that these book-banners have is that these kids will just stop being queer and just become cisgender heterosexual people, which is ridiculous but also very cruel.”

Out of Left Field has only been out for a few weeks and has not yet been challenged, banned or incinerated live on TikTok to Newman’s knowledge, but he describes its publishing as a “solidarity thing.” Aside from his comics career, Newman works as an associate editor at Scholastic Books in the children’s literature department, and the challenging and banning of books for queer youth is an issue he takes very seriously as both an artist and a professional.

“It’s very much at the forefront of my mind, and I see it all over the place,” says Newman. “I think it’s important for publishers to continue putting out this content and defending this content and for authors and librarians and parents and readers and everyone who’s against this kind of censorship to speak out.”

JONAH NEWMAN: OUT OF LEFT FIELD Sat/14, 2pm, Ferry Building, SF. More info here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Daniel Bromfield
Daniel Bromfield
Daniel Bromfield is a San Francisco native and arts journalist whose work has appeared in the Bay Guardian, San Francisco Magazine, Resident Advisor, and various music sites. He ran the SF Rebirth blog, documenting all-ages shows in the Bay Area, from 2010 to 2013. His work can be found at danielbromfield.com

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