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The Reading Culture

Inner Section: Kacen Callender on Trauma, Healing, and Magic

The Reading Culture
The Reading Culture

On Today's Show

  • "I think that has a lot to do with why I was so interested in writing for children. It's like, I was trying to heal. I was trying to heal my childhood experiences through writing, through these characters.” - Kacen Callender

Just as books provide readers with a space to learn, see themselves, reflect, and cope with their inner thoughts, writing has served as a means for Kacen Callender to process and heal from their own trauma. Throughout their writing journey, Kacen has traversed the various stages and ages of their life, opening wounds and finding ways to heal them through fiction.

This transformative process began with their debut novel “Hurricane Child” in 2018 which not only earned Kacen critical acclaim but also accolades such as the Stonewall Book Award and Lambda Literary Award. Since then, Kacen has authored other titles such as “Felix Ever After” and “King and the Dragonflies”, the latter of which won a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Now, Kacen is entering the next phase in their writing journey, delving into the enduring adult repercussions of childhood trauma.

Kacen’s vulnerable and emotional storytelling has had profound impacts on readers around the world, particularly Queer readers who often find their own journeys reflected in Kacen’s work.

In this episode, Kacen shares more about their personal journey of processing trauma through writing. They also discuss how fanfiction played a pivotal role in inspiring their creative path and how the fictional storyline within a Canadian teen drama that helped them come to terms with their own identity.


Connect with Jordan and The Reading Culture @thereadingculturepod and subscribe to our newsletter at thereadingculturepod.com/newsletter.


In their reading challenge, "Trans YA Spec" Kacen wants readers to imagine freedom for the trans community through works of speculative fiction.

You can find their list and all past reading challenges at thereadingculturepod.com.

This episode’s Beanstack Featured Librarian is Meredith Derrick, library coordinator for Klein Independent School District outside of Houston, Texas. She shares a funny story about a student’s attempt at a thoughtful teacher appreciation surprise.


Chapter 1 - Reckoning with Trauma

Chapter 2 - Annie John

Chapter 3 - Fiction in Our Own Hands

Chapter 4 - Honest Representation

Chapter 5 - The Journey Continues

Chapter 6 - Dream State

Chapter 7 - Diversity on the Shelves

Chapter 8 - Trans YA Spec

Chapter 9 - Beanstack Featured Librarian


Jordan Lloyd Bookey

Producer: Jackie Lamport and Lower Street Media

Script Editors:
Josia Lamberto-Egan, Jackie Lamport, Jordan Lloyd Bookey

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