On June 12, Victor Yates received the Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging LGBTQ writers for his pioneering 2015 novel A Love Like Blood. As a young writer, he is particularly honored and humbled by his achievement. “It’s making me work harder to [get] where I want to be,” he says.
Born and raised in Jacksonville, Yates’ interest in writing emerged when, at the age of 14, he took a creative writing course at school. “We wrote articles and poetry, and it opened up my eyes,” he says.
While attending Mandarin High School, he wrote for the school’s literary magazine Prism. In high school, Yates’ growing writing skills earned him a scholarship through the Jacksonville Port Authority to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta. The scholarship is given to a graduating senior who has been admitted into a four-year college. At Morehouse he received the Oprah Winfrey Scholarship, which provides financial support to minority students.
After graduating from Morehouse, Yates lived in Michigan for a time, where he took some classes at the local community college and wrote an article on the joys of libraries and how students can check out some college textbooks from the library instead of purchasing them from the bookstore. In 2006, this piece caught the attention of the editor for a local Ann Arbor magazine, The Voice, who published it and offered him a job.
At the time, Yates was working a second job at the Ann Arbor District Library; during his down time, he’d study the craft of writing novels. In our conversation, he recalled how, on one particular night, while he was walking through the University of Michigan toward the main library, a dark figure smoking a cigarette approached him. The glow of the cigarette and streetlights inspired the first scene of A Love Like Blood. When Yates began writing the book he realized the story didn’t begin with this scene, rather that it would happen later in the story.
Yates wants readers of A Love Like Blood “to really understand what it’s like to be a double minority.” He feels it is important for these unique voices to be depicted in literature.
“If you don’t have visibility or diversity, people will never learn how to live life in another person’s shoes,” he says.
“A Love Like Blood [acts] as a manual to accepting and loving one’s own child,” says Yates. Yates feels it’s easier in the long term to accept who your child is and develop a relationship with them rather than cast them away for being different than you’d imagined they’d be.
Yates’ novel shows that parents with LGTBQ kids should love and accept their children while they can. “I’ve always wanted to be a voice for the community. A Love Like Blood is almost a warning letter to parents about the LGTBQ community,” says Yates.
The accolades he’s earned as a writer have enabled Yates to become more involved with his community. Last summer, he volunteered at Camp Hollywood Heart in California. There he taught a one-week creative writing workshop for young people aged 15 to 20 who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS. The camp focused on the arts and provided a variety of workshops for campers.
Yates is currently working on a piece related to the Black Lives Matter movement and the psychological trauma connected to race and police brutality.
This month, Yates has joined the LGTBQ Tour of Color, which travels throughout the continental United States. The tour consists of LGTBQ authors who stage performances at universities and art centers. The tour focuses on gender identity, sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases and the current political administration.
“The beautiful thing about writing is that you really don’t know the number of people who are reading your article,” says Yates. “I have the ability to touch someone.”