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Michigan State alumni Aaron Foley debuts Detroit based, queer novel "Boys Come First"

May 31, 2022
<p>Photo courtesy of Aaron Foley.</p>

Photo courtesy of Aaron Foley.

Aaron Foley has had a full career in journalism, working at prestigious publications such as The Atlantic, CNN, and PBS NewsHour. However, Foley is taking a new journey in his career, switching from non-fiction to fiction.


Foley is the author of "Boys Come First," a new novel exploring the lives of three gay friends all from Detroit. One of the main friends introduced moved away from Detroit to New York after college, then moved back to his hometown due to a breakdown of sorts when he discovers his boyfriend had been cheating on him and he gets laid off from his job in a short span of time. He returns home to get his life back together and finds himself becoming closer with his group of friends in Detroit.


“All three of them just have their own specific challenges with everything, with life, with career, with parents, with the city of Detroit itself," Foley said. "The book just follows their story and how they meet these challenges.”

While being a renowned journalist in his time after graduating from Michigan State and writing for the State News, Foley has always wanted to incorporate fiction writing into his repertoire, especially writing from his own personal influence and voice that may be more unique or not explored heavily enough in literature than others.

“I’ve always wanted to write fiction, but I really wanted to write a story that I see myself represented in," Foley said. There’s not a lot of fiction that centers on black men, black gay men, black men from Detroit, all of those things.”

Foley explained that this book has not only fulfilled his childhood dream of publishing but also fulfilled a slight void in fiction with the representation he has always wanted to see, emphasizing the importance of mainstream queer stories.

“I hope that some people can connect with it in a way that we see other readers have connected with queer books over the years," Foley said. "Queer fiction is something that is needed and helps people come out and … feel comfortable and validated.”

He wanted a story that could represent not only him but a whole community to feel seen and heard, even in a fictitious world.

At the moment, Foley is still paying the bills with his journalistic endeavors from 9 to 5, but he has also always enjoyed this work. He believes the connection between journalism and fiction drew him in towards writing the novel.

“I do see both journalism and fiction … as both educating readers, teaching readers something new, and giving truth to a story," Foley said. "Journalism is facts-based obviously. It takes knowledge on the topic and research, but so … does writing authentic stories about places and people. You can always learn something from both.”

Foley has now branched out into readings and meet-the-author events in Michigan, already having done a reading in Lansing and another one planned at Hooked right in the town of his alma mater. Foley said that it's good to come back to somewhere familiar to explore his novel with others. He wants to bring in audiences that understand his hometown and home state, as well as others who want to learn more about Detroit.

“Detroit is a place with such a negative reputation," Foley said. "It’s very misunderstood. I’m hoping an audience that wants to learn more about … Detroit as a whole will be the ones that find it. There’s so much about Detroit written by people not from Detroit, so me being from Detroit, I want to show what I know about this.”

Foley said that there are not many books from the Midwest perspective, even with the vast majority of readers in the nation being from these places. Foley explained that with these unique and personal perspectives from a place that's not touched on heavily in literature, "Boys Come First" shows another reality of authentic lives and stories to an audience that may not be familiar.

“People from Michigan and people from Detroit are everywhere, but you don’t always read our stories," Foley said. "People who are either nostalgic from something about their hometown or their home state … they should read the book because it talks joyfully and … honestly about Detroit and Michigan.”

To learn more about Aaron Foley and his book, visit Hooked in East Lansing for the Meet the Author event Foley and the bookstore are hosting on June 1, the start of pride month, at 6 p.m.

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