Tegan Joseph Mosugu is probably one of the most accomplished students of his time. Started an online company? Check. Traveled the world? Check. Wrote and published a book? Make that a double check, since he’s produced TWO. Nationwide tour to showcase his book? After this summer, another check.
Tegan’s biggest accomplishment right now is his book, The Detroit Queer, which was released March 9th, 2012, and ended up on Amazon’s hot new list for 3 weeks in a row! Born in Lagos, Nigeria, where LGBTQ identified folks are not often tolerated or accepted, if at all, in the community, Tegan brings part of his own personal experience and growth to the story of Jimmy, who struggles with accepting his identity as a black, Christian, gay man. Having lived all over the world, which included places such as Ghana, London, and California, Tegan recognized how staunch the presence of homophobia was back in his hometown. Regardless, Tegan explained that he will always “refuse to be sedated by the ignorance of people and is much happier being authentic.”
A sophomore pursuing a History major and a Philosophy minor, I have the privilege of sharing a class with Tegan this semester. Luckily, I was able to sit down with this marvelous guy, outside of the confines of our classroom walls, and get a better glimpse of his intriguing life.
What inspired you to start writing a book?
I just found myself writing a story. It was the fall of last year, when each day I just found myself writing thousands of words and I liked where things were going. Once I started, I couldn’t stop – I would zone out of everything else.
How was the process of writing/editing/publishing? What was the most challenging aspect?
Don’t even get me started! Just writing alone is extremely intense. I submitted my book to 16 different publishing companies and received 15 offers from them, which was really encouraging. Going through a bunch of editors was tough, and I realize that what I write is never the best, but it is still my product so I never really felt like people were taking away from my story. The toughest part was the fact that I was overloading and working at the time. I also found it difficult knowing when to stop! I felt like I could have kept writing forever, but it would have lost its creativity.
Can you tell me a little bit about your book?
It’s about a boy named Jimmy; he is a black gay student who lives in Detroit, and is discovering more about his struggle between his spirituality and his sexuality. It’s basically him against the entire world, and him finding his one true self and one true path. The book is all about the human experience, and about common humanity, which allows people from all backgrounds to relate to it. Everybody has some type of struggle, and this book is about overcoming that struggle, discovering yourself, and being authentic to yourself. It’s a bit of a coming of age tale about the human experience.
Do you find yourself relating to “Jimmy”?
[laughter] Jimmy kind of talks weird and is a little socially awkward, so I can definitely relate to him. We also share common experience in that we have both struggled with our sexuality and personal identity. It takes a lot of time to realize who you are and your identity, and having to come to terms with yourself. What I find fascinating, though, is that no matter how long it takes for him, he still lives an authentic life. I think it is so important for everyone to feel as though they can live a genuinely authentic life that is a reflection of who they are, without worrying about society’s expectations.
What was the best part of this experience?
It’s funny because I don’t really care whether I sell one book, or one hundred, or one thousand. I know that I made a huge accomplishment and that’s what I’m proud of. I had a passion for writing the book itself, and not really for the purpose of selling it. But even so, I definitely felt a sense of achievement when I found out I was on Amazon’s Hot New List for 3 weeks in a row! It’s updated hourly, so knowing that I was on there for that long was wonderful. I’m also attending an event in New York, which is sponsored by the New York City Public Library, and deals with the Civil Rights Movement . It’s supposed to feature African American writers, and so I will be giving a talk about my book. I’m so excited! My tour for my book will also be this summer, when I will travel across the country to places like LA, Chicago, Detroit, Philly, NY, and Washington DC.
Is this something you see yourself doing in your future career?
Actually, no. I have never really liked the idea of trying to pinpoint your entire life to detail. I like to take life by the moment and so if writing happens, then that’s great. But it is just as possible that that may happen with journalism, law or business. I just want to do something that I’m happy with.
If you were to write another book, what kind of topic do you think you would write about?
Well actually I have already written another book! [laughter] It’s going to released next year. It’s a bit of a self-help book, on how to live the best possible life.
Who is your role model?
I love Tyra Banks. She stands for, and represents creative thinking and champions expressing yourself and finding beauty from within. I also really like Wendy Williams, the talk show host. I just really like people who are free to be who they are, who are smart and very motivated.
What else do you like to do in your free time?
I write for The Chronicle and I’m involved with the Law Brigades, which is an organization that mentors international law work. I work in the Admissions Office during the school year as well. Besides that, I’ve danced in the Lunar New Year showcase for the past two years with Sarah McCaffery. (you can check out her accomplishments here, as well as hear more about Lunar New Year here). That show is always so much fun to be a part of. I’ve also actually started my own online company, called 1520 Products Limited. It’s a company that seeks to redefine the concept of perfection and idealism by producing card games. There’s also an online thesaurus where you can search for perfect characteristics for any word of your choice. Aside from that, I love dancing. And smising. You know, smiling with your eyes.
Watch the trailer for the The Detroit Queer: