Darlene A. White
After two decades as a journalist, Detroit native Aaron Foley decided to open a new chapter in his career with the debut of his first fiction novel, “Boys Come First.”
After writing the nonfiction books “How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass” and “The Detroit Neighborhood Guidebook,” the 37-year-old has written a story about the dating scene for gay Black men in Detroit.
“Boys Come First” explores the lives of three Black millennial gay men and friends, Dominick, Troy and Remy. One of the friends moves away from Detroit to New York after college, then moves back to his hometown when he discovers his boyfriend had been cheating on him and he gets laid off from his job. He returns home to get his life back together and finds himself becoming closer with his group of friends.
Foley decided to aim his novel at the LGBTQ community because he wanted to tell a story that could represent not only him but the entire group.
“Exploring the interior lives of Black gay men is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m always fascinated and inspired by Detroit, so I figured – why not combine the two?” he says.
His latest novel gives a glimpse into issues affecting Black gay men in Detroit including family issues and workplace microaggressions. He also mentions many things that represent Detroit in the book, like the oldest gay bar on Woodward Avenue, Woodward Bar & Grill that was recently impacted by a, the Giant Slide located in Belle Isle Park, and lots of cross streets in the city. The book also notes many of the latest developments throughout the city, which takes readers to a present period.
Foley was inspired to write “Boys Come First” because of his love for reading and writing. He says the idea to write a fiction novel had been nudging at him for quite some time. At an early age, he dreamed of being a fiction writer, but never had the time to do it.
“I wanted to just go ahead and write the book. I always wanted to see representation in a way that has not been seen before, ”he says. “There is just not a lot about Black fiction in Detroit or gay fiction about Detroit. It’s not a lot of fiction about Detroit, period. I wanted my latest novel to help feel a void in stories about Detroit. ”
The COVID-19 shutdown helped him finish his novel.
“The world stopped during that time. I was dormant during the first few months, ”Foley says. “I remember book sales were going up and people were reading more and listening to audible books, which gave me the inspiration that I needed to complete my book.”
Foley says it was important to him to get “Boys Come First” released, so that people can understand some of the challenges that people in the queer communities go through.
“It is important to have queer books out there because quite honestly, straight people make too many assumptions about queer people,” he said. “Too often anything gay is relegated to the month of June and it is all rainbows and parades, but I still have to be Black and gay the other 11 months out the year.
“Any queer book can be read and absorbed just as much as one that features straight characters, and at any time since these are lived experiences.”
The 388-page book, published by Belt Publishing, received a positive review from the Wall Street Journal.
“Mr. Foley knows the Motor City as intimately as he knows the workings of dating apps like Scruff and Grindr, and he details both with the swagger and fluency of a quality TV script, ”according to a book review from Sam Sacks of the Wall Street Journal. “The only mystery, in fact, is which will come first: the HBO option or the sequel.”
Foley has witnessed positive changes with the queer community but believes that it still has a lot more to accomplish.
“I definitely think the queer community has made strides in the way of things like marriage equality, access to life-saving medications like PreP, and more exposure in pop culture and media,” Foley says. “But within the queer community, most representations are still very White and male – especially when you look at who’s writing queer media, who’s producing it, who the gatekeepers are.”
He added: “It is still a long way to see not just queer men of color in those spaces, but also trans people and lesbian representation. Too often queer representation is “one and done” – there’s “Moonlight,” so Black men are covered, there’s “Pose,” so trans women are covered. We always need more. ”
Foley says after writing the book, he learned his own lessons.
“There is truth in what Toni Morrison said in terms of if its something you want to read, then you need to write it,” he said. “I also learned a little bit of confidence. Being a journalist for so long, you write short stories and get facts, so this was kind of different for me, just putting myself out there. ”
Foley hopes that his readers see that Detroit is more than what happened during the bankruptcy.
“I want people to see that Detroit is a place where people live and have dreams and ambitions,” he said. “I hope this book humanizes Detroit a little bit and I hope the book reduces the stereotypes of Black gay men that we have seen in movies or TVs over the years.”
‘Boys Come First’
by Aaron Foley