Destination Unknown Teaches Us to Learn from Our Past

Amanda Livingston  //  Jun 30, 2022

Destination Unknown Teaches Us to Learn from Our Past

The latest from Bill Konigsberg is a queer love story set in the backdrop of 1980s NYC.

On sale September 6, Destination Unknown is the latest book from award-winning and bestselling author Bill Konigsberg. Set in the 1980s, it follows Micah and CJ, who meet at a New York City nightclub. The AIDS epidemic is wreaking havoc across the globe with New York at its epicenter, and Destination Unknown details how, at that time, it was impossible to know how to be gay and feel safe.

The book is a reflection of Bill’s own experiences growing up gay in New York City. “This was a book I always knew I wanted to write,” he explains. “My coming out is represented in this book. I wanted it to have a heartbeat that people could absolutely feel and know there is a reality about it, but I also think I needed to be far enough away to not get drowned in the trauma of it.”

This book comes at a time when queer stories are not only sought after by eager readers, but needed for representation. “I think a lot of people grow up in their own, personal version of Destination Unknown, and I think reading a book like this can be a lifeline at a time when nothing seems clear at all, least of all a happy ending,” says Bill. “As for identity? I think it’s essential for young queer readers to understand just how strong and resilient we are as a people. That is built into LGBTQIA+ identity because of history and because of our shared plight against unimaginable oppression.”

In the 1980s, while there were ways to amplify the voices of the unheard through organizing, protesting, and traditional news outlets, social media didn’t exist. Now, through social media everyone can share their story. “If you go back to the 80s, you would see there was a need for something like social media. But we also needed more than that, too. I wonder who would step up today and be on the front lines?” Bill asks thoughtfully.

The book also make clear society’s need to learn from its past history. “The next tragedy is right around the corner,” says Bill. “It always is. I think it’s essential that we learn about what people do in a tragedy, both those afflicted and not afflicted. It can help shape our moral compass toward action and empathy. I hope that people can read and understand a time not so long ago during which people behaved incredibly courageously, and other people turned a total blind eye to the suffering of an entire group of people.”

Books like Destination Unknown help queer readers navigate social and romantic situations despite the fact that these relationships aren’t often portrayed authentically in books or in the media. “This is, among other things, a story of first love, and there is so much about navigating first love that is so challenging. So I hope seeing Micah and CJ navigate this will help young readers do the same, both in terms of what to do, and what not to do,” says Bill.

Learn more about Destination Unknown here, and be ready to read all about Micah and CJ’s love story this fall!