SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Not a coming-out story, the novel “Pritty” is set in Savannah and follows the journey of two Black boys who are navigating how to love one another as well as themselves.
“‘Pritty’ is a mirror, it provides us with this opportunity to look into what we really believe, what we can be for ourselves and for others,” said author Keith Miller.
Keith F. Miller Jr, 35, grew up in Westside Savannah and considered himself a quiet kid who felt invisible, so he observed the world around him.
Leading out of the corporate world and finding himself fascinated by sociology, he graduated with a degree in dance and gender studies. He was later discovered by a modeling agency in New York, where he went to live and model at the age of 21.
But he soon became discontent with that industry noting:
“The beauty industry is about determining who is and isn’t beautiful,” said Miller. “Growing up in the Deep South as a darker-skinned boy, I had my fair share of trying to navigate colorism and figuring out my own value.”
That experience sparked conversations discussed in “Pritty” about unique beauty, valuing self-worth and expressing love.
The two protagonists of the story are Jay and Leroy.
“Jay, who we describe as a soft soul in a world of concrete, who is a junior in high school trying to discover himself outside of his brother, who is a charming athletic boy,” said Miller.
Leroy, on the other hand, Miller describes as “a really powerful embodiment of how the Deep South breeds our boys and that’s tough.”
Leroy is someone who speaks with his fists because that is what he learned to do as someone who was taught to “be a man.”
The story interestingly follows how both boys handle deep family secrets, racism and a connection they don’t have words for.
“A lot of the novel is them trying to figure this out, understanding what does it mean to be seen for the first time by someone, and how you navigate that first,” said Miller.
Not a coming-out story
“What makes pretty really special is there is no such thing as coming out,” said Miller. “There is no rejection of who you like and who you love. There is no question.”
Told from both boys’ perspectives, the story doesn’t follow the coming-out trope but on the depth of love and what it is like to be seen.
“We’ve been given a gift with the LGBTQ+ symbolism of different identities,” said Miller.
While teaching community youth, Miller found that many queer Gen Zers had no problem with being who they are, but struggled with connection and healing from heartbreak.
“They are asking me different questions, it wasn’t can I exist? It was how do I love?” said Miller.
“‘Pritty’ is in response to that and understanding that coming of again process is learning, how am I worthy of love? Who is worthy of our love?”
Representation of unconventional love is paramount to the world of ‘Pritty,’ pushing past conversations of living.
With topics of race and representation of queerness geared toward the younger generations, Miller responded to threats of book banning.
“‘Pritty’ checks every box that will absolutely get it banned,” said Miller. “If it is banned, it is actually considered a compliment.”
Miller says he does not expect schools to embrace a text that moves further than where our society is now.
When he first experienced love, he had no words for it and couldn’t identify a way of expressing that.
“I wrote the novel because I was trying to figure out what was I experiencing and what were the words I was trying to figure out,” said Miller.
Miller is thinking of making this story a series in partnership with Harper Collins Publishing.
“My goal is to be present, whether it be virtual or in person, to continue to keep these conversations going,” said Miller.
As part of their Gift Pritty Campaign, anyone can nominate someone who believes need the hope and message of the book can get it. The campaign will roll out after the book is released.
“‘Pritty’ is a bridge, it gives you language, it gives you understanding, even though this book is absolutely centered on the trauma and healing that is Black culture,” said Miller.
“You do not have to be Black, you do not have to be brown to understand what it means to love, and to lean on culture as a healing ingredient to what you are.”
Offered wherever books are sold, “Pritty” will be available on Nov. 14, and you can also see the animated short here.