Author Jason June Is Giving Back with New Novel After Feeling 'Disheartened' by LGBTQ+ Book Bans

"I have a job to do," the Out of the Blue author, who is organizing a book drive to give back during Pride month, tells PEOPLE

Jason June
Photo: Ryan Bilawsky

Jason June has a new book — and a new way to give back to the LGBTQ+ community.

The genderqueer author, whose new book Out of the Blue was released last month, says he wanted to help others in light of the book bans happening around the country.

"I was really disheartened by all of the book bans," Jason June tells PEOPLE. "I definitely do feel that I have a job to do. I feel like it's a gift and an honor to be a part of this generation of queer authors that are making sure that there are books out there that have queer representation in a way that didn't exist when we were teens."

According to a recent study from PEN America, over 1,000 books were banned in 86 school districts in 26 states during a nine-month period. Many of those books were written by LGBTQ+ authors and writers of color.

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It was a mere coincidence that Out of the Blue, Jason June's follow-up release to Jay's Gay Agenda, came out on May 31 — just a day shy of the start of Pride month. But he knew Pride was the perfect time to launch a book donation drive to help kids and teenagers in his community.

"I started a donation drive where people could donate copies of the book to go to LGBTQ centers," Jason June, who's donated 350 books already, says. "The greatest access they can have to books is through their public library or through their school's library."

His latest rom-com release centers around the relationship between "mer-people," a term that Jason June invented as a young boy because he was obsessed with mermaids. Although the book follows faking relationships to make someone else jealous, it was important for Jason June to remind his readers to follow their hearts, just like he's doing now.

Jason June people feature credit RYAN BILAWSKY

"Those organizations are public, so that means that anybody in the community can challenge what is in their libraries and are oftentimes successful at that, at getting books taken off the shelves," Jason June says. "They're doing that solely because queer experiences are portrayed and that is so heartbreaking then that queer teens don't get to see themselves in books."

Jason June has been busy working with independent bookstores and other organizations so they can understand the importance of having literature for queer youth on their shelves.

"I wanted to pair up with private organizations where it wouldn't matter if somebody challenged the books because they couldn't be taken out of their buildings," Jason June shares with PEOPLE. "I teamed up with 30 LGBTQ+ centers that have teen programs or are just initially built for teens, and they are able to give the books directly to the teens themselves so that they can't be taken away from them. And that was really great."

Jason June people feature credit RYAN BILAWSKY

As for the future, Jason June hopes to continue to focus on teen literature.

"I wanted to focus on teen books because there was such an absence of resources for me when I was a teen, and I really felt like I was so alone as a queer kid," Jason June, who's book is on the New York Times Best Seller list, reveals. "I thought I was the only one, I was the only out person in my high school and I don't want that loneliness to continue to seep down generation after generation. I just made it my mission to let teens know that they're not alone and that there is going to come a time where they get to shape the world around them how they want to see it."

To keep up with Jason June and the various ways he supports the LGBTQ+ community, follow him on Instagram.

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