The reality star's first picture book is about a gender nonbinary guinea pig who dreams big

By Sam Gillette
January 07, 2020 11:00 AM
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Queer Eye‘s Jonathan Van Ness not only enjoys a good coif, he loves storytelling.

On Tuesday, the reality star announced his first picture book, Peanut Goes for the Gold, about a gender nonbinary guinea pig who dreams big.

“Growing up, the things that made me unique were not always celebrated, and I wanted to do something that would inspire kids to celebrate the things that make them special,” Van Ness, 32, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. “With that being said, I’m so excited to announce my debut children’s book, Peanut Goes for the Gold, an inspiring story of a guinea pig rhythmic gymnastics prodigy.”

The guinea pig, Peanut, has a unique style. From doing cartwheels during basketball practice to devouring banana pancakes on their birthday, nothing stops Peanut from being Peanut. And when Peanut decides to become a rhythmic gymnast, they are determined to create a perfect routine, according to the book’s press release. Peanut Goes for the Gold will be published by HarperCollins Children’s Books on March 31, 2020. (See the cover art below.)

Sara Jaye Weiss/Shutterstock

“Having had the opportunity to work with Jonathan Van Ness on Peanut Goes for the Gold has truly been a dream come true,” said executive editor David Linker. “He’s an absolute inspiration. Just like Peanut, Jonathan embodies the idea that no dream is impossible when you put your whole heart into it, and I’m so thrilled to have had the opportunity to help Jonathan translate that spirit into his amazing first-ever book for kids.”

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Writing a kids’ book is just one way Van Ness hopes to inspire his fans. This past fall, the TV personality released his candid memoir, Over the Top, in which he revealed he’s HIV positive. Van Ness also delved into his struggles with abuse and addiction.

“It was the moment that you dread hearing,” the star said about his diagnosis during a September interview on the Today show. “It’s the thing that I had feared, which I also talk about in the book, it was something that I had been very fearful of as a small child. I was born in 1987, so growing up in the midst of the HIV-AIDS crisis and having two parents who were at the age of seeing people just — we lost an entire generation of people.”

But his story is one of triumph. Van Ness is healthy and he hasn’t used hard drugs in years. He’s excited to be an advocate for those who are HIV positive.

RELATED VIDEO: Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness Recalls the Day He Was Diagnosed HIV-Positive After Fainting

“When Queer Eye came out, it was really difficult because I was like, ‘Do I want to talk about my status?’ ” the author told the New York Times before Over the Top was released. “And then I was like, ‘The Trump administration has done everything they can do to have the stigmatization of the LGBT community thrive around me.’ I do feel the need to talk about this.”

Now Van Ness is expanding his reach with Peanut Goes for the Gold. He hopes to encourage young people to follow their dreams and stay true to themselves.

“You just have to learn to believe in yourself….” he told PEOPLE after Over the Top was published. “Just be you, because everyone else is taken.”

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