New novel ‘Max’ explores the beauty in embracing your true self


Max by Avi Duckor-Jones
Image: Affirm Press

A new coming-of-age novel explores the journey of exploring and understanding your identity and sexuality.

Author Avi Duckor-Jones has had a storied career, from studying law, working for National Geographic and going on to win the first season of Survivor: New Zealand

However, it would be his role as a high school teacher that would inspire him to write his debut novel.

In the classroom, Avi recognised his students struggling with the same questions and pressure about their identity and sexuality as he had as a student, and decided to explore this tension in his debut novel Max.

Although fiction, Avi chose to infuse the novel with his own experiences in order to give Max’s titular character authenticity. 

“Usually when I begin a project, it is centred around a question I have, or something I am trying to tease out and understand, so naturally I begin with myself and my own experiences,” Avi said.

“It is only when the writing then becomes a narrative that I create a character to carry these questions for me. Ultimately, it becomes their story more than mine, still, for authenticity’s sake, it felt essential that I weave in my own experiences and fears and confusion to make this work, particularly the subject matter, to feel honest and true.”   

LGBTQIA+ representation in literature 

While LGBTQIA+ representation has come a long way since Avi was young, he feels that young people still need to hear and see positive queer representation. 

“The mental health statistics among LGBTQIA+ youth are alarming, and perhaps that’s because there is still a lot of fear and shame swirling about,” he said.

“The more representation that is out there in music, film, theatre, literature and art… the less alone one can feel. Young people, particularly in the rainbow community, still need a lot of reassurance and encouragement that they can be who they want to be, so the more examples they see that align with their own can hopefully be part of that journey to self-love and self- acceptance.”    

In Max, the focus on the protagonist exploring and understanding his bisexuality was a purposeful choice. Defining his own sexuality as ‘fluid’, Avi said that there is often a desire to define ourselves in a binary way. 

 “The grey areas of our identity can be confusing. There is safety and security in naming things. In choosing things,” he explained.

“However, sexuality is a fluid thing, so there is some reticence in many queer people, certainly bisexual people, to place a name on their identity when it feels so unnameable and changeable.

“I certainly didn’t see any narratives exploring it when I was younger. In writing Max, I wanted to give voice to the uncertainty and exploration of occupying the spaces in between.”

As for who is his intended reader, Avi wants Max to reach anyone who is feeling a bit scared or lost in knowing who they are.

“It’s for people who feel alone in their journey of finding out. I hope this novel can be a voice in the wilderness to let them know that they aren’t.”

Max by Avi Duckor-Jones is available to purchase now. 

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You Made Me This Way: Shannon Molloy’s new book cuts deep

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Sarah Davison
Sarah Davison

After working in print and radio, Sarah has joined the team at QNews to expand their coverage into South Australia. Sarah has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, and a Masters in Journalism, Media, and Communications. Get in touch: sarah@qnews.com.au

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