Queer Ducks and Faculty Author Appear on NPR and ‘The Daily Show’

A cartoon-style illustration shows queer animals gather around the TV to watch two men speak on The Daily Show.

(Illustration: Jules Zuckerberg)

By Kenna Caprio

Queer Ducks and Other Animals is a survey of 10 different animal species — including bonobo apes, bottlenose dolphins, albatross and Japanese macaque monkeys — that are in some way emblematic of same-sex sexual behavior in animals,” says author Eliot Schrefer, who teaches writing for young adults in FDU’s creative writing MFA program.

The young adult book, published by Harper Collins in May 2022, covers an array of scientific research gathered over the past two-to-three decades regarding same-sex behavior in animals with a light tone — it’s illustrated with comics! The research shows that “animals make choices to act, and they have desires.”

While promoting Queer Ducks, Schrefer appeared on “The Daily Show” and NPR.

“The NPR interview happened first, and I was so overwhelmed! With ‘The Daily Show,’ the moment I sat down, I could tell that Trevor Noah (the former host) was a really active listener. He was so curious about the book, and it came through. He was an emotive and caring conversation partner,” Schrefer says.

Schrefer is the author of 17 books and is a two-time National Book Award in Young People’s Literature finalist. He’s currently at work on a master’s degree in animal studies at New York University and has multiple forthcoming books, including a picture book and a sequel to The Darkness Outside Us, a young adult science fiction novel.

Queer Ducks is what I would’ve been desperate to read as a gay teenager,” he says. For LGBTQ teenagers there can be a “feeling of deep, deep aloneness” as they navigate their identity, gender and sexuality. “But if they have a book with a character who is like them — they can come to know that they’re not by themselves in the world.”

“You have to get pleasure from the actual writing. You must come to terms with that early on, because if you don’t, and you’re just hinging on the success part, it’s possible that’s not going to come for a long time,” says Schrefer. “Even now, reliably getting published, I have to go back and re-find that initial source of pleasure, so writing doesn’t turn into a corporate endeavor.”

Schrefer also finds joy in leading classroom workshopping sessions and reading his students’ manuscripts.

“Talking to someone about their book, something that matters so hugely to them, and feeling like you’ve helped them unlock part of it and see it deeply or in a new way, is so rewarding because you can see their joy.”

Students enrolled in the creative writing MFA can select from concentrations in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, writing for young adults and children or literary translation.

Cartoonist and artist Jules Zuckerberg created the original artwork for Queer Ducks and Other Animals and drew and designed a new illustration to accompany this story. Find more of their work on Instagram, @juleszuckerberg.