NEW YORK (AP) — As a deaf and gay student in Ecuador, Cesar Baquerizo was bullied and a victim of societal prejudice.
Now, after five years of writing, Pen Name Publishing has released his first novel in English, "A Safe Place With You."
The book talks about homosexuality in Ecuador in the '80s, when it was illegal.
"I want to move readers through my words, so they can put themselves in LGBT people's shoes and feel like they are there, in the novel, with my characters," Baquerizo, 30, told the AP in a recent interview.
The book follows a young man named Tomas Diaz and his newly found friends at a conversion therapy clinic in Ecuador, where their families have sent them to "treat" their homosexuality. There, patients are given pills and suffer psychological abuse.
"A Safe Place With You," published in Spanish in Ecuador in 2013, was inspired by true events though it is not a memoir. Baquerizo researched victims of conversion therapy clinics in his native country, and, after self-publishing the novel in Spanish, he met with some of the victims.
"I felt empathy, but it was a heartbreaking experience," he said. "Listening to them made me realize the cruel reality that we still face in Ecuador."
The author was born in Guayaquil with a serious respiratory problem and three days after his birth he underwent emergency surgery in Pennsylvania. As a baby, a treatment of antibiotics probably claimed most of his hearing, he said, so when he was 4 he moved with his family to Argentina to take language classes. There, he received his first set of hearing aids and received speech therapy.
Now, in Quito, he lives in a society that decriminalized homosexuality in 1997. But prejudice remains an issue.
"I want people to face reality and to see that we live in a world full of diversity," Baquerizo said. "We are all equal because we are all different."