Nina Packebush's new YA no..." /> "I Knew That I Could Do This": Excerpt from THREE QUEERDOS AND A BABY - Mutha Magazine

Teen MUTHAs Rise Up

Published on December 21st, 2022 | by Nina Packebush


“I Knew That I Could Do This”: Excerpt from THREE QUEERDOS AND A BABY

Nina Packebush’s new YA novel, Three Queerdos and a Baby, is the much-anticipated sequel to the award-winning Girls Like Me. Three Queerdos and a Baby picks up where Girls Like Me left off, following teenage protagonist Banjo Logan through the birth of her child and the early days of new motherhood. Still grieving the loss of her baby’s other parent, who died by suicide, Banjo must now learn to navigate the world as a single teen mom while figuring out who she is and wants to be.

As a queer, working-class teen mom, Packebush struggled to find her experiences represented in literature. At a time where books are being banned in schools at an alarming pace, particularly those with LGBTQ+ characters, YA novels celebrating underrepresented voices are more crucial than ever. Banjo’s world is populated with compelling and diverse characters that are a welcome addition to the world of YA fiction.

Whether you’re a fan of Girls Like Me or discovering the series for the first time, Banjo Logan’s story will draw you in. Powerful, richly written, and full of hard-earned wisdom, Three Queerdos and a Baby is a story of community, chosen family, and the connections that carry us through.Jen Bryant


Gracie and I were sprawled on our saggy couch binge watching that reality T.V. show, Unexpected. It was another broiling day. I hoped that we could escape this year without wildfires. The idea of another summer of smoke-filled skies was scary, but the idea of Gracie breathing that smoke was downright terrifying.

I closed the curtains to try to keep the sun out and turned on all the fans. It wasn’t working. It was still a thousand degrees in our house, though the dark room at least gave an illusion that it was a little cooler inside than it was outside. Gracie dozed on my lap wearing just a diaper and even that seemed to be making her sweat. I had stripped down to my boxers and an old t-shirt with no bra.

During the commercials I flipped through the parenting magazine that I got free for having a baby. It turns out the hospital gives out goodie bags when you have a baby. Sort of like when you’re little and go to the doctor or dentist and get a sticker or a crappy plastic toy for being good.

My goodie bag had some coupons for things like butt cream, baby food, and diapers. It also included a paper growth chart shaped like a giraffe, a small bottle of Pedialyte, and a free issue of Parents magazine, as well as a free one-year subscription. I had never even heard of Parents magazine until my first obstetrics appointment with Alice. I had picked it up and became instantly overcome by shame. Magazines like this weren’t made for girls like me. I vowed then that I would never pick up another one, but here I was flipping through the pages that showed me just how far away from the ideal mom I really was. I mean, I’m pretty sure the ideal mom doesn’t lay around in her underwear all day in a dark room watching trash T.V. I didn’t care. Having a baby at seventeen ruins any chance you can ever be anyone’s idea of an ideal mom.

The front door swung open, filling the room with sunlight. It hurt my eyes. I squinted against the brightness to see if the silhouette was Mom or Sam coming to invade my T.V. time.

“Hi honey.”

It was Mom.

“You should open the curtains and let some light in here, not to mention some air. It’s stuffy in here.”

“It’s a scientific fact that it stays cooler with the windows and curtains closed,” I said.

“Not if there’s a breeze outside and there’s a breeze,” she said, pulling the curtains open and sliding the window wide.

“I like it dark,” I complained.

“It’s not good for you to sit in the dark all day. And it’s not good for Gracie either,” she said, as she moved one of the fans up to the window sill.

She turned back to me. “See isn’t that better?”

I didn’t want to admit it, but it was better.

She glanced down at the magazine that I had balanced on top of the sleeping Gracie. “Why are you reading that thing? Those magazines are designed to make you feel like crap and to sell you crap.”

“How will I ever learn how to make Gracie kale popsicles or find out how dining out changes after you have kids if I don’t read this magazine? And how will I ever be able to plan a mommy and daddy date night?”

“If you need to know how to make kale popsicles I got you covered. I used to sneak sweet potatoes into your apple juice popsicles all the time!”

“You did?”

“Why do you think I let you eat popsicles for breakfast? I never thought to try kale, but let’s see…I used squash, sweet potato, carrots, even did spinach once. You got suspicious on that one.”

“I remember that. You tried to tell me it was kiwi.”

Mom laughed. “Okay yeah, I did. Anyway, where did you get that magazine anyway?”

“It came in my hospital goodie bag. And I get a whole year’s subscription of Let Us Show You All the Ways You Suck as a Parent Magazine just for having a baby. I’ve been studying up on this phenomenon called Loser Teen Mom. I’m using this magazine as sort of a compare and contrast of Regular Adult Parenting to that of Loser Teen Mom parenting.

“Anyway, my show’s back on.” I paused it to give Mom time to leave me alone. I didn’t want to miss anything.

Mom looked at the T.V. “Oh Lord Banjo, what the hell are you watching?”

Unexpected. It’s the new teen mom reality show. I need to get some pointers. I’m new at this whole thing. It’s very informative.”

“Turn that garbage off right now.”

“Okay. Okay. I will. Just let me finish this episode, okay?” I said as I hit play again.

Mom shook her head and let out one of her famous sighs that said, I give up, but Mom only gives up for moments at a time and then she’s right back at it.

“Banjo, I’m worried about you. I think you’re depressed. You can’t just spend your days in a dark house watching crappy T.V. It’s not good for you and it’s not good for the baby.”

She was right of course. It probably wasn’t good for me or for Gracie. Since Gracie’s birth I’d felt myself sort of sliding into this place where I had a hard time feeling anything. Well, anything other than exhaustion, with occasional sprinkles of rage or shame. But I was also really invested in this dumb show.

“Mom, I’m trying to watch this show. I’ll turn it off right after this episode, I promise.”

“Banjo, now.”

“Mom, you can’t tell me what to do any more. I have a kid of my own and I get to decide what’s good for her and what’s not. She’s almost two months old. I don’t think some reality T.V. is going to rot her mind.”

I paused the show again, waiting for her to leave me alone.

“I agree. It won’t rot her mind, however it will send you even deeper into depression. Watching this garbage isn’t good for you and neither is being cooped up all day in this house.”

“Mom, I homeschool. This is education. File it under anthropology. I’m studying this unique culture known as Loser Teen Mom. I have decided to go and live among them and so must be fully prepared. Hell, I do live among them. Speaking of that, this show is about teen moms born to teen moms. You might like it.”

“Wait, what?”

“All of the teen moms on this show are the daughters of teen moms and even some of the teen dads have teen moms. One family even has three generations of teen moms.”

“Really?” asked Mom as she pushed my legs aside to make room for herself on the couch.

“Yeah.” I hit play again.

“Is it awful?”

“It’s awful in the very best way.”

“Okay maybe I’ll watch just a teensy bit. I should tell Alice about this show,” said Mom.

I looked at her. “Mom, do you talk to Alice a lot?” I was seriously starting to suspect there was something between them.

Her face went red, but just then Sam came through the front door, saving her from having to answer me.

“Man, I’m beat. Works sucks. I have to tell you guys about my day…”

“Shhh,” Mom and I said in unison.

Mom patted the empty spot on the couch beside her. “Sit down.”

“What are you guys watching?”

Unexpected. It’s a reality T.V. show about teen moms who are the children of teen moms,” I said. “It’s like a show about our family.”

“Oh for God’s sake. You aren’t serious?”

I stopped the show again and then brought up the first episode.

“Okay, I will admit that it’s pretty bad and exploitive and all of that, but it’s also so good. C’mon Sam, Mom’s willing to give it a try. Let’s have a family T.V. hour. I promise you won’t regret this.”

“You all are serious right now?” Sam looked at Mom in disbelief.

Mom patted the couch again.

“Alright. Alright. Let me go grab a beer. You all want anything?”

“Beer please,” said Mom.

“Iced tea for me please,” I said.

Sam disappeared into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later balancing our drinks, a mixing bowl of leftover pasta salad, and three forks. “Dinner,” she said, handing mom her beer and me my glass of iced tea. She put the giant bowl of salad on Mom’s lap since she was between us, and settled in. Henry was spending the night at the neighbor’s house, so we didn’t need to worry about rotting his impressionable mind.

I hit play again.

It felt nice to be sitting on the couch with my teen mom family watching this teen mom show. The show follows the lives of four pregnant teenagers through their pregnancies and the birth of their babies. I had already watched the first few episodes, but didn’t mind starting the show over for Mom and Sam. It was sort of amazing to me how young the pregnant girls seemed even though they were about my age. Was I that young just a month and a half ago? I think in some ways I was. I feel like the minute Gracie was laid in my arms I transformed. I sure as hell didn’t feel like a kid any longer. I actually could barely remember life before Gracie.

“We should have applied to be on this show,” said Sam. “We could have used the cash.”

“Something tells me they wouldn’t be so down with the gay,” said Mom.

“I don’t know, we do have a pretty good story line in this family,” said Sam.

“Maybe we should start a YouTube channel and make our own show,” I offered. “I hear you can get rich on YouTube.”

“You can only get rich if you’re a straight, white misogynist asshole dude under the age of twenty-four,” said Sam.

“Maybe,” I said. She was probably right.

“Girls, quiet down.” Mom was really getting into this show.

Sam leaned across Mom and looked at me. “What have you done with my mother?” she asked.

“Oh stop,” Mom gave her a little shove.

Four hours and four episodes later Mom announced that she was going to bed.

“I have to admit I’m hooked,” she said. “We can watch more tomorrow.”

“I told you, didn’t I?”

“You did.”

“What time is it?” Sam asked.

Mom looked at her phone. “Ten fifteen,” she said as she leaned down to kiss Gracie.

“Alright, see you all in the morning.” She walked down the hall to her room.

Sam yawned. “I’m heading to bed too. I’m so glad Henry isn’t here. It will be so nice to have the room to myself without all of his sleep talking.”


“And hey, don’t watch any more without me and Mom. This was nice.”

Something occurred to me. “You guys aren’t watching this just for my sake, are you? I mean, is this some sort of trick or something?”

“Hells to the no. This dumb show totally sucked me in. I need to find out what happens especially with that guy Shayden,” said Sam.

“Oh man, I so hope she dumps that guy.”

“Me too. ‘Night sis. I’m beat.”

“Goodnight, Sam.”

Sam followed Mom down the hall and disappeared into the room she shared with Henry.

Gracie did not look like she was in the mood to sleep, so I strapped her into her bouncy seat and carried her into the kitchen. I set the bouncy seat in the center of the table and poured myself a bowl of hippie organic cereal, dumped in two giant scoops of raw sugar, and then drowned the whole thing in sweetened, vanilla soy milk.

Sitting alone in the quiet house with Gracie I could feel the anxiety begin to seep in around the edges of my brain. I would be responsible for this kid for eighteen more years. You can make a lot of mistakes in eighteen years and when you’re a mom your mistakes are no longer your own. Your mistakes can become scars on your kid. I was starting to think parenting was nothing more than trying to make sure your mistakes did the least damage possible. Like how much TV should she watch? Should I send her to regular school or homeschool her like me and Henry? What if I don’t read to her enough? I mean, maybe I should already be reading to her. Am I already behind? Will it ruin her if I take her to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal? What about when she’s a teenager? Will I notice if she’s on drugs or depressed? What if I make a mistake I can’t undo? What if the fact that her other parent died by suicide has already formed a scar that will never heal? How will I tell her about Gray? What if I let her get attached to Lou and Lou leaves?

I watched Gracie stare transfixed at the ceiling fan spinning above her. She was so beautiful. So perfect. I didn’t deserve this kid. She wasn’t even two months old and already her life was complicated. Her Gaga was dead by their own hand and her mama was seventeen and
a giant mess.

“I love you, Gracie. I love you so much.”

Her gaze broke from the fan and she looked right at me and I knew, at least for that moment, that I could do this.

Excerpted with permission from Three Queerdos and a Baby by Nina Packebush (YesYes Books).

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About the Author

Nina Packebush is a grown-up queer teen mama and young adult writer. Her writing has appeared in a variety of alternative publications including Mutha Magazine, Hip Mama Magazine, Waging Non Violence, and The Icarus Project. Check out her teen mama blog at


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