The little first-person narrator Miki, whose mother dies early of cancer, ends up with his uncle Slava instead of in the Russian orphanage. His partner, the serious doctor Lew, also lives in the sheltered artist household.

“You’re going to have to get along. You have no other choice,” it says once. Miki settles in, Lew gets used to him. Over time, two uncles become two fathers. But the game of hide-and-seek begins on the first day of school at the latest.

“The Lie” is an impressive coming-of-age story: about the constraints of Russian society, in which homosexual couples fear that they will lose custody. About the inner life of a rainbow family, which, between invisibility and the fear of being exposed, repeatedly reaches its limits in togetherness. And about an adolescent who has to find his place – with all the inner turmoil, the fears, his own homophobic prejudices and the encounter with burgeoning sexuality.

Although homosexuality is not punishable in Russia, there is a law against so-called homosexual propaganda. Positive statements about gays or lesbians in front of children are punishable by law. The novel is freely available in Russia only for adults.

“I process certain things from my childhood and somehow try to understand society,” said Franko recently at a reading of the Bremen City Library about the book.

Born in Kazakhstan, Franko – now 25 years old – sees himself as non-binary, i.e. neither male nor female. “Miki is just a cis version of me with a different date of birth,” it says. Cis denotes people who identify with the gender assigned at birth.