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Archive for the ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Category

As the title of this article aptly states: Rochester’s Ridiculous Banned Book Controversy. Again, I don’t understand why books that deal with controversial topics in a caring and tender way should be found objectionable by anyone. But that’s me, I guess.  And Tango Makes Three stirs things up again. As I said, I went to high school with one of the authors. I’m proud of him and the book.

Rochester’s Ridiculous Banned Book Controversy

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Wow! I can’t believe I never posted this. So, even though it’s out of date, here it is.

I know the controversy between the nominations of Chime and Shine has died down, but it’s taken me until now to read Shine. So, here are my final comments (maybe).

Someone I know said something to the effect that Chime is loved by the critics and not too many others. Unfortunately I agree.  It’s very literary and I was able to get through about 50 pages before I put it down.  It’s not that I hated it, it’s that so many other books were calling to me that I just lost interest.  That’s not to disparage Franny Billingsley…please don’t get me wrong.  Chime just wasn’t my book.

So, instead I thought I’d compare Shine by Lauren Myracle to It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It) by Julie Anne Peters.  Why not compare two sides of the spectrum?

Shine takes place in the South. Patrick does not hide his sexual orientation and when he is found outside the Come ‘n Go convenience store, beaten up and with a gasoline nozzle in his mouth, the theory is he is a victim of a hate crime.  Cat, his one time best friend, decides she must find out who did this to Patrick and the book follows her on her quest. We meet Beef, Tommy, Dupree and Bailee-Ann, kids Cat’s grown up with and known forever.

As Cat searches for the perpetrator, the reader learns why she withdrew from all her friends.  We find all the inner secrets of the people around her, adults and teens.  Myracle paints a not so pretty picture of the South, of the backwoods towns, the poor economic conditions, the use of drugs as an escape mechanism, the intolerance of people because they are different.

Rather than being a book about homosexuality, Shine is really a book about self discovery, confronting your past, learning who you are.  The vehicle Myracle uses is a hate crime, although it could easily have been a robbery, a death in the family, a divorce or a myriad of other life events.  Lauren Myracle outshown herself (pun intended) in Shine. If you like reading well written books, books that make a point, books that hold your interest, Shine should fit the bill.  Apparently not for the National Book Award judges, but for you and me plain folk, it’ll do just fine.

In the Colorado town in which Azure, Luke and Radhika live, in It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It), sexual orientation is not an issue.  And, yeah, while Luke may get razzed by his brother, Owen’s, friends for being bisexual, and yeah, they may not like him for it, there is little to none of that outright hatred that permeates the southern town in which Patrick and Cat live in Shine.  And that’s the difference. It’s Our Prom emphasizes inclusiveness.

Azure is asked by her school principal to become a Prom Com member and work to make the prom more inclusive; of straights, gays, geeks, nerds, loners, cliques and non-cliques.  The fact that Azure and Luke both want to ask Radhika to the prom is just part of the romantic triangle.  The fact that Azure’s former girlfriend reappears and pulls at some forgotten heartstrings is what happens to every teenager.  The fact that Luke has a crush on both Connor and Radhika is no different than a million other teens whose hearts are pulled in many directions. 

The result is a fun read about a group of teens whose goal to make a prom to remember is thwarted by parents, teachers, idealism and naïveté. Some of the crushes are obvious to the reader while unknown to the recipient. Peters has a way of creating characters that you want as your friends and Azure, Luke and Radhika fall into this category.  These kids go through the same things that every teenager goes through:  uncertainty about the future, parental pressure, school work overload. This is the kind of world I’d like to live in.  Life is hard enough without castigating someone because of who they love.  Read It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It).

So, in conclusion, both Lauren Myracle and Julie Anne Peters have authored excellent books that use the GLBTQ theme as a backdrop for something more. That’s what I like about the books and the authors.  There’s something more.

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In a Publishers Weekly blog post, forwarded to me by a Queens College Library School professor, http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/genreville/?p=1519, two young adult authors discuss their experiences trying to sell their post-apocalytic young adult novel to an agent.  In it they state “…we expected to get some rejections.  But we never expected to be offered representation…on the condition that we make a gay character straight, or cut him out altogether.”

Sheesh!  Where to start? 

1.  What world is this agent living in?  Characters in YA literature are gay and straight, white, Black and multi-cultural, virgins and promiscuous, drug free and drug users, stupid and smart, pretty and not so pretty, thin and fat, funny and not funny.  As in all literature, YA literature mirrors the real world and why shouldn’t it? That’s what people, teens and adults alike, want to read about…people possibly like themselves.

2.  A YA author whose books are typically GBLTQ themed responded and he talked about main characters who are gay can impact a book’s sales.  He continues by saying that GLBTQ themed books are unlikely to be best sellers.  These same books may not make it to library shelves, and if they do, they are likely to be challenged. All of this I’m sure is true.

In my opinion, however, we tend to categorize too much.  Why must the book ‘be about’ gays or bisexuality or transgenders?  Why can’t we get to the point where sexuality is just whatever it is.  Where the characters are people and their sexual bias is just another aspect of their persona like they are athletes or dancers or cute and bubbly. Why must we fixate on one particular issue? (By the way, I’d like to see this in the real world, too!)

I know this is pie in the sky, but let’s judge people by what they do, how nice they are, the contributions they make to the world. Are they good friends? Do they work to make the world a better place?  With Thanksgiving approaching, let’s be thankful for everyone in our lives regardless of their leanings, sexual, political, religious, etc. And with the New Year right around the corner, let’s extend that to everyone.  No categories.  Just unconditional acceptance.

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Many moons ago when I first forayed into YA literature I read Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters.  I thought it was a wonderful, emotional romance and I became a Julie Anne Peters fan.  To this day, Keeping You a Secret is my favorite Julie Anne Peters book.  Go read it, now!

But this blog post is not about that, it’s about Peter’s book Pretend You Love Me (previously issued as Far From Xanadu).  I remembered liking it but not loving it when I first read it…but as many of you know, my memory is pretty faulty.  It is a marvelous book.  Imagine a society where people treat you nicely, care about you, want to do things for you regardless of your sexual orientation, your looks, your wealth.  The residents of Coalton really like Mike (Mary-Elizabeth) despite that fact that she is big and muscular and lesbian.  They like Jamie, despite the fact that he is short and thin, a cheerleader and quite gay.  It’s so refreshing to read a book like this since so many books are about how hostile people are to gays.

The story:  Mike is in love with Xanadu, the gorgeous new girl in town, but she is straight and in love with Bailey.  Mike hopes beyond hope she’ll change her mind.  Jamie has struck up an internet romance with Shane and they want to meet.  But Shane lives 1,000 miles away.  We all know the dangers of online pickups.  While dealing with this, Mike also has to deal with the suicide of her father, her mother’s debilitating obesity, her brother’s uselessness and her financial inability to go to baseball camp over the summer–she’s the school’s star catcher.

Pretend You Love Me is a great self-discovery, self-acceptance story, written only as Julie Anne Peters can write.  (I’m ready to move to Coalton, if only I can find out where it is located.)  Peters stretches the boundaries of issue-driven novels with such titles as Luna, Between Mom and Jo, By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead, and Rage: A Love Story.  She should be on everyone’s must read list.

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