Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Not So "Out" There...

June and July are informally the months when gay pride rallys, parades, and parties celebrate diversity and, well, all things gay. In keeping with that theme, I thought I'd mention some gay-themed titles - from children's books to teen novels to adult literature; biographies/memoirs to religion/spiritual living - that I have enjoyed over the past year. To note, I'm really particular about the content of gay fiction and non-fiction: they cannot be sexually explicit - the following books are works I would feel comfortable handing a teenager or either of my parents; they have to be well-written - I'm a critic of writing styles regardless of the story being told; and they reflect what (I feel) most of us who grow up gay can relate too - sorry, you won't titles like Miami Manhunt or Every Frat Boy Wants It on this list.

Based on the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who built a nest and hatched an adopted chick together, this is quirky and fun with a relevant message on diverse families...not to mention the fact that it has been the United States' most banned book since its publication.

Daddy, Papa, and Me - this one's
pretty straight (no pun intended)
forward, not too mention cute: a board book for toddlers.

Rainbow Boys really showcases the "array of gay" that exists: the "flaming queen" with multi- colored hair, the lisp and swish, and feminine tendencies; the guy who's gay, but not too noticably and people silently question; the guy you'd never guess to be gay - popular jock, so normal he's almost boring, but good looking. How all this comes together (dramatically, I might add) in this highschool-set novel is great...I couldn't put it, the sequal, or the third, down!

About the author: this is his first novel, he's a successful attorney, gay, and lives in NYC. Now about the book: it captures teenage emotion about love, family, sexuality, highschool, friends, and more so well that I was up all night - two nights in a row - immeshed in the teens' coming-of-age lives. As with Rainbow Boys, older teens and adults are gonna like this, as well as younger guys ages 13+.

Ellen Hopkins is my favorite teen author of all time. Written in prose, Impulse chronicles the thoughts (and minimal conversations) of three teens, one of which is bisexual, as they are institutionalized for failed suicide attempts. I thought it would be a quick read, but between each chapter, I had to pause, digest what I'd read, reflect, and move onto something else...partly cuz it was intense; partly because I wanted the book to last...indefinitely.

Simple in its complexity of human thought, this reads as smoothly as a love letter. Set in Italy, a young teen male falls in love with his father's graduate assistant who is a foreign exchange student from the United States, and older than he. I fell for this book because of the ambiguity, European setting, and collegiate atmosphere...plus I'm secretly a sap (just don't tell anyone).

Avoidance is not to be missed! Published by Graywolf Press, an independent publisher dedicated quality writing, not to making money with blockbuster titles, has become my favorite small publishing house. This is a POD (print on demand), so we don't readily carry it on the shelves, but one can be printed for you, personally, and shipped to us if you want to special order a copy. I'm super glad that I did.

My favorite scene in this memoir is when Robert "comes out" to his family as being gay and his Texas-raised grandma says, "Honey, we've been working under that assumption since you were a toddler." Fresh, playful, and a happy ending.

Honestly, I picked this one up because of the cover - and its one that I will not ever sell back to the bookshop! In these years when civil unions/gay marriages are so over-controversial, this author has shared his and his partner's quirky love story that reflects the gay community that I see on a regular basis: the lovesick, googley-eyed sap falling for, and creating a life with, the guy who thinks soap is a good anniversary gift or pops the marriage question in a traffic jam (and you know who you are. Haha).
~ Ross


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