Saturday, June 29, 2013

Yesterday in History

For some reason, I've read a lot of books about 1969 this summer, so it is of note that the Stonewall riots started yesterday, 28 June, in 1969. It's amazing to me how far we have come as a society in our accepting of LGBTQ individuals; when I was in high school a teacher lost his job on just the vaguest suspicion that he might be gay.

There are lots of great resources out there for LGBTQ literature, including I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read? I'm still struggling to find middle grade appropriate titles that meet the same criteria to which I hold other books-- circumspect activity and language, which is just not often in the books, which tend to be more YA. That's okay-- but they are more for high school and public libraries.

For a more adult view of the history of LGBTQ literature, check out Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989, which is very informative but also funny.

Openly StraightKonigsberg, Bill. Openly Straight.
28 May 2013, Arthur A. Levine Books
E ARC from

Rafe is tired of being more "gay" than "Rafe". While his Colorado liberal, Oberlin educated parents are completely understanding of his sexual identification,  he is so tired of labels that he is willing to leave his best friend, Claire Olivia, and enroll in an east coast boarding school, Natick, so that he can reinvent himself. This goes well at first-- he does fairly well in soccer and starts hanging out with the jocks. His roommate is a bit quirky, and his friend turns out to be gay, but the students at Natick are grudginly accepting. A teacher to whom his mother has talked encourages him to write about his journey. Rafe's ruse goes well, but his parents are not happy about his decision to "go back into the closet". Things get confusing, though, when he falls in love with a friend, he has to reassess his intentions.
Strengths: This was a very intriguing look at how labels affect people, and how even the most accepting environments are not always enough to make dealing with being different easy. Rafe is a well-developed character with a strong sense of self. The whole boys' boarding school setting was intriguing. The adults were supportive but not overly intrusive. Cover is fantastic. I would definitely buy this for a high school library. Just excellent and thought provoking.
Weaknesses: This was not a middle grade novel. There was way too much drinking, an instance where a girl was referred to as a "f-ing slut", and a more in-depth and confusing romantic relationship than most middle schoolers are ready for. I'd love to see a middle grade novel more like Federle's Better Nate Than Ever that addressed how middle schoolers who are gay deal with everyday situations. (That book was good, but included too much New York stuff for my Ohio readers!)


Medeia Sharif said...

I really enjoy books that take place in the 60s and 70s. I'm interested in those time periods.

I already have this on my wish list.

Jennifer said...

Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer is a good one - it's a little younger than middle school, but 6th grade would go for it I think. I like that it's basically a girl dealing with "normal" every day stuff - mom getting remarried, worries about a boy, wanting to be independent and enter the fair on her own, it's just that her mom happens to be marrying a woman.

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