Book 528: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

Of course after I saw the trailer for Love, Simon (embedded at the end of this post) I HAD to read the book they adapted it from. Who doesn’t love an awkward teen romance, especially an LGBT one? Seriously, just go watch the trailer so adorkable!

I’m not sure if I’m in love with Simon or in love with Simon’s hopelessness. I’m sad that books like this weren’t around when I was a teenager, but also so incredibly happy that books like this exist for teens! Was this a literary wonder? No. Was this a beautiful coming of age/first love story that anyone could identify with regardless of their sexuality? Yes.

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Book 505: Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight – Loren A. Olson

I’m nearing the end of my galley/ARC backlog. With this one finished I only have four more. I’ve had this since March and finally got around to it this past week.

The publicist for this book reached out to me and with my Masters degree (Gender, Sexuality and Queer Theory) and a friend who at one point studied gerontology, I of course said yes!

Finally Out is Olson’s look at gay men/MSM who come out/acknowledge their practices later in life. What seriously strengthens the book is Olson’s own story and experience of coming out at the age of 40. What Olson really needs though, is a good Queer Theory 101 course. In general he did a really good job of writing about these men, but there were some problems when it came to sexual orientation/identity/practice. He basically gets it, but in choosing not to use the pre-existing language, I feel that the book suffers.

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Book 412: Are You My Mother? – Alison Bechdel

Bechdel, Alison - Are You My MotherAfter re-reading Fun Home for book group I dove right into the follow-up Are You My Mother? As much as I enjoyed it and ultimately identified with it, it didn’t live up to the magical experience of Fun Home. It’s hard to say whether this lack of magic was a result of the intense navel gazing or the less compelling surface emotional story. To be honest it could be the daughter identifying with mother as this is an experience/story that I will never experience in the same way.

This being said, the story was still eloquently and humorously told! The graphics were just as poignant and detailed as those in the original. I enjoyed the complete color shift from the green-gray to the red, especially when Bechdel revisited scenes from her earlier work and the emphasis changed slightly. The book list in Are You My Mother? wasn’t quite as long as Fun Home but it was still pretty impressive at 38 separate works listed.

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Book 411: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic – Alison Bechdel

Bechdel, Alison - Fun HomeI first read Fun Home in undergrad after my friend Mia gave me a copy not long after it came out in paperback. (I’m pretty sure it was paperback and I’m pretty sure it was Mia. I wasn’t so great at tracking who, when or where books came from back then…oh the olden days :-D)

Either way, I remember thoroughly loving it that first time I read it. I even went out of my way to read Camus’ A Happy Death after I finished even though I have very little recollection of it now other than these quotes I saved on a proto-blog I had that I’m pretty sure it was called East Coast Traditional Meets West Coast Casual or something like that (I stole it from a furniture magazine.)

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2014 Challenges, Books

Book 318: Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan

Levithan, David - Boy Meets BoyI was not as enamored with Boy Meets Boy as I was with Levithan’s other books. It was just as humorous as Will Grayson, Will Grayson but it wasn’t as beautiful as portions of it, nor as incredibly moving as Two Boys Kissing, but I am glad I read it.

From the cross dressing quarterback to the school’s bookie, Levithan definitely writes personable characters, but I just couldn’t get drawn in like I have with his other novels. I’m still debating on if it had to do with the “magical” aspects of “everything is perfect in Paul’s world” and all of his dramas seem self-created. But it could also have been that when I’ve loved Levithan in the past it has been when he wrote stories and characters that were so far above and beyond emotional comprehension.

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Book 216: The Velvet Rage – Alan Downs

Downs, Alan - The Velvet RageAs with most pop-psychology books, I’m a little torn: do the benefits of the book outweigh the drawbacks of the book? And, as with any book, I found both good and bad parts. I can say regardless, I am glad I finally read this book. It’s been on my to-be-read list for ages, but the push from my friend Dominic spurred me to move it up my list.

The largest challenge I faced while reading The Velvet Rage was having to constantly remind myself that Downs wrote this book for the “masses” and not for academia or research. And as often as I did this, I still wound up harshly judging Downs’ generic and stereotypical observations, which I do for anyone including my own. His generalizations were not wrong, stereotypes exist for a reason, but I did have to ask how Downs’ feels about this and whether he has since acknowledged this as he does not discuss it in the novel. There is an updated, 20th anniversary, version of this book which would be interesting to read.

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Book 212: The Front Runner – Patricia Nell Warren

Warren, Patricia Nell - The Front RunnerI had no idea what to expect going into this novel other than the basic ideas of what the novel was about and the time period of the setting, but I am so glad I read it. It has such an iconic place in the LGBT literature compendium and even holds a place in Hollywood legend in that it has been rumored to be turned into a film (and the rights have changed hands many times) since the early 80s.

The first thing I do have to say is that this book is a product of its time and it is definitely dated, but what was shocking to me as I read it was how little rights for LGBT individuals changed up until about five-to-ten years ago. And as such it had most of the archetypes of LGBT literature and it didn’t bother me as much as I knew its history and I fell in love with the characters and the story itself. As with most books of this time period, the book provided a great guide to the LGBT underground in NYC and even took a trip to Fire Island. I can easily imagine some young closeted, or freshly out, LGBT individuals reading this book and heading to the big city to find themselves.

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