Books: My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr

  • Mar. 12th, 2008 at 3:19 PM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (lesbians)
Last night I finished Garret Freymann-Weyr's My Heartbeat for my young adult lit class. And I think I may have found the closest thing I ever have to a YA novel that deals with sexuality in the way I want to see it.

The short novel is told from the point of view of Ellen, a 14 year old girl who has been madly in love with her older brother Link's friend James for years. Ellen and Link's parents, well-to-do New Yorkers, are intellectual and involved but don't ever talk about things, unless they involve good books or thinky thoughts. And when Ellen hits high school and joins the prep school James and Link are seniors at, she's suddenly hit with the perception among her classmates that Link and James are a couple.

Ellen's not sure what to do with this. She's always tagged along with her brother and James. Not in an an annoying little sister sort of way, but in a way that indicates they really enjoy her company. But on top of the confusion about what Link and James mean to each other, there's the idea that Ellen's presence has allowed them to remain "safe" in their relationship.

What I love about this book is that while James is the one who's initially coded as "gay," when Link can't deal with the questions Ellen raises, it's Ellen who starts dating James. And as smarmy as that sounds, it works because Ellen's always thinking, "What would I do if they wanted to be together? Would I want to stand in their way? They love each other." And because you get that James genuinely cares about both of them.

Ellen tries to learn about her brother and James by reading about the history of homosexuality. Needless to say, it doesn't really tell her what she wants to know. And the book, likewise, shows us characters who are not gay or straight but just are. So many coming of age gay novels are about a trajectory from one to the other, with no consideration for those who don't find a firm identification with either. I hardly ever see that, and it's refreshing. Something like this, frankly, would have been helpful to me many years ago.

Like the sexuality, the ending's ambiguous. The writing is tight, but there's this bizarre lack of contractions. I don't care what school you go to, no one consistently says "I do not." I'm not sure if this is a fetish of the author or how she talks or if it's supposed to mean something, but it was almost a deal-breaker for me and it was only the otherwise really original, insightful writing that kept me going.

So. Have any of you read gay/lesbian coming-of-age fiction which isn't the standard questioning-denial-acceptance-GAY NOW model? Was it good? Let me know!

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"I’m writing in drag."

  • May. 24th, 2006 at 1:52 PM
my_daroga: (star trek)
I love this October '05 interview with Joss Whedon, as just reported on Whedonesque. Especially this:

I’m super-gay, something my wife has come to accept and even enjoy.

[Wow, it's like me talking up there!]

and

But it is difficult, and these are roles that are constantly redefining themselves and re-entrenching. And you do come to a realisation, as you get older, that men and women actually do have not just cultural but biological differences, and that some of those clichés about how different they are, are actually true. And while I spend my entire career trying to subvert our notions of masculinity and femininity, I also have to have some grounding in the fact that some of them are based in reality — but some of them are also based in sociology, and those are the ones that have to be done away with, because they are nonsense.

I know we can never know what people are really like from media coverage, but am I wrong to find him adorable? The fact that he'd say the first bit aloud is just so heartening. I'm not alone--the gay heterosexual is a fact. Not my imagination.

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