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Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan
A new gay teen novel received unprecedented marketing by a publisher, with
200 000 postcards being sent to schools nationwide, and nightclub promotions
in Brighton and Manchester. So did it fill me with hope…or just hype?
Boy Meets Boy is a very sweet story of gay romance in an American high school. There's no sex; no homophobic attacks; no thoughts of suicide; hardly, even, any coming out…just romance - and lots of it. It's a gay version of that age old formula of boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl back. Reassuringly old fashioned, yet provocatively modern.
The story is set somewhere in the near future, in a middle american town, where homophobia is largely a thing of the past, and society is so well mixed, there's no need for a gay scene. Our 16 year old hero has known he's gay ever since his kindergarten teacher wrote in his report: 'Paul is definitely gay, and has a high self-esteem.' It's this kind of detail, in the absence of sex, which rattled the cages of right wing Christians.
Author David Levithan wanted an out-and-proud cover, so every gay boy would know it was there in the school library, or bookshop, even if they didn't take it out or buy it: 'It would be so hypocritical of me to closet it. The whole point of it is that it's a very out book. And yes, there may be people who are worried about getting it. But I think for the most part, there are ways of reading it. Those who do get it, it's important for them to say "here I am."'
What might be escapism to a gay teen was to me an inspiring vision of the sort of education system Schools Out is working for. And Levithan was clearly proud of his groundbreaking gay-positive teen novel.
'Up until now gay characters have always been tinged by misery. I wanted to write a story to counterbalance that.'
The result of Levithan's blue skies thinking is a fabulously giddy teen world (which we would all love to have inhabited!) How long will it be before every school library has books like this?
Boy Meets Boy is published by Harper Collins, ISBN 0-00-719137-5
Love and Human Remains, RN Taber
I would like to recommend a quartet of poetry books by R. N. Taber called Love And Human Remains; it comprises Love And Human Remains, First Person Plural, The Third Eye and A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time (details on amazon.co.uk). It is not a gay collection as such but - importantly and refreshingly in my opinion - includes gay poetry along with poetry on many other themes. Each book has a gay section. Apart from providng excellent poetry, Roger Taber makes the point that gay poetry is just like any other and should not be seen as something separate that can only possibly be of interest to gay people so best saved for a gay anthology. This way, straight people get to read it too and will hopefully have second thoughts about gay stereotypes. I managed to get to one of his poetry readings (to a mixed gay-straight audience) and it was great to see people enjoying and talking about gay poetry just as they would any other. I felt very comfortable there.
I love the quote on the title pages of each book - "Colour, creed, sex, sexuality...these are but part of a whole. It is the whole that counts."
A poem by Roger Taber:
MAKING UP FOR WINTER
Sitting on a bench by a naked tree,he
edged closer, laid a hand on my knee,
arms around each other the way mates do
only now, something disturbingly new
I felt his hand move until it found mine,
caress my fingers lightly then entwine;
hot breath on my cheek like intimate lace
though I dare not turn, look him in the face
Not a word, his head on my shoulder,
my mind in turmoil, heart beating louder;
I froze and hastily he pulled away...
winter closing in on us, sad and grey
I turned, licked my lips and leapt the abyss;
on the other side, we shared our first kiss
Copyright R. N. Taber 2005
Hello Sailor! Gay Life for Seamen, Jo Stanley, Paul Baker
OK, here in Yorkshire we are not exactly surrounded by the ocean, but we do though have more than our fair share of coastline and no doubt most have us have experienced the odd sea crossing. In a new book, Hello Sailor! Gay Life for Seamen, authors Jo Stanley, Paul Baker describe how life on the ocean wave for gay men and women in the 1950’s and beyond was very different from that experienced on shore.
When gays had to be closeted, ships were the only places where homosexual men could not only be out but also camp. And on some liners to the sun and the New World, queens and butches had a ball. They sashayed and minced their way across the world's oceans.
Never before has the story been told of the masses. These are the thousands of queer seafarers, mainly stewards, who sometimes even outnumbered the straight men in the catering departments of ships that were household names and the pride of the British fleet. Hello Sailor! Uniquely shows what it was like to be queer at sea at a time when land meant straightness.
Having read the book in a record two days, I felt rather like Id been on somewhat of a voyage of discovery and wished I’d have asked my now departed Uncle Julian exactly how did he get those tattoo’s whilst in the Merchant Navy!!
Hello Sailor! Gay Life for Seamen by Jo Stanley, Paul Baker is published by Pearson Education, London.