I know, I know, I know. I haven't been here in ages. I actually made a couple of stabs at posting something, I see via drafts. The first one's subject line is, "I Got Nothing" and the second one is, "When the World is Too Much With Us". I didn't get very far with either one.
Sometimes the words just don't want to come. I've learned it's best not to poke at them when they're like that.
My "I Got Nothing" post went like this:
Ever have those periods in your life when you feel like you have nothing to say?
Less than nothing?
If nothing was a basket full of stars, it would be empty?
If nothing was a single grain of rice on your too-large plate you'd never be able to gnaw though it?
If nothing grabbed your hand and pulled you into the playground you'd slip and fall?
If nothing lurked under the bed, it would keep you up all night?
That's where I am these days.
Well, now that we've got that out of the way, hello, and Happy New Year! I'm just into week four in Mexico, in the delightful village of La Manzanilla. I've been walking lots and yes, eating and drinking lots, too.
And reading, which is where I'm actually going with this post.
I just finished the most amazing book. Raziel Reid's When Everything Feels Like the Movies is getting all sorts of press these days thanks in part to a commentary it received in the National Post. It's a fresh take on the coming-of-age story. There have been such stories since time began and they will flex and shiver and take on new guises in the future as they always have done and always will. I expect the book would have raised the odd eyebrow even if it hadn't been tagged as being for Young Adults, a category of literature directed, according to a quick Google search, in Canada, towards kids aged 13–18.
Jude Rothegay, aka Judy because ever since he can remember he's liked to present as a girl, tells the story in first person. He's funny. He's astute. Should I be using "She's" funny; "she's" astute here? I'm not even sure, and I'm fairly well versed in the world of LGBTQ, but there are still many confusions. When Everything Feels Like the Movies takes a hard look at such confusions, especially prejudice and bullying towards the two-spirited community (that god knows has been going on for far too long) and it's hard not to want to look away. Jude has an unrequited crush on a guy, Luke Morris, a complicated relationship with his fag-hag friend, Angela, who screws everyone she can and is not a stranger to things like abortions. But there's something about Jude's gaminess, his teenage brash, his forthrightness, his lewdness, his burgeoning sexuality, his preceptive observations with regard to his parents and his tenderness to his little brother that all blend to produce a character who reminds me of the good and bad and huge spectrum in the middle of all the me's I've been and all the them's people I know have been and I'm reacting to the truth of the story. The gut-wrenching stuff is just too, too believable in a world where politicians support waterboarding and kids like Matthew Shephard and Larry Fobes King, to name only two, have lived. And died. (Emily Keeler, also of the National Post, talks about the true story that inspired the book.)
I have to admit the Young Adult designation is both disturbing and thought-provoking. I have two grandsons who read like crazy, who at 11 and 12 are getting very close to the arbitrarily imposed entry age for reading books in this category, and I cringe at what they might learn about from this book. Extreme bullying. Blow jobs. Abortions. Anal sex. But then I remember when I was 11 and went to Camp Koolaree and someone had a copy of Peyton Place that fell open to the really, really good part which was most instructional, as I recall, for someone who had the mechanics of sex down pat but had somehow missed the memo that those involved actually did it on purpose. And I wonder, if I was a LGBTQ youth, wouldn't a book like When Everything Feels Like the Movies be something like a godsend?
And to the woman, whose name I don't remember and can't be bothered to look up, who wrote the shitty NP commentary of the book, all I can say is, you totally missed the fucking point. Which probably is, when you get right down to it, the point.
When Everything Feels Like the Movies won the 2014 Governor General's Award for Fiction in the Young Adult category. It is one of the books chosen for this year's CBC debate, Canada Reads. This year's books were chosen on the basis of "...books that can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes and illuminate issues." Should be interesting.