May is "Short Story Month." My intention was to do a single story review every day of the month - I've recently gotten my proofs of TOUCHED BY THE SEA and SWEAT, and today my contributor copy of BOYS OF SUMMER showed up - but then I bumped into a story about how a North Carolina pastor was telling parents to beat their kids if they showed symptoms of being gay, and I sort of wanted to rant and scream and declare the world a horrible place.
But I won't. I'll say only this: Every time someone tells me that being queer shouldn't be a big deal, I want to agree - but can't. I can't agree, because asshats like that guy are out there spewing their hatred, and until they stop, they're making it a big deal.
And that's all the energy I'm going to spend on him (beyond the letters I've already written and the posts I've already made, and... well, you get the idea).
What I will do - in the name of Short Story Month - is say how incredibly honoured I feel to be included in BOYS OF SUMMER. When I was a kid, there were no gay characters around (indeed, I didn't see any gay people around, period) and that left me shaken about whether or not the future included people like myself. Being a part of an anthology for young kids like the one I was is a little bit of awesome. Now that I got my copy, I thought I'd take a stroll through it, story by story.
"Portrait of the Artist as a Young Swamp Thing"
by Ann Zeddies
I think I'd fail if I tried to tell you how awesome an ability Zeddies has to capture the voice of a young gay teen trying so hard to be a part of the cool crowd. Shane is stuck with his family at a cabin at the lake - where there are cowboy sheets on his loft room bed - and not happy about it. He's even less happy when Chase - the weird geek he barely knows - is invited by his mother to sleep over for a few nights while Chase's parents are out of town.
Shane's progression and dawning realizations of the social world around him are charming. The romance here is just budding, and Shane's in a position that I found it so easy to empathize with: his love of art, which he knows most assume to be wrong for boys, is an immediate worry. His awareness that his parents are treating him differently now that they know he's gay. His worry that this has broken something. It all rings so true.
The dialog is wonderful and snappy and fluid - I adore Chase's love of all things amphibian, and had a visceral moment of triumph when Shane finally spoke his mind at a party.
Loved this. Wonderful start to the anthology, and definitely the right tone to begin.