Posts Tagged With: small towns

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue

“My sport — the special skill I’ve developed my whole life — is surviving, and that doesn’t leave much room for following Cinderella dreams.” – Ramona Blue Leroux

Ramona Leroux’s life in the small town of Eulogy, Mississippi is a well-trod, predictable path. She knows that her mother will always disappoint her; that her older sister Hattie, will always need her; that her dad will work himself into the ground; and that she is a lesbian. As she starts her senior year of high school, flush with summer romance and the rising quicksand of her life in Eulogy blocking out the horizon, it seems that life will go on in this fashion indefinitely. 

At least, it seems that way, until her childhood beach buddy, Freddie, moves to town with Agnes, the grandmother who raised him, and her husband, Bart. As a kid, Ramona lived in the water (hence the nickname). Along with the reappearance of her summer family, she starts swimming again. The novel unfolds from August through the end of the school year in June. As the story progresses, we see how deeply Ramona’s family ties and socioeconomic status, more so than her sexuality, impact how she views herself, her future plans, and relationships. No matter what opportunities and burdens land on her doorstep, Ramona views them through these lenses.

As Ramona grapples with what her burgeoning attraction to Freddie means, she also has to deal with her mother’s belief that her daughter is going through a lesbian “phase”. The thought of being open about her feelings for Freddie is more about how other people, like her mother and her friends Ruth and Saul, might react. Ramona finds herself in a position similar to the one her summer girlfriend, Grace, found herself in when confronted about her “real” sexuality. Are you gay, straight, bi? She sums it up for herself as:

“I choose guys. I always choose girls. I choose people. But most of all: I choose.” 

I hope this book resonates teenagers who are agonizing over questions such as “What does it mean that I’m attracted to people of more than one gender? Shouldn’t I be one or the other: gay or straight? And what will my friends, family, society think of me if I’m attracted to more than one gender?”. And also, yes, Ramona, I totally agree: dresses without pockets are useless! xD

As an aside from the main review, I wanted to briefly touch on some of the criticism I’ve read about Ramona Blue. It is incredibly frustrating and aggravating that some readers have called this book lesbophobic or claim that it is disrespectful story about a lesbian-identified girl who “finds the right guy” to “turn her straight”. I feel that anyone who has made such emphatic statements hasn’t read the book. As a bisexual, it wasn’t an easy journey for me to accept myself. None of this is meant to erase or downplay the discrimination and ignorance expressed towards lesbians. I’m just saying that Julie Murphy did a great job depicting a teenager’s experiences with discovering her bisexuality (***I’m using “bisexual” as a term to encompass all identities that are not monosexual). 

I won’t give too much away since Ramona Blue doesn’t hit bookstores until next Tuesday. Despite the emotional journey it takes you on, the novel is also a lot of fun. 

Beach blanket tote bag:

                           Swimline Pool Pizza Slice Float blue hair dye red schwinn bike

Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release date: May 9, 2017
ISBN: 9780062418357
ISBN 10: 0062418351

Available soon from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Be sure to check your local library for digital and print copies!

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Categories: lgbt, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Not-So-Straight Sue

not-so-straight-sue

Not-So-Straight Sue, the second installment in Cheyenne Blue’s “Girl Meets Girl” series, goes fossicking about the Australian Outback with Sue Brent, a lawyer determined to keep her sexuality under wraps. Despite creating a life in London as a successful lawyer with great friends (Ger and Nora from Never-Tied Nora) – leagues removed from Yeringup, the small town that sent her deep into the closet as a teenager – she still can’t fully live her life. 

The story kicks off when Sue decides that she’s had enough of running from herself. Life in the big city teems with exciting entertainment, career opportunities, and kindred spirits. However, she steps away from a promotion to Senior Associate at the prestigious law firm where she works. Instead, she heads off to substitute at a small, one person practice in Mungabilly Creek, a small town a day’s drive from her hometown. The terrain is full of interesting characters, including the landscape. Felix, a woman living out between towns with her horses, provides potential for rich friendship when Sue first arrives. Mrs. T, housekeeper extraordinaire and all-around amazing woman, anchors the home front. And Moni, an American doctor serving rural areas of Queensland, reconnects with Sue, a handful of years after their first meeting in London. The romance of place and people is blended wonderfully. It’s also a fun distraction.

NSSS is an engrossing, entertaining story about a whole myriad of things, including coming out, rebuilding family relationships, and discovering that what and who you think you know can surprise you…in a good way. 

Recommended reading companions for this volume: a good red wine and a loyal pup.

Not-So-Straight Sue
Author: Cheyenne Blue
Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Publication date: October 2016

Available from Ylva Publishing, AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability), as well as many other retailers.

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Categories: family relationships, friendship, lgbt, romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

South of Sunshine

South of Sunshine

 

Sunshine, Tennessee; a small town with farms, a factory, and football on Fridays.  For Kaycee (“Kay-c-double e”) Jean McCoy, life is about fitting in with her classmates long enough to escape (relatively) unscathed to college.  She navigates the angsty, cliquish social scene with the help of her best friends,  Van and Sarabeth.  Van is the stylish student council president; his truths are an open secret in town.  Sarabeth comes from a long line of Sunshine-ians and has a “place for everything and everything in its place” attitude.  The carefully arranged life Kaycee has planned for herself begins to crumble when a magnetic new girl moves to town for their senior year of high school.

South of Sunshine explores how the characters internalize stereotypes, prejudices, and other socialized behaviors.  It’s a bumpy ride, as the reader views the world through Kaycee’s eyes.  Kaycee’s intense fear of being judged and becoming a social pariah, distances her from anyone she thinks might “out” her by association.  She dates guys, allowing herself only furtive glances at the new girl, Bren Dawson.  Kaycee is not above labeling her peers.  She judges Charlotte, a fellow high school senior, labeling her a stereotypical lesbian based on her “business in the front, party in the back” mullet hairstyle and camouflage shirts.

Sunshine is full of overt racism and discrimination, with students and adults using racial slurs to justify ugly behavior and attitudes.  Not everyone in town shares these views.  Those who disagree do so quietly or say nothing at all.  The silence makes those who do nothing complicit in the negatives.  Van’s mother paints a rainbow heart in the window of their video rental business, Hot Flix.  The high school librarian, Mrs. Bellefleur, uses a rainbow coffee mug.  All Kaycee can hear, however, are the loud declarations and actions of the people who fear change and diversity.  It’s a long, awkward, and painful journey towards full self-acceptance, but it’s not without moments of hope, excitement, and freedom.

While the novel is pedantic at times, teaching the reader about how harmful stereotypes and racism are to communities and individuals, it does not break up the storytelling overmuch.  As I read, I had to remind myself that Kaycee was telling the story; it is her experiences and perspective that I see when I look out on her world.  The characters are at different points in their various journeys through life.  Although Kaycee experiences the most growth over the course of the story, Bren is by far my favorite character.  She is confident, charming, stylish, and sporty.  Her well of patience and understanding spring from a loving and supportive home.  If I were to cobble together ingredients for the perfect (first) girlfriend, Bren would be the result.

You might enjoy this young adult novel if you are drawn to novels set in small towns and feature coming out stories (as well as characters who are already comfortable in their identities). 

South of Sunshine
Author: Dana Elmendorf
Publisher: Albert Whitman
Release date: April 1, 2016

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AbeBooks, and other booksellers.  Be sure to check your local library for copies, too.

ISBN-10: 0807575682
ISBN-13: 978-0807575680

***I received a pre-publication copy of this title from Albert Whitman & Company via Netgalley***

 

Categories: fiction, lgbt, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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