Posts tagged ‘homophobia’

Dare Truth or Promise, by Paula Boock (1999)

Dare Truth or Promise is a love story about two girls, Louie and Willa, who meet working at a local fast food restaurant.  Sparks fly and soon they enter into a passionate and loving relationship.  Willa has been involved with a girl before and her mother is both aware that she is a lesbian and supportive of her sexual identity.  Louie is only discovering her sexual identity so she has not come out to her family, yet her mother takes an instant dislike to Willa and tries to prevent the two from spending time together.  Louie’s mother eventually catches the two girls in bed and in an intense and traumatic scene, kicks Willa out of the house and forbids her from returning.

Much to Willa’s dismay, Louie is devastated by her mother’s reaction and internalizes these feelings of shame and guilt, withdrawing from their relationship:

Louie…looked at her in such pain that Willa couldn’t bear it. “I love you, Louie,” she said, starting to cry though she’d promised herself not to.

“I know.” Louie’s voice sounded ready to snap in two. “I love you too,” she said, at last. “But that’s not the point, is it? (p. 104)

Louie’s mother continues to push her away from Willa and tries to convince her to date men, yet Louie is miserable and eventually comes out to her priest in hopes of receiving moral guidance.  In a very touching scene he explains to her what is really important:

Louie stared at him.

“And she? Does she love you?”

“Yes, I think she does.”

Father Campion smiled. “How wonderful.”

“How lucky you are, to love and to be loved in return.”

This wasn’t what Louie had expected. (p. 147)

This information gives Louie a much more positive perspective to reflect on, but it is eventually a car accident which brings the two back together.  After this near tragedy they realize how lucky they are to have found each other and Louie is able to work through the negative messages which she received about herself and her sexual identity.  At the same time Louie’s parents are so shaken by the accident that they reevaluate what is best for their daughter and open up to Willa as well.

In Dare Truth or Promise, we see how damaging it can be for young adults to be “outed” before they have time to work through their own emotions surrounding their sexual identity.  Louie survives this experience and it ultimately strengthens her relationship with Willa but it is a very difficult time for both girls and highlights just how vulnerable young adults are at this stage in their lives.

Boock, P. (1999). Dare Truth or Promise. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards – 1998 Winner, Senior Fiction Category
New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards – 1998 Winner, Book of the Year Award

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Deliver Us From Evie, by M.E. Kerr (1994)

Told from the perspective of Evie’s brother, sixteen-year-old Parr, Deliver Us from Evie is about a lesbian living on a farm in rural Missouri who refuses to change who she is or feel ashamed of her sexual identity.  Though frequently gossiped about for her masculine clothing and hairstyle, Evie has kept a low profile in her rural town until she meets and falls in love with Patsy Duff, the daughter of the town’s banker.

Parr is one of the first to suspect Evie’s romance with Patsy when he spots a telling postcard in the mail box.  While he is very curious about Evie’s sexual identity he is also almost immediately accepting and questions the prejudices around homosexuality.  When his mother tells him that it is against the law he responds: “Maybe something’s wrong with the law” (p. 67).

Evie’s mother also inadvertently discovers evidence of Evie’s sexual orientation and approaches Evie directly.  When confronted Evie is unwavering and unapologetic:

“Evie,” Mom said, “I wasn’t born yesterday. I’m not unfamiliar with lesbianism. Gays. Whatever you call it. Is that what you claim you are?”

“Its not what I claim I am. It’s what I am.”

“You don’t know that for sure, honey.”

“I know it. For sure. I’ve always known it.” (p. 85)

Evie’s sexual orientation is not a surprise to her mother whose reaction is based less on anger than it is on fear for her daughter and the hardships which her sexual orientation will bring.  Evie’s mother tries to hide the truth from her husband, since, as she explains to Parr, “Douglas is not a sophisticated man. He won’t understand this…”(p. 66), but he also uncovers the truth, which leaves him “heartbroken”. Though he does not kick Evie out of the house or react violently, he begins to avoid his daughter and the close relationship which they previously shared deteriorates.

The story takes an interesting turn when Parr fears that Evie will leave town and the family farm, forcing him to give up his dream of going to college. In desperation he helps post a sign which outs her to the entire town.  Parr’s plan is unsuccessful and he immediately regrets his actions, but in the aftermath of this event we see Evie’s parents stand up for her, and recognize that they have not abandoned their daughter.  Eventually Evie does leave the small community and moves to New York and then Paris to be with Patsy, but by the story’s end Evie’s parents have worked through many of their own issues and welcome her back into the family.

Deliver Us From Evie is about an incredibly inspiring young woman who refuses to compromise who she is and a loving family that must overcome their own prejudices and fears so they can come to terms with Evie’s identity and offer their acceptance and support.

Kerr, M.E. (1994). Deliver Us From Evie. New York: Harper Collins.

1994 Best Book Honor Award (Michigan Library Association)
1995 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA)
1995 Recommended Books for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (ALA)
1995 Fanfare Honor List (The Horn Book)
1995 Books for the Teen Age (NY Public Library)

Orphea Proud, by Sharon Dennis Wyeth (2004)

Orphea Proud is an incredibly touching story about a young black poet who must come to terms with herself in the face of great loss and rejection. We first meet Orphea in an open mike club where she tells us her story, which begins with her love for childhood friend, Lissa. Their short lived romance is discovered by Orphea’s guardian and brother, Rupert, who reacts with fury and beats Orphea.  Lissa then dies in a car crash moments after fleeing the scene, leaving Orphea in a state of grief and despair. It is in the aftermath of this tragic event that Rupert sends her to live in rural Pennsylvania with her elderly aunts. Luckily in this back country setting Orphea finds the warm and supportive family which she has been missing, uses her poetry to work through her anger and sadness and discovers unknown parts of her heritage which help her understand who she is.

After facing her brother’s wrath earlier in the story, Orphea fears being rejected by her aunts for her sexuality and delays revealing this part of her identity. However Orphea eventually realizes that she needs to be open about who she is order to be true to herself:

I was still afraid, but…I wanted them to know me, to know me as well as I was getting to know them. By keeping my love for Lissa a secret from my aunts, I was keeping myself outside of the circle. I was keeping myself apart from what I wanted, a family (p. 158).

After finding the courage to come out, Orphea discovers that she truly has a loving and accepting family behind her:

Relief washed over me. “You don’t think I’m unacceptable?”

“Of course not,” said Aunt Minnie. “I worry about how other folks who don’t understand these things might treat you, though. But you’re strong. You know who you are.”

Hearing her say that, I began to feel stronger. (p. 160)

Once Orphea comes out to her family she begins to really accept herself and is open about her sexuality with neighbours and acquaintances as well.  She has another very negative run in with her brother later in the story, but survives this with the support and backing of her aunts and cousin. Eventually Orphea develops the courage to follow her dreams and moves to New York to pursue a career in performance arts.

Orphea Proud delivers a strong message about being true to oneself, but the story also highlights what a journey self-acceptance can be and the value of identifying loving and supportive family and friends along the way.

Wyeth, S.D. (2004). Orphea Proud. New York: Delacorte.

2005 LAMBDA Literary Award Finalist
2005 New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age