Sometimes a good, thoughtfully done review can raise an issue that gets an author thinking. Damn it. Being a writer sometimes reminds me of the old joke about a painter on a scaffold: the trouble is, you just can’t step back and get any perspective on your work.
Here’s an excerpt from what was, overall, a very positive review of Jumpstart the World by Roof Beam Reader.
The only minor complaint I have is the idea that “transphobia” does not exist in the GLBT community. When Frank is hospitalized, Elle stays with him because of his fear of being abused or mistreated there (due to the possibility of nurses/doctors not reacting well to his gender identity versus biology). When a male nurse comes to check on Frank, he identifies himself to Elle as a gay man and thus, one of the “community” – so therefore will have Frank’s back. Unfortunately, the issue is not so cut-and-dry and transphobia does exist, even within the GLBT community. Again, it is a minor complaint, as there are genuinely decent gay/straight people out there who would come to the aid of someone in trouble, as that nurse did, and I definitely do not think the author would actually argue that this issue exists in such a binary; but, I do wish the issue had not been championed on one side in the manner that it was.
When I first read it, I wanted to argue. Slightly. But the little voice in my gut said, “He’s right. I presented it as though that would be the natural way of things.” Looking back, I see a fairly simple (and pretty naïve) reason. In my head, that’s the way of things. I didn’t realize (though it was my job to know, so that’s not an excuse) when I first wrote this novel, the full extent of the chasm between the LGB and the T in the LGBT community.
And yet I must have known at some time, in some way, shape or form. The reason I live my life well outside “my” community is because of issues such as this. Years ago, when I was quite young, I tried to be part of the “Women’s Community” in LA. Problem was, I was somewhere between bisexual and gay. And that just did not fly there. So, let’s face it, if you can’t be who you really are, what’s the point of a community? That kind of abuse I can get anywhere.
I was even sitting in the audience at the horrible women’s concert in LA where a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual was forced off the stage because of some crap about male anatomy at a “woman’s event.” So at some point I knew how crazy it can get.
I must have buried it deeply. That’s all I can think.
Since writing the book, I’ve—unfortunately—learned more. Like how the LGB community has a bad habit of throwing its transgender brothers and sisters under the bus when it comes time to pass non-discrimination bills. If the bill might not pass with T inclusion, the LGB contingent says, “Wait. You’ll get your rights later.” But that’s not only unfair, it’s completely unworkable. Because no one is free until everyone is. When we decide that anyone falls below the standard of deserving respect and understanding, we’ve dug a hole into which any of us can fall at any time. And I don’t just mean LGBT people. If our society reserves a lack of freedom for anyone, our freedom is abridged. If it can happen to anyone, it can happen to us.
It’s hard to write a world like that into a book.
The one part of this book I hated writing the most was Elle’s reaction to Frank’s friends at the party. Particularly, putting the phase “like a man in a dress” in her voice. It reminded me of years ago, writing Walter’s Purple Heart, having him use the word “Jap” at the beginning of the book. Later he learned more about the “enemy.” When he had to shoot two. And he was lying in the hospital thinking, “Don’t Japanese mommas cry when their boys don’t come home?” In times of war, young soldiers are taught to dehumanize the enemy. So he would have used the word Jap at the beginning. I hate it, but I know he would have. So that’s why I had Elle go through all the usual preconceptions. Even though I inwardly wince. Even though I half fear that people will attribute that prejudice to the author. Because I feel it’s my job to show the world as it is, not as I wish it would be.
But that damn Adam from Roof Beam Reader, he caught me falling down on the job. Showing the world as I wish it would be. Not as it is.
With any luck, the book will stay in print for many years. And maybe in a generation or two, people will read that, and it’ll sound fine. Match up just fine with what they see around them. And they can shake their heads at the “man in a dress” reference and wonder how anyone could ever have been mired up in such clueless thinking.
Hope with me. Please.
Catherine is having a scavenger hunt! (And I have a giveaway below) You can win a copy of EVERY YA book she has ever written. First you must collect the clues, from me today “and then starts to cry“, The Story Siren, and There’s a Book have already posted. Look for highlighted words, and tomorrow the FINAL post in the scavenger hunt is at Chick Loves Lit. There is also and opp to win one of 3 signed copies of Jumpstart the World at each location before the huge prize at Catherine’s blog! Basically you collect the words on all four partner blogs and make a sentence and turn them in to Catherine on Sunday.
Now for my giveaway! THREE SIGNED PAPERBACK COPIES OF JUMPSTART THE WORLD! This is the perfect op for you guys to get introduced to Catherine’s work. Just Rafflecopter below, and there is a giveaway on each of the partner blogs too.