Currently on the New YA Bookshelf is emily m. danforth’s debut novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. From the NPR review by YA author Malinda Lo:
Written in the first person from Cameron’s perspective as she looks back on her so-called “miseducation,” the novel opens in 1989. Cameron is 12 years old, and her parents have just died in a car accident. When she learns that she has been orphaned, her first feeling is relief: Her parents won’t ever learn that only the day before, she had been kissing her best friend, Irene. Cameron’s guilt over the kiss — and her attraction to girls — becomes tangled with her grief in complicated ways. Danforth makes sure that the knot of emotions buried deep in Cameron isn’t unraveled quickly or easily. There are no shortcuts to Cameron’s story, and that’s the reason it works.
Cameron’s friendship with Irene ends, but other girls come to Miles City, Mont., the small, dusty town where Cameron lives… Aficionados of the coming-out story can see the heartache coming a mile away, but that doesn’t detract one bit from its poignancy. The summer before sophomore year, Cameron’s friendship with Coley turns into something more. After they kiss for the first time at Coley’s ranch, Cameron recalls: “I’m not gonna make it out to be something that it wasn’t: It was perfect.”
Perfection, of course, never lasts. [spoilers] When Cameron is outed, her conservative Aunt Ruth sends her away to God’s Promise, a boarding school designed to cure Cameron of her gayness. While Cameron is supposed to be learning to live a holy — that is, ex-gay — life, the irony is that God’s Promise delivers Cameron her first queer community: a group of teens much like herself… [end spoilers]
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is indeed an important book — especially for teens growing up today in communities that don’t accept them for who they are. But it is also a skillfully and beautifully written story that does what the best books do: It shows us ourselves in the lives of others.
“If you are a woman. If you are a Person of Colour. If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, if you’re a person of size, if you’re a person of intelligence, if you’re a person of integrity, then you are considered a minority in this world. And it’s gonna be really hard to find messages of self-love, and support anywhere, especially women’s and gay men’s culture. It’s all about how you have to look a certain way or else you’re worthless. You know when you look in the mirror, and you think, ‘Ugh, I’m so fat, I’m so old, I’m so ugly’, don’t you know that’s not your authentic self, but that is billions upon billions of dollars of advertising, magazines, movies, billboards, all geared to make you feel shitty about yourself so that you will take your hard-earned money and spend it on some turnaround cream that doesn’t turnaround shit.
When you don’t have self-esteem, you will hesitate before you do anything in your life. You will hesitate to go for the job you really wanna go for. You will hesitate to ask for a raise. You will hesitate to report a rape. You will hesitate to defend yourself when you are discriminated against because of your race, your sexuality, your size, your gender. You will hesitate to vote. You will hesitate to dream.
For us to have self-esteem is truly an act of revolution. And our revolution is long-overdue.”
Inspirational Women I Love
"It is the worst kind of queer self-sabotage to imply that a sexuality simply cannot be, because you can’t personally imagine it."
"Even as a feminist lesbian, I have so wanted to ignore my own homophobia, my own hatred of myself for being queer. I have not wanted to admit that my deepest personal sense of myself has not quite “caught up” with my “woman-identified” politics. I have been afraid to criticize lesbian writers who choose to “skip over” these issues in the name of feminism. In 1979, we talk of “old gay” and “butch and femme” roles as if they were ancient history. We toss them aside as merely patriarchal notions. And yet, the truth of the matter is that I have sometimes taken society’s fear and hatred of lesbians to bed with me. I have sometimes hated my lover for loving me. I have sometimes felt “not woman enough” for her. I have sometimes felt “not man enough.” For a lesbian trying to survive in a heterosexist society, there is no easy way around these emotions. Similarly, in a white-dominated world, there is little getting around racism and our own internalization of it. It’s always there, embodied in some one we least expect to rub up against."
- Cherría Moraga, La Güera
"I went to a concert where Ntozake Shange was reading. There, everything exploded for me. She was speaking a language that I knew — in the deepest parts of me — existed, and that I had ignored in my own feminist studies and even in my own writing. What Ntosake caught in me is the realization that in my development as a poet, I have, in many ways, denied the voice of my brown mother— the brown in me. I have acclimated to the sound of a white language which, as my father represents it, does not speak to the emotions in my poems — emotions which stem from the love of my mother.
The reading was agitating. Made me uncomfortable. Threw me into a week-long terror of how deeply I was affected. I felt that I had to start all over again. That I turned only to the perceptions of
white middle-class women to speak for me and all women. I am shocked by my own ignorance."
- Cherríe Moraga, La Güera