David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy and Julie Peter’s Luna are two young-adult fiction novels that explore different elements of sexual orientation, gender identity, and growing up in the LGBTQ community. The authors of these novels, however, consider these aspects of young adulthood in different ways. The most distinct difference in these two young adult fiction books is how the authors present heteronormative societies and coming out narratives. In Boy Meets Boy the main character and narrator, Paul, lives in a seemingly utopian world where heteronormativity may not actually be the norm. His own sexual orientation and the sexual orientation of his peers never seems to be questioned. Although some of his friends face certain conflicts with their identities, Paul never seems to question his sexuality. In fact, he had “always known [he] was gay” and his parents “eventually got used to it,” never questioning their son’s sexuality (8,10). Boy Meets Boy doesn’t really introduce a coming out narrative for Paul because it seems that this type of narrative was never necessary for Paul’s life. He was always accepted for his sexual orientation, despite being amongst a minority. In this regard, Boy Meets Boy is somewhat unrealistic. It is not to say that every LGBTQ individual faces true hardships when coming out, or is exiled from their families, but often these types of stories are common. In this sense, Paul’s coming out narrative isn’t really a coming out narrative. Instead, Paul is simply who he is from the start.
In the book Luna, Peter’s describes a different type of society, where the characters face more difficulties and struggles around sexual orientation and gender identity than those in Boy Meets Boy. The society in which Luna, the main character, lives influences a different coming out narrative. As she transition from her male biological sex, Luna faces both internal and external struggles. She is misunderstood by her father and her peers, all the while trying to understand herself. Her coming out narrative is different from Paul’s because the society in which she lives is different. In this book Luna lives in a society where transgenderism is not the norm and is often questioned or misconceives, making Luna’s transition that much harder.
It is important to recognize however that both of these books do something important in context of their portrayal of heteronormative societies and coming out narratives. Where one may argue that Boy Meets Boy does a disservice to struggling LGBTQ teenagers, we may look at this book as a portrayal of hope. That one-day sexual orientation and gender identity will not need labeling or be misunderstood and we can just be ourselves. The same goes for Luna, however. Where one may argue that it is too difficult to read about Luna’s hardships, we may see this as a portrayal of all the individuals who go through times like Luna but end up okay. Both these books are significant to coming out narratives in different, yet similar, ways. They may go about it from different ends of the spectrum, but both may provide advice and hope for individuals that relate to them.
The play Angels in America and the novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit share certain thematic and idiocentric similarities. Such character similarities include the relationship between Ethel Rosenberg and Roy, in Angels in America, and Jeanette and her Mother, in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. These relationships personify internal struggles of Roy and Jeanette. Mother and Ethel both make the internal concepts of Roy and Jeanette external, all the while trying to rid them of their demons.
Despite their similarities however a significant difference develops between these two relationships. Although both Mother and Ethel embody internalized emotions of Jeanette and Roy, Ethel and Mother present these aspects differently. In Act 3 Scene 5 Roy lays in his hospital bed and sees the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg. In this scene Ethel acts as the embodiment of Roy’s pain, weather it’s his AIDs, his homosexuality, the murder of Ethel herself, or his self-hatred. While seeking forgiveness, Ethel refuses to sympathize with Roy, laughing at him and claiming he is “a very sick man” (118). The forgiveness Ethel denies him, symbolizes Roy inability to forgive himself. Within this, Ethel tries to kill Roy, punishing him for all the harm that she claims he has done, persecuting him for his inner demons and making sure that he is aware of them.
In Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit Mother yearns to save Jeanette, not kill away her demons. Mother uses religion and the bible to try to save Jeanette. Mother believes that making Jeanette a good Christian girl will save her from her sexual desires and internal struggles. While Mother seeks to change who Jeanette chooses to be, readers feel sympathetic for Jeanette, a feeling we may not get for Roy.
This subtle difference, within a seemingly obvious similarity between Roy and Ethel and Mother and Jeanette, is significant to understanding these two pieces of text as a whole. Both of these texts mirror society at the time that they were written, specifically through the relationships of these four characters. Each relationship is a version of how we oppresses and dealt with LGBTQ individuals at certain times. During late 19th century America, our society persecuted gays and aligned them closely to the HIV/AIDs crisis, just like Ethel does to Roy. In the 80s and 90s, within an English Pentecostal community, society tried to use the bible to save homosexuals from their “behavior,” just like Mother attempts to do with Jeanette.
This post will focus on a passage found at the bottom of 74 carrying over to the top of 75. This portion of the text sheds light on the remaining chapters of the book, but also perpetuates heternormativity within story telling and society, an important aspect of the coming out narrative. In this passage, Jeanette re-reads a story she had grown up listening to by her mom. In the end of the story her mother tells, Jane Eyre marries and goes off with Saint John. When Jeanette reads the story for herself however, she learns that Jane never marries and her mother had manipulated the story’s ending. For years, her mother had embedded this story of love and (heterosexual marriage) into Jeanette’s mind. This notion is influential in regard to coming out narratives, in which we often see the pressure of heterosexual standards adopted in all works of life, making coming out, that much more difficult.
When Jeanette reads the actual story, her reaction is both shock and distraught, promising that she has “never since played cards, and I will never since read Jane Eyre” (Winterson 75). The last sentence of this passage evokes a sense of mistrust and sadness within Jeanette, however she quickly shuts the door to her emotions, promising to never read it again. Jeanette’s inability to, want to, or force herself to, acknowledge what the stories says, and face her emotions is almost naive. This portion of the passage certainly has an emphasis on the texts meaning as a whole. The quote represents a larger theme the novel seemingly has. Jeannette denies herself the opportunity to learn more from what she encounters from this small piece of truth. Denial is a reoccurring emotion that Jeanette often faces. The quote insists that Jeanette is in denial of her own truth, a concept that may configure throughout the rest of the novel. Her hesitancy to read the story or play cards again connects closely to the instance of when she finds her adoption papers, but then still hopes her mother may be her biological mother. These acts of denial, may be seen again in her denial of her sexuality, or a fear of truly accepting herself.
Lines Focused on:
And the truth of briars she had to have run through
I craved to feel on her pelt if my hands could even slide
past of her body slide between then sharp truth distressing
surfaces of fur
Adrienne Rich’s poem “Fox” is particular in its slight differences from some of Rich’s other poems in her collection. This specific poem is more subtle in addressing its meanings and themes, however, Rich still incorporates several of the same ideas she address’s in her other poems. While reading the poem for the first time the first four lines, of the second stanza, particularly stood out at me. The passage, seemingly about a fox in its natural habitat, is much more than the animalistic creature Rich subjects it to be. The fox may symbolize another individual, most likely another woman, on the account that she regards the fox as female in the first line of this stanza. The speaker yearns for the fox’s, or women’s, attention “crav[ing] to feel her pelt if my hand could even slide.” On several accounts Rich incorporates the erotic into her poems, a sensation that is deeply, yet openly, embedded within her life. In these specific lines, the erotic is exemplified through diction Rich choices to use to describe her desire to be close to this woman (fox). The line breaks are also significant in that between the words “pelt” and “if” we see another hypothetical, an instance of thought that reoccurs throughout Rich’s poems. As she desires this women, in her natural habitat, like the fox in nature, she questions if her body could really allow her to be with her, “if my hands could even slide.” This line makes me wonder if there is something or someone stopping her from letting her “slide past or her body slide between them” because of the use of the word “if,” and this hypothetical scenario.