Luna and Boy Meets Boy, in my opinion are more obviously different. I think that the main difference is the very different environments that the characters of each novel reside in. Boy Meets Boy describes a utopia. Paul lives in a very accepting environment. His family knew when he was a young age that he was gay and they never challenged that or forced different ideals upon him. Where as for Luna, she grew up with a father that wanted her to be someone that she is not. He pushed Luna into playing baseball and other sports in order to morph her into a “masculine male.” The role of stereotypes and gender norms is very different between the two novels. In Boy Meets Boy, we see cheerleaders on motorcycles and a drag queen as the star quarterback. The “normal” of Boy Meets Boy would horrify the characters in Luna, an environment so set to sticking to the strict stereotypical gender norms. For Luna’s birthday as a child she wanted dolls and a bra, and instead her family got her “gender appropriate” toys deemed for boys. Luna’s parents don’t even allow her to do any housework such as cooking or cleaning because of the feminine stereotype. They always have Reagan do it. This mindset is spread throughout all characters of the novel, outside of Luna’s family. Luna was mocked and ridiculed at Reagan’s slumber party by the girls because he liked having his nails painted. Also when Luna wants to try on women’s clothes at the mall, she is given a look of disgust and is escorted out by security guards. An unexpected similarity that I saw between the two novels was the discussion of childhood. Each novel mentions childhood and child development. In Paul’s case he always knew that he was different from other boys. He discovered that he was gay in kindergarten by reading a note written by his teacher. In Luna’s case, she also knew she was always different from other boys. She had lots of friends who were girls, preferred pink, and other stereotypical “feminine” things. I thought that it was interesting that both of these characters knew their true identity from a young age. This clearly is not the case for all members of the LGBTQ community. It makes me wonder if this is a common trend among young adult novels involving characters of the LGBTQ community. From these two novels, I am drawing the conclusion that young adult narratives focus on the struggle of expressing one’s known identity as opposed to the struggle of discovering one’s true identity. I would like to compare this to a novel where this is not the case.
Both Luna by Julie Anne Peters and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan are young adult novels that distinguish themselves by their language and structure. Young adult novels are typically driven by plot lines and messages, not by linguistics. Each novel follows this young adult theme entirely, by having characters whose main point is to find their identity while facing challenges and obstacles.
Another genre that follows these ideals is the coming out story, which both of these novels are as well. Coming out stories have paralleling concepts, however, typically these struggles involve sexuality or gender identity and the coping mechanisms that characters use. Luna by Julie Anne Peters follows these ideals with a main character, Reagan, who is an adolescent trying to understand her own identity, while at the same time struggling to understand her transgender brother. The main character is facing challenges that many people face, attempting to define herself through high school, however she also endeavors to protect and comprehend what her sibling is going through. While Luna captures the coming out narrative structure, Boy Meets Boy strays from the ‘common’ construction of these stories. The main character, Paul, has already uncovered his identity, and he lives in a community that is overwhelmingly accepting and understanding. While some of Paul’s peers are still attempting to understand their identity, we do not see these challenges as in depth because they are not happening with the main character. This creates a utopian experience within the book, which is not relatable.
It is interesting to talk about how Boy Meets Boy is different than typical coming out stories because it does not fit common themes we see throughout the genre; however, the entire genre is about people breaking societal norms to find their own identities. There is a lot of irony in this analysis because if each story is valid in its own truth, then why do we think some coming out stories are ‘abnormal’ because they don’t fit a certain structure?
Boy Meets Boy and Luna share many discrete similarities with each other. The biggest similarity between the two novels are the narrators. In each novel, the narrator is not the person going through the coming out story. In Boy Meets Boy, Paul was already out as the novel began. We soon find out it was Tony who was in the midst of his coming out story. In Luna, the narrator Regan is a heterosexual girl, it is her brother Liam who is undergoing his transition into Luna. Therefore, both novels present a coming out story through the perspective of an observer. Regan and Paul both do not fully understand what their loved one is going through. Even though Paul and Regan both admit they do not recognize their loved one’s struggle, we see that both narrators are protective and supportive towards them.
Parents are big influences in both stories as well. Both Tony and Luna’s parents are conservative. Thus, Regan and Paul must keep their loved one’s secrets. Paul kept Tony’s secret for years and helped Tony lie to his parents by pretending to be in his church group. Regan also helped Luna keep her secret. For instance, she let Luna hide in her room during the night. We can see that hiding is a big theme in both novels.
The obvious difference in the two stories would be that Tony has a gay coming out story and Luna has a transgendered coming out story. However, the societies in each story strike an even bigger difference for me. Boy Meets Boy takes place in a utopian society. The high school Paul attends is very accepting and we even see an openly transgendered football team captain. Luna’s high school is much more real. The school is a lot less accepting and we see students and teachers stick to gender norms. For instance, Regan’s chemistry teacher is constantly making sexist remarks. Therefore, for Luna, she must come out to not just her parents, but to her whole school. Luna is raw and chilling compared to Boy Meets Boy. Since Regan lives with Luna, readers get a much closer look on what Luna is going through. Paul is much more separate from Tony, so readers do not get to see Tony’s coming out story in the same detail we see Luna’s. This is important to note because the stage of a novel sets up how readers interpret it.
Initially reading the two novels, it is hard to see the similarities because of the big societal difference. However, once I stripped Boy Meets Boy of the fluff that surrounds it, I found it shares a lot in common with Luna. Luna and Tony both hide who they want to be and depend on their loved ones to help them work through it. Tony brings the realness to Boy Meets Boy that is very apparent in Luna.
The two novels, Boy Meet Boy and Luna are more obviously similar. They both tell the story of LGBTQ youth with multiple LGBTQ identifying narratives. The two stories also provide lifelike experiences of queer people, and shows what the community has to deal with on a daily basis. Both novels are well-rounded, especially with how they show the highs and lows of these experiences. The unexpected difference between these two novels is that you cannot always judge a person based off of their looks. For example, in Boy Meets Boy we know right away that Paul is gay because of his interest in boys. This differs in Luna; one might assume Liam is gay (like his father) but in reality Liam identifies as transgender woman. It is important to explore this difference because you cannot always tell who someone truly is solely based off of their appearance. Society needs to learn that you cannot judge people based off of what they look like. It is not as black and white as being straight and gay. Gender and sexuality are a spectrum and two separate things. Boy Meets Boy and Luna both show the reader this.
These two novels matter because they show us lifelike queer narratives. They show the reader that gender and sexuality are two completely different things. Just because a person acts a certain way, does not mean you can immediatly label them. I experience this personally. Due to society’s close-mindedness, people often assume I am gay. That however is not the case, I identify as queer. Like my personal experience, I think the two novels do a great job in showing how people need to be educated in order to not assume things about others. Also, like I have said before, the novels show that gender and sexuality are separate, a fact that most people do not know. As we see in Luna, just because you like boys does not mean you are gay. Liam likes boys but identifies as transgender. This is something that many people still have to learn.
In most young adult fiction, we see the recurring pattern of a main character overcoming some sort of coming of age obstacle. In both Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and Luna by Julie Anne Peters, the coming of age struggle exists though instead of focusing on the struggle of the narrator, we are exposed to the struggle of the person closest to them. Published within a year of each other, both novels possess major LGBTQ characters, a little love story and desire for a sense of belonging. These two stories are obviously similar for their ability to fit into their genre.
A surprising difference between these two texts are the realities they are set in. In Boy Meets Boy, is set in a society that is utopian to when it was written. It shows the opposite of heteronormativity by showing very little negativity and disapproval of the LGBTQ community. The acceptance in this community is clear when it becomes apparent to the reader that Paul never really “came out”, he simply liked boys and there were no further questions, taking the “coming out” out of what the reader expects to be a coming out story. There are no specific moments speaking of him being harassed for his sexuality, instead there is a transgender quarterback.
On the contrary, Luna is set in a household where gender norms are assumed and the gender spectrum is not widespread. In the very beginning of the book, Regan reveals about her Father, “He wasn’t too crazy about Mom’s job. Specifically, her elevating her own status from Wife and Mother to More Significant Other.” (Peters, 7). Though she says her Dad wasn’t being sexist, when their Mom says she will be home late too cook dinner, Regan is assigned the duty. She complains and when Liam offers to cook he is shut down by his father instantly, saying it is not his job (10).
These different settings are important to explore because Luna can be seen as the current reality. Some people have open minds, others closed by the hands of their upbringing and fear of the unknown. Boy Meets Boy can stand as a hopeful future, where sexuality can have such fluidity that people don’t assume and we stray from labeling.
Spend the first 20 mins of class on the following prompt. Feel free to draw on our conversation on Friday about Young Adult (YA) fiction and utopian novels.
We know that Writing Analytically suggests that one way to make a claim is to think about similarity in difference, or difference in similarity. So, answer the following in your freewrite:
Do you think that Boy Meets Boy and Luna are more obviously similar? If so, state why and then look for unexpected difference. Articulate what that difference is (using evidence from the text where necessary) and then say why you think it is important to explore this difference.
Do you think that Boy Meets Boy and Luna are more obviously different? If so, state why and then look for unexpected similarity. Articulate what that similarity is (using evidence from the text where necessary) and then say why you think it is important to explore this similarity.
The play Angels in America is very similar to Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit in that both works offer narratives of members of the LGBTQ+ community. The characters not only share how they expressed their sexuality, but also how their larger societies scrutinized and ostracized their sexual identities. For example in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, on page 88, Janette tells us about her first sexual experience with another girl. In Angels in America, the way that AIDs is mainly tied to the gay community demonstrates that the gay community is considered “deviant” and therefore, are the blame for a lot of the misfortune in the greater society (pg. 50-52).
However, one way that these two works are distinct, is in the setting of where the works take place. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit takes place in the 2000’s in a heavily Protestant community in England. Angels in America takes place in the 1980’s in New York City. Janette grows up in a small community in more of a rural area, where there is only one correct religion practices and way to live. On the other hand, the multiple characters in Angels in America all have different religion practices and views and live in an extremely developed and diverse city. For example, Roy does not really believe in in an all-fearing God, Joe is a Mormon, and Ethel Rosenberg is Jewish.
Even though these two works take place in contrasting settings, both works have the existence of a bigger society that polices, discriminates against, silences, and invalidates people who are labeled as having “deviating” identities. This is seen when Janette’s community believes that Janette is a lesbian because she has been “possessed by demons” and needs to be “saved” by religion in order to stay in the community (pg. 104). In Angels in America the gay community is very big, but they to live in secrecy by only being able to express their sexuality by picking up men in the middle of the park in the middle of the night (pg. 58). Joe’s Mormon mother, Hannah, and wife, Harper, both do not want to accept Prior as a gay man and expect him to keep living in a false and miserable heterosexual marriage. The fact that the play takes place during the AID’s epidemic, emphasizes the fact that the AIDs disease was solely tied to Haitian people gay men, hemophiliacs, and heroin users. These specific groups were denied affordable drugs and treatment. This speaks to the problematic binaries that society creates between what is “correct” and what is “bad.” Society creates norms and binaries as mechanisms for navigating spaces, people, and life. However, this results in the marginalization of everything and everyone that is labeled “other” and “wrong” that leads to the dehumanizing and silencing of identities, ideas, and people.
Both Adrienne Rich and Tony Kushner address the importance of recognizing the complexity of life in its totality, of recognizing not just the end, but the means—life is, in chemical terms, a not a state function but a path function. On page 44 of Kushner’s “Angels in America,” Louis explains to Prior his philosophy on judgement and justice. Louis says “…It’s not the verdict that counts, it’s the act of judgement…it should be the questions and shape of a life, its total complexity gathered, arranged and considered, which matters in the end, not some stamp of salvation or damnation which disperses all the complexity in some unsatisfying little decision.” One’s morality should be viewed in the context of their entire lived experience before judgement is bestowed. If life is a math problem, it should not be multiple choice. There should not simply be “correct” or “incorrect.” We should be graded on the work we show, and we deserve the opportunity to be awarded partial credit—the estimation of our success or failure should not weigh solely upon our final answer. As Louis described it, relying on the verdict without regard to the judgement process “disperses all complexity,” minimizing the validity of what we have overcome to get to where we are. In other words, the whole is lesser than the sum of its parts.
In Rich’s poem “Fox,” she similarly emphasizes the process by which a life is shaped or formed, the importance of recognizing in others the circumstances or “briars” that lacerate the skin over the course of our individual histories. However, in Kushner’s play, Louis is addressing this topic to make a comment about justice and judgement, and how it is more complicated than simply giving someone a “stamp of salvation or damnation.” Alternatively, Rich is primarily concerned with how recognizing the path or shape of one’s entire life can help validate her own existence and her own life. I think this difference highlights Tony Kushner’s purpose in writing this play. The entire book serves as a commentary on society at a specific point in time. It is a period piece on 80’s and 90’s. Rich’s poem is much more focused on the individual, on internal struggle. Louis’s words highlight Kushner’s intention to make broader comments on society, and how the LGBTQ community fit into society leading up to the turn of the century.
Both “Oranges are not the only fruit” by Jeanette Winterson and “Angels in America” by Tony Kushner centralize queer people, but there are significant differences between the two pieces that highlight the unique experience of each individual within the community.
The protagonists of the two texts, Jeanette and Roy, have their own mother in mind on every milestone of their lives. Jeanette used to adopt the conservative and religious mindset of her mother from a very young age without even questioning about it once. For her mother, the world exists in a strictly dual fashion, with no middle ground in between two extremes of any spectrum. “She had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies (p3)”. Jeanette’s mother tends to manipulate her life as evidenced by the way she treats her daughter. When Jeanette is sick, her mother visits but not to whole-heartedly take care of her but to give her a symbolic fruit that indicates her command on Jeanette’s life. As time goes by Jeanette discovers her sexual orientation, gradually deviates from the binary order and maps out a route for her own life.
Roy thinks about his mother in the last moment of his life. She is not physically there but Roy looks at the ghost of Ethel and sees her as his mother. This scene implies that at that moment Roy is very vulnerable and he is no more or less than a little child crying in front of his mother. He begs her to sing him a song: ”Good to see you Ma, it’s been years. I feel bad. Sing to me. Please, it’s scary out here”. Though it is a moment of weakness, the appearance of his mother helps heal his soul as opposed to the presence of Jeanette’s mother.
These parallel patterns between Jeanette and Roy are obvious in the text, but there are differences that shed light on the personalities of the two characters. While the self-portrait of Jeanette is quite innocent and full of pride, that of Roy is marked with shame and self-loath. Another contrast lies in the circumstances of Jeanette and Roy. Based on the definition of her mother about sin, Jeanette is blameworthy because her sexuality does not fit into the binary lens of her mother. Consequently, she is not approved within her family, let alone in the living community or in the society. Nonetheless, the general public respects Roy as a powerful conservative lawyer regardless of his sin because Roy lets no one but Joe knows about his manipulation of Ethel’s trial.
Given that contrasting background, Jeanette and Roy have opposite feeling towards themselves. Jeanette does not have any supporter and yet she is strong enough not to let her mother’s judgment, such as her having “unnatural passion”, bring her self-worth down. Her confidence is not backed up by the certainty that she can persuade others but rather grounded by her will to follow her passion. “I loved God and I loved the church, but I began to see that as more and more complicated. It didn’t help that I had no intention of becoming a missionary” (p 128). As Jeanette realizes she no longer believes in the values that she used to believe in, she still respects the past and acknowledges why she does not feel appropriate in further pursuing what has once nurtured her. She gains strength on the process of deviating from the old pattern, but she appreciates every piece of what have shaped her identity.
The opposite reaction can be seen in Roy. No matter how respectful others view Roy, he still hates many characteristics of him and he even abhors Ethel because she mirrors those traits. Though he claims that he hates traitors and communists, the real reason why he is hostile to Ethel is that she, being a Jew as Roy, reminds him of so many qualities that he considers weaknesses. He performs acts of hyper-masculinity to cover his insecurity and he forces himself to constantly prove that he is strong by bashing others for their weakness. For example, he not only calls Joe a sissy when Joe is about to turn down the job offer in DC but also calls Ethel stupid for believing that he deems her to be his mother. For the record, Roy does see Ethel as his mother but he lies because he does not want to admit his fault to Ethel. Such denying pattern of Roy repeats over the course of the narration, unlike Jeanette who is willing to accept all facts of her personality. There are so many secrets that Roy hides and there are so many facts that he does not dare to admit, such as when he asserts that he has cancer instead of AIDS. Having such strong intention to show off his power, he would never confess his affection to his mother unless stunned. The rare moment when he imagines his mother being in front of him reveals how desperately Roy need to count on his mother as a source of emotional encouragement. Once again we see the opposite direction in the behavior of Roy and Jeanette, one leaning towards his mother’s image to acquire courage while one becoming stronger as she deflects from her mother’s influence. They both respect their mother, but how they think about them reflects their self-portrait. The mother plays important roles in supporting the two characters’ coming out effort and also in reinforcing their pride.
The two extremes represented by Roy and Jeannette exemplify the campness in the two texts because both exaggerate based on raw materials to obtain an effect than move the audience better than the original story can. All in all, one observation can be drawn from the two pieces: self-esteem plays a critical role in the coming out process of queer individuals. There are many external challenges that can easily defeat the characters but how they view themselves after being exposed to other’s harsh judgment determines how happy they feel about their identity.
Through the 58 notes on camp written by Susan Sostang I have taken away that the meaning of camp, is looking at something through a new perspective, a way to show a new side to things. Camp is a breakaway from the social norms. It can be controversial in the sense that it brings up differing views or ideas from what is known and expected throughout society. This is seen many times in Angels in America. Angels in America takes place during a time of the AIDS crisis, where the LGBTQ community was being vastly discriminated. Camp is seen specifically in the scene of the funeral of the drag queen. During this scene, there is a clear difference between those who were in the “chosen” family, vs. blood related family. The members of LGBTQ, his “chosen” family were seen dancing and singing and rejoicing his life. This scene has many characteristics of camp. Instead of mourning during the funeral and wearing all black to the funeral, they were dressed in bright colors, singing and dancing. This is very different to what is known as a society norm. This over the top way of expressing their grief is very campy. The drag queens real family is confused and looking at the other people as if they are crazy. The actions may represent the different ways they cope with death. This scene depicts the separation of the LGBTQ throughout society. It is representing that the style of camp has separated them from society norms. To me, the LGBTQ community was dealing with so many deaths because of the AIDS crisis, that this way of mourning was their only choice. It already is a very depressing time, but in order to stay positive in some way they choose this campy way by having over the top, exaggerated ways at the funeral.