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review 2017-01-15 04:40
Another Kind of Love by Paula Christian
Another Kind Of Love - Paula Christian

 

ANOTHER KIND OF LOVE is a reprinting of two stories from the late pulp era. One of them is very good, and the other… isn’t.

 

Both stories are very much of the time, for better or worse. Multiple characters consider their same-sex attractions and tendencies to be some sort of psychosis, while stereotypical dykes and closeted femmes wander in and out of the Village scene exclusively for hook-ups. The leads bemoan their inability to have children while hating themselves for their romantic interests as the author takes great care to describe the size and texture of everyone’s breasts. Trust me: you already know whether you’d like this type of book.

 

Paula Christian’s lesbians are unmarried and divorced career women with an emphasis on the emotional toil of relationships. They earn their happy endings, often by trying to incorporate a level of monogamy in their relationships despite the prevalence of the hook-up culture surrounding them. Christian’s women are fascinating in their own historical context: at the time of the story’s original publishing, the FDA had only approved the birth control pill a year earlier, THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE wouldn’t be published for another two, and Stonewall wouldn’t happen for almost a decade. The women grew up in the mist of the post-War golden age amongst loving families as society itself became more progressive in relation to education and career opportunities. They are smart, capable, and otherwise completely normal—and the stories, more importantly, treat them as such.

 

The titular short story, “Another Kind of Love,” tickles the allure of lesbian relationships in old Hollywood, where movie moguls held the press in an iron fist while their star machines ate aspiring actors and actresses alive. The story itself follows Laura, an editor of a fan magazine, and how she falls in love with the girlfriend of one of Hollywood most glamorous superstars of the era. Does she sacrifice her happiness and her morals to be with the woman of her dreams, or does she stay with her love struck (and soon-to-be divorced) boss? The premise might be cliché, but the presentation of Laura’s “coming out” is both nuanced and sympathetic, even when expressing the attitudes of an outdated era.

 

Many of the concerns Laura expresses feel authentic, and it’s the sort of story I would have loved to have read when I started coming to terms with my own identity. While it may not have the best answers to some of the issues that it discusses—it’s over fifty years old, after all—seeing the validation of seemingly unspoken questions is refreshing. It’s not just about liking women; it’s about establishing the lines between sex, love, and friendship on a completely different playing field.

 

The second story, “Love is Where You Find It,” takes literally everything applaudable about the first story and douses it with a good dose of old-fashioned cynicism. After years of living with an abusive but gorgeous girlfriend, a photographer named Dee finally calls it quits after finding her lover cheating on her. A new woman practically serenades her way into Dee’s life, while one of her younger co-workers seems determined to find her way into Dee’s secret life. Unlike the first story, Dee is an embittered veteran of the New York lesbian scene, and spends most of her time hiding her orientation from her business partners. While the story itself isn’t terrible, and it contains some of my favorite post-sex scene banter, Dee’s attitude is awful. She does everything in her power to turn one of her lovers straight, insults nearly everyone around her, and quietly endures rampant homophobia without complaint. Her actions are believable given the time period she lived in, but it doesn’t make her compelling in consequence. I often found myself wishing we were following her love interests instead.

 

Even with its flaws, both stories are enjoyable reads in women loving women genre. A good pulp ages like fine wine: a touch acidic with undertones of sugar and spice. ANOTHER KIND OF LOVE hits the mark where it counts, and that’s more than enough for me.

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review 2014-07-13 17:23
Review: Caught in the Crossfire by Juliann Rich
Caught in the Crossfire - Juliann Rich

Juliann Rich’s debut novel Caught in the Crossfire is a new and much needed story in Gay YA literature.

 

The book is about a gay teen who is a devout Christian, and struggling to reconcile those two things. We first meet Jonathan at the beginning of a month long bible camp. At the beginning of the story, Jonathan is aware of his feelings for guys, but not too eager to try and understand them. We’re also introduced to Ian, the love interest, quite early. Ian, we learn, is also gay and is much more outspoken about gay rights. The beginning of Jonathan’s friendship with Ian is the catalyst to him really discovering his sexuality and forcing him to come to terms with what it means for him and his faith.

 

In a previous post, I mentioned how this book reminded me of fan fiction. That is not a diss at all– if you look down on fan fiction, you probably have never read a really really good one. The thing about fan fiction, is that it talks about sex in a very honest (and yes, explicit,) way. And because of this, it can show what consent and safety looks like, what the repercussions and aftereffects can be, better than anything else. That’s what made me reckon this book to fan fiction: the honesty with with Rich talks about sex. 

 

Two of the main supporting characters were a Native American woman, and a disabled man. I was happy when they came into the story, because all too often gay white boys become the face of diversity, and Caught in the Crossfire avoided that pitfall. The thing that made me particularly happy was that they weren’t given worth simply because a white guy decided to like them. They were fully formed characters who held their own space, and even gave HIM worth with their gazes. But it was also very clear they had lives of their own, outside of helping Jonathan– which is not only realistic, but also very respectful and unfortunately not often done.

 

Along the same lines, in many love stories between two guys, there’s always a female that falls into the “desperate cock-blocking bitch.” While there was a girl in this story that was interested in Jonathan, I think you would have to stretch very far to throw that at her.

 

This is an important book because although I’ve seen queer characters struggle with their sexuality because they’re in religious families, most of them at the end abandon the religion, and in some cases their entire religious community. Which isn’t to say that path is wrong– It’s just important to have stories about the kids who decide to go a different way. Although I think this is a book anyone would like, it’s an important book for queer teens growing up in Christian families, and the people who make up those families. Having gone through a situation like that myself, I found myself wishing I had this book four years ago so I could hand it to all my Christian friends.

 

A new era of Gay YA has come, that have queer characters that aren’t defined solely by their queerness. Caught in the Crossfire definitely falls into that camp. I don’t know how that’s possible, because Jonathan’s sexuality is sort of a huge part of the book, but somehow, he’s never defined solely or even predominately by his sexuality. Which was pretty cool, because like, as a queer teen, yes there is a lot I’m still exploring and some of my life is revolving around that, but not enough that it becomes the sole part of who I am.

 

And aside from all of that, the story was beautifully written and highly enjoyable. Usually in first person POV, I begin to feel like I’m in the author’s head instead of the characters– that didn’t happen with this book. I’d go so far as to say that this is the best first person POV I’ve ever read. Jonathan’s voice never wavered. The other character’s voices were also extremely clear and consistent. Juliann somehow mastered the art of capturing distinctly different voices without bogging the dialogue down with speech tics: I found that I always knew who was speaking before I read the tag.

 

The plot clipped along at a nice pace and no part of it felt like it dragged or was rushed. The description Juliann used really made me feel like I was there, seeing all of it. The characters were lovable and realistic, and all went on amazing journeys.

 

When I first picked up Caught in the Crossfire I honestly didn’t expect much from something so thin, but it took me places I did not expect. I read it in two days. I cried three times. And I would definitely recommend it. I can’t wait to read the sequel Searching for Grace when it comes out this September!

 

Book Review written by Victoria, co-webmistress of GayYA.org, and was originally posted at http://www.gayya.org/?p=724

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