Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Clean Sweep: Mini-Review Edition

So many books.  Can't keep up.  Reading intensely for A More Diverse Universe.  Behind on blogging.  Round up post!

Rapture Practice, by Aaron Hartzler, is subtitled A True Story about Growing up Gay in an Evangelical Family, which to some extent wraps it all up, and to another extent is misleading.  Aaron Hartzler is definitely gay, and he definitely grew up in an evangelical family, but that's not really the focus of the book.  It's more about growing up as a normal, open-minded person in an evangelical family.  At the end of the book, Aaron is graduating from high school, and he's only begun to admit to himself that the idea of "gay" might have something to do with him.

Most of the book is about being someone who loves the arts--movies, plays, and acting; singing, playing, and listening to music--and is held back at every turn. His parents instill him with a love of music, and prevent him from playing anything but conservative Christian music (Christian rock is unacceptable, as are more traditional songs by artists who also perform Christian rock).  He is pulled from his Christian high school to go to a more Christian Christian school, where the cheerleaders can't show their knees. Aaron finds space to be himself--he sneaks to movies, buys Wilson Phillips and Amy Grant tapes, drinks at the house of a friend whose piety he has described to his parents in perhaps inaccurate terms.

This book was so much better than I expect from your typical growing up Christian memoir, especially since it doesn't really break the mold in any specific way.  It's really an account of his family life, his friends and school, and how his thought process worked as he began to recognize the edges of the small world he was raised in.  But his assessments of everything are so clear-eyed, and his generosity toward everyone, even when they're wrong and damaging, is really remarkable.  He loves his parents, but even more than that, he sees them truly--sees their fear for him, their true faith, and their own love for him.  His descriptions of all his relationships with his peers are also perfect--he describes dating girls and friendships with boys, but the attention and care and emotional intimacy in his male relationships is noticeable long before the idea that he might be gay arises explicitly in the story.  If you like this type of memoir, this one is absolutely worth reading.

Emily Carroll's Through the Woods is a set of stories, a comic, really, but something simpler and infinitely creepier.  It's like Charles Addams and Edward Gorey and H.P. Lovecraft got together to work on the haunted house this Halloween.  That was the most scared I've been from a book in my memory since reading Stephen King at 14 years old.  Each story is small, each one builds, and most of them are just...eerie. 

I don't know if I can explain it.  But I found her website, which has a bunch of her other stories, and they pretty much capture the feeling perfectly--that place where unsettling turns to horrifying.  Delightful and gruesome.  I think my favorite might be "His Face All Red," which is also on her site.  At the very beginning--"that man is not my brother"--chills.  Very highly recommended.

....And now Goodreads is crashing on me and it's past my bedtime and I can't remember any of the other books I've read lately.  Godspeed and more posts Friday.

No comments: