April is LGBT-month with LauraPlusBooks and FightingDreamer. Although I am studying VERY HARD (I really am), I wanted to get this post in really quickly. I realised a while ago that I haven’t read that many LGBT books. I’ve read quite a few where a secondary character is LGBT (The Mortal Instruments, Mara Dyer, etc) and quite a few short-story collections, like Yes, I am! and OMG QUEER. Then there was Every Day (which is kind of, I don’t know, pansexual?) and Luna.
Recently I read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. It was incredible (not quite a five-star read, due to some issues I have with the final bit of the book) and while reading I kept thinking how this narrative felt to me like a revolution not only in LGBT writing, but YA in general.
I don’t want to say too much and risk spoilers, because it’s so easy to ruin awesome parts of the book. Essentially, Ari and Dante begin a strange friendship one summer. They are both loners and a little different. They talk about books and poetry (FTW!) and their difficulties in navigating family life as teenagers. They are both Mexican-American, and the book also addresses their accompanying identity issues.
What I’m trying to illustrate is that there is more than LGBT to this book. Our lives do not revolve only around our sexual orientations, and Aristotle and Dante is a beautiful example thereof. Some of the most beautiful parts of this book have less EXCLUSIVE relevance to LGBT-life and more relevance to life in general, regardless of sexual orientation.
I’m going to make that an extended metaphor and say that it goes to show how we are NOT all that different. Our orientations and races and histories may be different, but that our lives are multifaceted and complex and bear relevance to one another’s: that is not different. That’s just my musing and I’m sure some might take offense to it, but I think that is a piece to the puzzle of acceptance.
There is a place for coming-out stories. There is a place for the sturm und drang of accepting and being accepted. But there is also a place for the kind of story that Ari and Dante have, and that is more than a coming-out story. (You should read this post by author Kelley York about why she doesn’t usually write coming-out stories.)
In the end, Ari and Dante’s identities form a big part of the book: their sexual identities, but also their identities in relation to one another, their families and their society. And that is something beautiful.
(On the book itself: I thought it had great character development and beautiful writing. Sometimes I wondered about the dialogue being a bit far-fetched, but I can’t honestly say that it bothered me all that much.)