Queer 13: Lesbian And Gay Writers Recall Seventh Grade

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9780688158118: Queer 13: Lesbian And Gay Writers Recall Seventh Grade

Forward by Dale Peck

Seventh grade: You remember it, don't you? Sweet sixteen seemed impossibly far away, an elegant, unattainable future. All that we had was the doldrums of thirteen -- not so sweet, and definitely queer.

Now, some of the finest observers of the gay experience take us back to the homerooms and hallways of our youth, in a collection of original essays that captures that time of adolescence when social and sexual development was at its raging worst.

From gym class to kissing parties, obsessive crushes to after-school pummelings, every day held the possibility of discovery -- and complete humiliation. For those of us who are gay, our sexuality added another twist, that extra little way we didn't quite fit in. It was a time of becoming who we truly are, a passage into adulthood that was as memorable as it was agonizing. Queer 13 tells these tales of teenage trauma -- from funny to painful, reflective to literary -- all ringing with the universal truths of a poignant, extraordinary time.

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Review:

It's probably a healthy sign that the autobiographical essays collected in Queer 13 display not only relief and anger, but nostalgia. Most of the contributors, including well-known writers like Wayne Kostenbaum (The Queen's Throat) and Rebecca Brown (The Terrible Girls), have overcome the stigma they felt in junior high. When they look back now at their sufferings, they're also able to recall moments of pure, unthreatened pleasure--although, having found the courage they once lacked, they tend to criticize their younger selves for having pandered to repressive parents or playground tyrants. It may be inevitable that these stories have a shared aura of sadness, since the universal experience of junior high seems to be bleak and crushing, but there are other commonalities that emerge: the "gay" childhood friend, for instance, who gets mercilessly dropped, or the casual cruelties of physical education. Some of the most affecting pieces are by writers who were battling other differences in addition to their sexuality, such as Rebecca Zinoric's "Becky's Pagination," about the indignities of being given special education because she was legally blind, and Marcus Mabry's lovely "Mud Pies and Medusa," about growing up black and gay. --Regina Marler

About the Author:

Clifford Chase is the author of The Hurry-Up Song: A Memoir of Losing My Brother. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, Out, The Village Voice, Poz, Nerve, and Bookforum, as well as in such anthologies as A Member of the Family, Men on Men 5, and Sister and Brother. He lives in Brooklyn.

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