One True Way

One True Way

“There will come a time when everybody who is lonely Will be free to sing and dance and love” --Frank Zappa, March 1968

On Monday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal law already prohibits anti-gay employment discrimination. Its 10-3 decision in Zarda v. Altitude Express is a landmark victory for gay rights, affirming the growing judicial consensus that sexual orientation discrimination constitutes discrimination ‘because of sex.’” --Slate, February 2018

Do you remember your first crush?

“I was changing in all sorts of ways. The girl who had moved to North Carolina six weeks earlier would have never climbed on a horse’s back. That girl would have been too afraid. I felt like Wonder Woman’s kid sister! I leaned against the fence while Sam turned Penny out to pasture. I watched while she closed the gate and walked toward me. Somehow in that moment, I understood why I was jealous of Phoebe and irritated by poor Webb. I knew why I had raced to answer the phone, and why I could hardly wait to see Sam each day. I liked her. I had a crush on her. It was, to borrow a word from Webb...stupendous! ‘Why do you look so serious?’ Sam asked. I reached into my back pocket and handed her the gold yarn friendship bracelet. ‘I made it out of school colors for you. Phoebe showed me how.’ Sam slipped it onto her wrist. ‘See? A perfect fit.’ I reached out and touched her arm just above the bracelet. ‘Do you like Phoebe more than me?’ ‘I like all my friends.’ But that wasn’t what I was asking. Sam turned and stared directly into my eyes. ‘I don’t like anybody as much as you.’ My heart hammered so hard I could barely breathe.”

ONE TRUE WAY takes place during the fall of 1977, back in the Stone Age of LGBTQ rights. It’s narrated by twelve-year-old Allie Drake, whose big brother’s recent death in an auto accident has led to her parent’s breakup and, in turn, to her mother relocating with Allie to North Carolina. There, at Daniel Boone Middle School, Allie meets the popular and athletic Samantha (Sam) Johnson. Sam has known that she’s gay since experiencing a crush in second grade.

ONE TRUE WAY is framed around a trio of same-sex relationships: Allie’s paternal uncle Jeffrey and his male partner, neither of whom we meet, live together up north. Coach Murphy and English teacher Miss Holt, we learn, are secretly a lesbian couple. And, potentially, Allie and Sam.

There is plenty of parental tension: Sam’s fundamentalist parents consider homosexuals to be perverts and abominations, and they already suspect the truth about their daughter. Allie’s parents are living a thousand miles apart and Allie is longing for a reconciliation.

Allie briefly experiments with trying to think and act heterosexual, but it’s clear that she can’t rewire herself to conform. Fortunately for Allie and Sam, there are a lot of enlightened and supportive adults in this otherwise backward, rural, 1970’s town. Unfortunately, two of those supporters are Coach Murphy and Miss Holt who are being forced out of their jobs, having been offered a good recommendation in exchange for going away.

Interestingly, in doing a bit of research on the subject, I learned that a few months after this story is set, President Jimmy Carter traveled to California and spoke out against the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays, lesbians, and anyone who spoke out in favor of gay rights from teaching in California public schools. Fortunately, it failed.

I can recall, at the end of sixth grade, feeling something special toward a girl for the first time. I’ve often wondered what it was like for my grown-up gay and lesbian friends to first realize that they were attracted to those of the same sex. There aren’t many age-appropriate stories for upper elementary and middle school students that explore this aspect of coming of age.

It’s fulfilling, in the wake of last week’s landmark judicial decision, to be able to read about the past, know that the law is henceforth on the side of fairness and inclusivity, and recognize that--at least in large swaths of America--middle school kids coming to know themselves today don’t have to face what high school friends of mine faced back in our day.

Nevertheless, in her Afterword, the author cites a source stating that “‘suicide is the leading cause of death among Gay and Lesbian youth nationally.’” Not only is it essential that young people have the opportunity to see themselves in books like this, but it is important for the rest of us to become enlightened about what they are experiencing.

224 pages   978-1-338-18172-2    Ages 12 - 14

Recommended by;  Richie Partington, MLIS, California, USA

See more of his recommendations:  http://richiespicks.pbworks.com

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