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Two Terrific Reads for Coming Out Day with Strong LGBTQ Representation by TJ Klune: The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door

11 Oct

October 11 is Coming Out Day; a day that celebrates the ability for LGBTQ people to be open about their identities.  I wanted to pick an author who was not only proudly part of the community, but also one whose work had strong LGBTQ representation, and Lambda Literary Award Winner, TJ Klune, seemed the perfect choice.

The House in the Cerulean Sea
I picked up The House in the Cerulean Sea after it was recommended during a webinar about gentle reads, stories that lack graphic sex and violence and often have a theme of finding ones place in life.  Like a lot of us after 2020, I was in need of a book that was the equivalent of a friendly hug for my heart and the whimsical plot of the novel also sounded very much in my wheel house.  The book, however, was even better than I expected; probably one of my favorites of last year. 

The House in the Cerulean Sea tells the story of a very by the book middle aged case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth who is sent to an orphanage on an island in the middle of the sea where magical youths like a gnome and a wyvern live and flourish under the care of Arthur Parnassus, but Arthur is hiding secrets and as they unravel Linus questions his own views and choices. 

In a Nerd Daily Interview, Klune stated, “The found family trope is important to me, not just as a writer, but as a queer person. Queer people sometimes have to make families of their own because their real families don’t appreciate them as they should.” Love blossoms between Arthur and Linus, but the resonating messages about friendship, compassion, open-mindedness, belonging, and acceptance give it further resonance; though for those looking for a sweet m/m romance story, it is also a resounding success.

There is a satisfying ending, but I hope that Klune revisits some of the world he created in the future.

Under the Whispering Door
Under the Whispering Door came out this past month.  I was eagerly looking forward to it after my enjoyment of Klune’s previous work.  Under the Whispering Door bears several similarities to The House in the Cerulean Sea, the main character, a work obsessed lawyer, Wallace is similar to Linus in that he seems an unlikely protagonist for a novel, more likely in another work to be a small side character for comic relief or to be pushed aside for someone more dashing or heroic.   For me that is part of the charm of both stories, that Linus and Wallace journey shows their inner strengths and compassion, and it gives hope for all of us out there who feel on most days that we are decidedly average. 

The cast of the supporting characters in this one as well as quirky setting of a charming tea house, and the tender romance are also equally delightful.  As a tea fanatic myself, I’d love to be able to visit a tea shop like the one described in the novel with such a knowledgeable staff and tender scones. 

It is also always wonderful to see strong representation of not only gay, but also bisexual characters handled in such a nuanced manner with Wallace and Hugo.  In an interview with Syfi Wire when asked about having Wallace be confident in his bisexual identity, Klune stated “”I try to be as inclusive as possible.  So if I’m going to have a character be bisexual, it’s going to be damn well on-page that they’re bisexual.  It is going to be said out loud because that kind of representation it’s still not where it needs to be.  And it just feels like a lot of times when you read queer romance novels that instead of being on-page bisexual, [it’s that] they’re straight and now they’re gay. Bisexual people exist.”

Wallace’s tale is a bit darker in that it involves death and discussions of murder and suicide, however, these are handled in a thoughtful and reflective way rather than pure shock value.  This is another novel that will leave you wanting to check out more of Klune’s work.  

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Resources

LGBTQ Comedies through the Decades: Torch Song Trilogy, But I’m a Cheerleader, and GBF

18 Aug

August is LGBTQ Pride Month in Hoboken and as in June we have lots to celebrate as we look back on the struggles that have been overcome and the many accomplishments of the LGBTQ community.  For this post I wanted to look at three movies that use humor as a way to engage audiences, poke fun at stereotypes, and show the ridiculousness of certain theories/practices.

Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
Torch Song Trilogy is a comedy-drama adaption by Harvey Fierstein of his award winning play.  The film stars Fierstein, Anne Bancroft, and Matthew Broderick.  Torch Song Trilogy is set over three distinct time periods as it follows the life and loves of a witty NYC drag queen & torch song singer as he copes with his ex-lover, his mother and adjusting to life with his adoptive teenage son.  The film and play shed light on issues like gay adoption before they were commonly widely discussed.  Available to borrow from BCCLS Libraries.

In honor of Hoboken’s Pride Month, the Hoboken Public Library, will present a staged reading of the Tony Award-winning comedy/ drama on Saturday, August 28 at 3:00 pm.  The cast features Broadway, Film and TV actors Sidney Myer, Michael Stever, Logann Grayce and Hoboken’s own Florence Pape who will perform this funny and sometimes intense staged reading. Registration is required and seating is limited.

Also for Hoboken’s Pride, singer and musician Andrew Schwarz will present a solo concert titled “EltonJohnish” on Saturday, August 21 at 2:00 pm in the Church Square Park Gazebo.

But I’m a Cheerleader (2000)
Netflix recently came out with a documentary, Pray Away, about the “conversion therapy” movement, but for a fictionalized subversive take on the movement bridging the 90’s and 00’s,  there was But I’m a Cheerleader.  Popular teen, Megan (Natasha Lyonne) loves cheerleading, however, her parents are suspicious that despite Megan’s protests that she might be a lesbian.  They send her off to a summer camp that promises to have her acting more “straight.”  Of course things don’t go as planned when Megan meets the intriguing Graham played by Clea Duvall.  Although the film from 2000, is a lot of campy fun, there is a seriousness to the fact that real people were pushed into harmful “conversion therapy” which still persisted into the early millennium. Available to stream from Kanopy and on DVD and Blu-Ray from BCCLS Libraries.

GBF (2014)
GBF in the mid 10’s, sought to skewer stereotypes of what it means to be gay including the token gay best friend character that had sprung up over the years as the needed accessory for any fashionable straight woman.  Two gay NJ teens: Brent (Paul Iacono), who wants to be outed as a road to popularity and another Tanner (Michael J. Willett), who would prefer to stay closeted, find their roles reversed.  Coincidentally Natasha Lyonne also stars in the film as a teacher. Although LGBTQ rights have come a long way, high school and growing up are never easy.  In the spirit of Mean Girls and Clueless, GBF pokes fun at being both a modern gay and straight teen.  Available to stream from Hoopla.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

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