Hello my lovely friends and welcome to reading week, where everything’s made up and how long you consecutively wear pj’s doesn’t matter.
A few weeks ago I finished the book When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid and then subsequently began my one-woman campaign to ensure that every living soul in Canada read this novel. In case you haven’t read it, the synopsis on the back cover reads:
“School is just like a film set: there’s The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn’t fit in. He’s not part of The Crew because he isn’t about to do anything unless it’s court-appointed; he’s not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he’s not a Movie Star because even though everyone know his name like an A-lister, he isn’t invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire.
Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favourite co-star Luke Morris. It’s a total train wreck!
But train wrecks always make the front page.”
This novel, in short, is the story of Jude, an openly gay teenager who loves to wear his mother’s clothes and has a particular flare with makeup but, not surprisingly, isn’t exactly well received by his peers. He uses connections to movie sets and stardom as an escape from his otherwise disjointed, painful, and challenging life. Jude’s point of view is jarring, rude, and delightfully convincing, and consistent.
Unfortunately, this novel has not been received in a universally positive light. As we saw in class, there has been backlash against the novel in an attempt to remove it from the Canada Reads list. I wonder, as I think many advocates of the novel have, why it is being criticized in this way.
Is it because Jude’s narration is rude and uses language that we, as adults, may not want around our children?
Or is it because we as a society are still not willing to accept the narration of a homosexual hero in a world that challenges our preconceptions of right and wrong, weird and acceptable?
YA novels delving into the themes of sex, growing up, broken families, coercive friendships, drugs, alcohol, and bullying are commonplace. Protagonists might use foul language, outline their sexual experiences, and challenge their situations and surrounding society and we don’t even bat an eye. It’s normal. It’s part of growing up.
But what if our protagonist is homosexual? What if his sexual encounters involve situations that challenge our heteronormative point of view? What if he has sexual fantasies about his male, married teacher? What if his crush is in a relatively functional, heterosexual relationship where Jude’s attention isn’t wanted? What if Jude knows something about his crush that we, as a society, aren’t comfortable with accepting? What if he’s gay too?
And, what if the ending leaves you torn apart and trying to reattach the shambles of your preconceived idea of who is right and wrong? What if it forces you to rewrite your entire worldview?
This novel’s messages are as challenging as they are important. They may be wrapped in language that seems a little excessive, but there are more important things at stake here than a couple of foul words. LGBT adolescents all over the world depend on us as a society changing our opinions of what is normal and acceptable. I hope to see the day when this book is not controversial and the ending doesn’t shock the reader into reevaluating their priorities. I hope our children grow up in a world that is 100% accepting of differences.
But we aren’t there yet. Which is why every person needs to read this book.
Anyone else read this novel? Thoughts?
Any other examples of censorship of novels that refuse to conform to sexual norms?
~Cayley van Aken~
(Reid, Raziel. When Everything Feels Like The Movies. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014. Print.)