Feb 25, 2014

Gay Tales from Junior High English Class

When I was going to Washington Junior High, I read science fiction, heroic fantasy, and maybe some jungle adventures.  Unfortunately, my English teachers -- Miss Dunn, Miss Sunstrom, and Mrs. Wood -- invariably believed that such stories were bad for kids, infantile trash that warped your brain.

Miss Dunn, at least, assigned some Westerns, boring but with muscular, shirtless boys on the cover:

The Pearl (John Steinbeck, 1947).  Pearl fisherman finds a pearl.

The Mallory Burn (Pete Pomeroy, 1971).  I didn't get past the front cover, so I still don't know what a "mallory burn" is.

The Legend of Billy Bluesage (Johnreid Laurentzen, 1961): Boy befriends Billy and warns the villagers about an Indian attack.

Stolen by the Indians (Dorothy Heiderstadt, 1968).  12 stories of kids stolen by Indians.  Most like Indian society better.  I guess -- I only got through a few.

Miss Sunstrom and Mrs. Wood condemned Westerns, too.  You should be reading about real kids with the same problems you have.  Sort of.

A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Sandwich: a boy in the ghetto becomes a drug addict.

Go Ask Alice: a girl in a sanitarium struggles to become sane.

To Kill a Mockingbird: a girl in the rural South learns about prejudice.

Or...I could read about a space cadet exploring Venus, or a quest to find a magic sword and defeat the Dark Lord!

Even worse: those "real kids" invariably "discovered" the opposite sex, agonized over dates, went steady, fell in love.

West Side Story/Romeo and Juliet: packaged together so we could see the parallels between the heterosexual loves from rival gangs.

Mr and Mrs Bo Jo Jones: A teenage boy gets his girlfriend pregnant, and marries her, to resultant conflict.

But occasionally, in spite of the teachers' concerted effort, a Realistic Novel had some gay subtexts.

Golden Gloves Challenger.  A boy joins the Golden Gloves boxing club, and clobbers his former bully.  They become friends.  He starts winning competitions, with his friend to cheer him on.  Lots of buddy-bonding and descriptions of sleek hard muscles.

And one that I can't remember the title or the author:

A boy is blinded in an accident.  He goes to a School for the Blind, where he meets a boy who has been blind since birth.  He starts swimming and begins winning competitions, with his friend to cheer him on.  Lots of buddy-bonding and descriptions of sleek hard muscles.

I've looked everywhere, on Google Books, Amazon, and WorldCat.  But the book that was the biggest evocation of same-sex desire in my childhood remains a mystery.

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