28 May 2007

Unexpected but pleasant surprise.

I spend quite a bit of time cruising my local chain bookstores. We have a Barnes & Noble and a Borders, not far away is a Joseph Beth Bookseller. They're nice and all, but kind of homogeneous.

Used to be there was a great independent bookseller located not far from where I live now, in a rambling old house. Books could be found shelved on every available surface, including on shelves over the toilet in the bathroom. Sci-Fi/Fantasy was in the basement, cookbooks near the back door, horror lined both staircases. It closed not long after Barnes & Noble came to town. I miss it; they introduced me to some of my favorite authors, it was there that I first found Anne McCaffrey. They even introduced me to lots of other things I'd never have picked up, published by alternative presses, things written by folks that I'd have never been exposed to otherwise.

I was in Barnes & Noble over the weekend, looking for presents for a birthday party. Going into ANY bookstore is dangerous for me. I love to read, and while my interests focus on the universes created by authors who write about dragons and spaceships, I'll read just about anything. Biographies, non-fiction, cookbooks...I think I've written about this before, so I'll stop walking that same path. The point is: I like to read. I will "lose" time in a bookstore, wandering the stacks, picking up random things, reading them 'for just a second' and suddenly I'll look at my watch and three hours has gone by. Ooops. The same thing happens to me in libraries.

At a display table near the children's section, a powder-blue paperback cover caught my eye. While the expression says that you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, we all do. Interesting artwork on a book's cover will always catch my eye. This one has three of those Valentine's candy hearts, with the words, "Boy Meets Boy" in the center of each heart, on that powder blue field. Nothing else. A wee bit jarring in its simplicity, surrounded by books for teens about cliques and whatever other tosh is popular that show girls dressed in the latest styles, mice with swords, elaborate and eye-catching designs.

I read about three chapters before I remembered that I had somewhere specific to be at a scheduled time, so I reluctantly put it down and found birthday presents. But the memory of those three chapters has stayed with me, and I almost need to go back and either read the rest of it or just buy it.

I'm surprised about the book's subject matter being so openly, prominently, displayed in my very conservative community. It is a high school love story, yes, but the principal characters are gay. I'm thrilled that it wasn't on a low shelf somewhere, wrapped in plain brown paper, because that's the way things would normally be handled around here.

The world inhabited by the central characters is devoid of homophobia, in fact the principal character talks about setting up a Gay-Straight Alliance in junior high school. Progressive, to say the least. Surprising, and refreshing.

It isn't like this kind of thing is difficult to find in the information age. The internet can lead you to anything you'd like, as long as you know how to search. Back when I was in high school, though, there weren't romance novels for gay kids, or any kind of resources for them. Not a single one of my contemporaries was openly gay in high school. In the several years its been since I graduated, though, several of them have come out. It goes without saying that most of them have chosen to move on, to bigger cities, where people aren't so incredibly intolerant. Ohio's "Defense of Marriage" constitutional amendment, passed recently, would have been enough for me to leave the state, were I gay. As it is, it just makes me embarrassed to be from Ohio.

As I walked out, wondering if B&N had been infected with the spirits of those independent booksellers I miss so much, I spotted someone who I know used to work in that rambling old house. He smiled and waved, recognizing me. Aha! Influence only for the good.


Dawna said...

I used to read a comic called Boy Meets Boy. http://boymeetsboy.keenspot.com/

The art wasn't all that fantastic, but it was interesting all at the same time. *shrugs* You'd have to scroll down the page to see it, and the comic that is posted is its last one, but of course, you can always click the "first" button to start reading.

Lucy Arin said...

I did check that out, it is cute.

I didn't think the book's title was original, by a long shot, but it is attention-getting, isn't it?