Through the luck of the library hold list draw I went from reading an ARC of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan to a library copy of Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I think I had tears in my eyes the entire time I read these books back to back.
Two Boys Kissing a a teen novel about a couple of gay teens trying to win the world record for the longest kiss. In the hands of David Levithan, one of my personal favorite YA writers, the story becomes about more than winning a record or about making a statement about gay rights. He uses an unusual narrator to tell a larger story. Our storyteller is an omniscient view from the collective voice of gay men who have passed. They watch the characters being so open with their sexuality and speak of their experiences before being out was okay, before AIDS was a thing. It was very powerful, and it is easily one of my favorite books of the year.
Then I picked up Tell the Wolves I’m Home from the library. I’d been waiting for the book for months, and it seemed serendipitous that it arrived in my hands when it did. This book is set in the 1980’s, when AIDS was just beginning to be a thing. June’s uncle whose relationship to the family is strained because he was gay has just died, and June is devastated. She tries to understand the choices her family made. But it’s hard to make sense of why we choose to cut off the ones we love the most when they make choices we don’t understand.
I was reminded of these words from the collective narrator of Two Boys Kissing (quoted from ARC):
“So many of us had to make our own families. So many of us had to pretend when we were home. So many of us had to leave. But every single one of us wishes we hadn’t had to. Every single one of us wishes our family had acted like our family, that even when we found a new family, we hadn’t had to leave the other one behind. Every single one of us would have loved to have been loved unconditionally by our parents.”
It’s gotten better for LGBT kids, I think. I hope. But I know that there are still some who have to deal with families who want nothing to do with them. It breaks my heart to think about the people I know personally who are separated from their families for reasons like this.
Stories like these make me hug my daughter tightly and promise to love her no matter what. I hope she knows that she can make different choices than the ones I made without fear of losing us. We will always act like her family.