Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellWith this Inside Reader List serial I wanted to accomplish two purposes, giving the chance to non-author readers to know a little better their favorite authors, and the favorite books of these authors, and also giving the chance to all the spectrum of the LGBT fiction world to have a dispay window. Catherine Ryan Hyde was an author I discovered through the Top 100 Gay Books list I'm maintaining, Becoming Chloe is part of it, but Catherine Ryan Hyde is also the author of Transgender novel, like the her new book, Jumpstart the World. So please welcome Catherine Ryan Hyde and her list.
Catherine Ryan Hyde's Inside Reader List (LGBT)
Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown
To me, Rubyfruit Jungle was the opening act of the Renaissance in LGBT lit. Before that, I was at the library searching out dusty tomes from the 20s and 30s like “The Well of Loneliness,” and then, wholly unable to get through them, trying to decide if they were more boring or more depressing (hint: sometimes it’s a tie). Rubyfruit Jungle was different. It was alive. It was normal. It was like opening a window and letting air into a painfully stuffy room. I breathed as if I hadn’t breathed in years. I probably hadn’t. I was about 18 when this novel came to be. I would have liked it a couple of years earlier. Better late than never.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Bantam; 18th mass market printing edition (April 1, 1983)
Amazon: Rubyfruit Jungle
Bawdy and moving, the ultimate word-of-mouth bestseller, Rubyfruit Jungle is about growing up a lesbian in America--and living happily ever after.
Dissonance, by Lisa Lenard-Cook
This is a rather lesser-known title. I might not have known about it had I not been asked to blurb it. And even in places where it’s known, it might not tend to be shelved under LGBT fiction. But it deserves to be. I can’t tell you too much about why, because it would be a spoiler. Let’s just call it a fabulous, on-the-literary-side novel with a lovely LGBT payoff as icing on the cake.
Hardcover: 196 pages
Publisher: University of New Mexico Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2003)
Amazon: Dissonance: A Novel
When Anna Kramer, a piano teacher in Los Alamos, New Mexico, inherits the journals and scores of composer Hana Weissova, she is mystified by this bequest from a woman she does not know. As Kramer begins to play Weissova's music, however, some of her forgotten emotions resurface. Upon reading the dead woman's journals, which begin in 1945 after Weissova is released from a concentration camp, decades-old secrets that Kramer and her family have kept buried are uncovered.
Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, by Stephen Cope
Also lesser known, and nonfiction. Is that cheating? Oh, well. Doing it anyway. This is an amazing chronicle of self-discovery by a Western-trained psychotherapist who stepped out of the larger world to live and teach at Kripalu, the largest Yoga center in America. An interest in Yoga is not necessary to enjoy it, but might help. Those comfortable with the unexamined life need not apply. That its author is openly and comfortably gay felt like a plus to me.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bantam (September 5, 2000)
Amazon: Yoga and the Quest for the True Self
Millions of Americans know yoga as a superb form of exercise and as a potent source of calm in our stress-filled lives. Far fewer are aware of the full promise of yoga as a 4,000-year-old practical path of liberation--a path that fits the needs of modern Western seekers with startling precision. Now Stephen Cope, a Western-trained psychotherapist who has lived and taught for more than ten years at the largest yoga center in America, offers this marvelously lively and irreverent "pilgrim's progress" for today's world. He demystifies the philosophy, psychology, and practice of yoga, and shows how it applies to our most human dilemmas: from loss, disappointment, and addiction, to the eternal conflicts around sex and relationship. And he shows us that in yoga, "liberation" does not require us to leave our everyday lives for some transcendent spiritual plane--life itself is the path. Above all, Cope shows how yoga can heal the suffering of self-estrangement that pervades our society, leading us to a new sense of purpose and to a deeper, more satisfying life in the world.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Through most of this book, I was awed and in love with my reading experience. Closer to the end, I felt the narration had remained a bit unfocused. And yet it’s still in my top ten. Because it made me hurt. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. There’s something so beautifully lonely about a boy who writes his innermost thoughts to a relative stranger (who remains unidentified). What the Japanese call “the perfect sadness of being human,” or something like it. I apologize if I’ve butchered the expression. But Charlie’s narration makes my teeth hurt, and you don’t get that from a book every day. Hell, you don’t get that from a book every decade.
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 213 pages
Publisher: MTV; Original edition (February 1, 1999)
Amazon: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Standing on the fringes of life... offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.
Scars, by Cheryl Rainfield
A terrific YA novel, really about abuse and self-harm, by an author who knows of what she speaks. What’s nice is that her main character is a lesbian, and her main character’s best adult friends are a successful example of a gay couple. And we are not led to believe that she’s a lesbian “because of the abuse.” She just is, and the book doesn’t have to revolve around it. But I like the fact that her sweet, budding relationship with a female classmate is the light against an otherwise dark (until she finds her way through) backdrop.
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 250 pages
Publisher: Westside Books; First edition (March 24, 2010)
Kendra, fifteen, hasn't felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse, especially because she still can't remember the most important detail-- her abuser's identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it's her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who's becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra's abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences. Scars is the unforgettable story of one girl's frightening path to the truth.
Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters
This is a guilty pleasure. To put it mildly. I feel guilty adding it here. Why? I don’t know. It’s “not the sort of book” I usually read. Sounds like a person objecting to the person their son or daughter brings home and then trying to pass it off as something other than prejudice. Okay, I’ll say it straight out. Maybe a bit fluffy. But it was fun. It was just fun, damn it. It was approximately the size and weight of an anvil, and I raced through it in about three sittings. And if it crossed over for me, it might cross over for anybody. PS: Did I mention it’s a guilty pleasure?
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Trade (May 1, 2000)
Amazon: Tipping the Velvet: A Novel
This stunning and steamy debut chronicles the adventures of Nan King, a small-town girl at the turn of the century whose life takes a wild turn of its own when she follows a local music hall star to London...
Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan
Part of me just loves this YA book. Another part of me nurses a slight reservation. But it’s groundbreaking, and deserves mention. And deserves to be read. My reservation? It’s so…happy. No, that’s not quite the word. Because there’s teen angst. But it’s set in a high school, and being out and gay just doesn’t seem like an issue. Part of me finds this hugely refreshing, because it should be that way. Part of me steps back and comments that it isn’t…yet. But maybe we need to see the image of this world in a book before it can come true. I’m very glad David Levithan wrote it.
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (May 10, 2005)
Amazon: Boy Meets Boy
This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance. When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right. This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.
Angels in America by Tony Kuschner
Another major cheat, because it’s really not a book at all. It’s a play. And I saw it as a multi-part (six-hour, I think) movie on HBO. But it is LGBT fiction. And it’s the only thing I could come up with that I feel is a genuine masterpiece in every sense of the word. The Kaddish for Roy Cohn is worth the price of admission all by itself (but only in full context). This one has everything. I just don’t know what else I can say.
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Theatre Communications Group; 1 edition (November 1, 2003)
Amazon: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Part One: Millennium Approaches Part Two: Perestroika
HBO Films will present Angels in America, directed by Mike Nichols from Tony Kushner’s own adaptation of his Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. The remarkable cast features Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary Louise Parker, Jeffrey Wright, Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, Patrick Wilson, James Cromwell, Michael Gambon and Simon Callow. Angels in America is one of the most remarkable and celebrated plays of our time. Over 350,000 copies have been sold in paperback since their original publication in 1993.
Lesbian/Woman by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon
Here’s a history lesson for you. I wonder how many of the people who read this will have even heard of this book. I guess you have to be “of an age,” like me. But it was absolutely groundbreaking. A nonfiction account of the (very) early gay and lesbian rights movement, written by the two women who were (much later) the first to be married by Gavin Newsom in San Francisco. By then they had been together for over 50 years. This tells their earlier story, and much more, and used copies can still be had at the online book sellers. A look at where we’ve been.
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Volcano Pr; 20 Anv Sub edition (November 1991)
About Catherine Ryan Hyde: Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 16 published and forthcoming books, and is therefore perplexed over being known almost entirely for the 11-year-old Pay It Forward. Actually, she wouldn’t mind being known only for that one book, but being known for its less-than-faithful movie adaptation is often profoundly depressing. She tries to be cheerful about this turn of events, but notes that some days are harder than others.
The books she wants to be known for include (but are not limited to) Becoming Chloe, Love in the Present Tense, The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance, Chasing Windmills, The Day I Killed James, and Diary of a Witness.
In the UK, where she’s noticeably more famous than in her home country, she is also known for the novels When I Found You and the brand new Second Hand Heart.
She wouldn’t mind being known for her short stories, not one bit. More than 50 have been published in The Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train and numerous other journal. Many have received honors and awards.
Her newest novel is Jumpstart the World, a Young Adult novel on the subject of transgender. She hopes to be known for Jumpstart the World in the foreseeable future, which, considering its early reception, is not outside the realm of possibility.
Oh, yes. And she also wrote Pay It Forward.
Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 12, 2010)
Amazon: Jumpstart the World
Elle is a loner. She doesn’t need people. Which is a good thing, because she’s on her own: she had to move into her own apartment so her mother’s boyfriend won’t have to deal with her.
Then she meets Frank, the guy who lives next door. He’s older and has a girlfriend, but Elle can’t stop thinking about him. Frank isn’t like anyone Elle has ever met. He listens to her. He’s gentle. And Elle is falling for him, hard.
But Frank is different in a way that Elle was never prepared for: he’s transgender. And when Elle learns the truth, her world is turned upside down. Now she’ll have to search inside herself to find not only the true meaning of friendship but her own role in jumpstarting the world.
Tender, honest, and compassionate, Jumpstart the World is a stunning story to make you laugh, cry, and honor the power of love.