August 9th, 2010

andrew potter

The Inside Reader: Lee Bantle

Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir Mitchell
Last year one of the books that had more word of mouth in my friends circle was David Inside Out by Lee Bantle, and I would have probably already read it if not for the fact that, when I found it at Giovanni's Room, last September, I had too many luggage and too little space and it was my last day in the US... but this book is steadily climbing my Top 100 Gay Novels list and so I think it will end in my next book hunting session. In the meantime I hope you will enjoy Lee Bantle's list, where I found some "old" friends, but also interesting new suggestions.

My Top Ten Favorite LGBT Books of All Time By Lee Bantle

Elisa – Thanks for the opportunity to go public with my ten best list. As a YA novelist, books for teens hold a special place in my heart and are well represented on the list below.

1) ANNIE ON MY MIND by Nancy Garden. This is a must read! If you want literature, if you want great writing, this book is for you. And if you’re a girl who thinks you might like other girls, this compelling love story will resonate. I aspire to write like Nancy Garden. She is lyrical and this novel is beautifully realized. Winner of many awards. Deservedly so.

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (February 20, 2007)
Publisher Link:
ISBN-10: 0374400113
ISBN-13: 978-0374400118
Amazon: Annie on My Mind

This groundbreaking book, first published in 1982, is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings. Of the author and the book, the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee said, “Nancy Garden has the distinction of being the first author for young adults to create a lesbian love story with a positive ending. Using a fluid, readable style, Garden opens a window through which readers can find courage to be true to themselves.” The 25th Anniversary Edition features a full-length interview with the author by Kathleen T. Horning, Director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Ms. Garden answers such revealing questions as how she knew she was gay, why she wrote the book, censorship, and the book’s impact on readers – then and now.

2) REFLECTIONS OF A ROCK LOBSTER by Aaron Fricke. This book has faded and deserves revival. Nonfiction. Aaron took a boy to his prom. In 1980! Way before people were doing that. And then wrote the story. What guts! A pioneer. Fulfilling and historic, this memoir is another must read.

Paperback: 124 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books (March 1, 2000)
ISBN-10: 1555836070
ISBN-13: 978-1555836078
Amazon: Reflections of a Rock Lobster: A Story about Growing Up Gay

Reflections of a Rock Lobster has been widely praised as the best book ever written about growing up gay. It will be valuable for young people who are just beginning to understand their own and other people's sexuality, and for adults who work with teenagers and who need to know more about the 10% of the population that is gay.

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About Lee Bantle: I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn in a sunny apartment where I do my writing. I set David Inside Out in Minneapolis, Minnesota where I grew up and went to college.

In addition to being a writer, I am a lawyer who represents employees in race, gender, disability and sexual orientation discrimination lawsuits. My law firm, Bantle & Levy LLP, is located in Greenwich Village.

I got my B.A. degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota and my law degree from New York University.

David Inside Out is based in part on my experiences growing up gay in Minnesota before the age of Gay/Straight Alliances, television shows like Will & Grace, and books like the one I have written. My goal in writing this book was to capture the evolving dynamics in play today while giving voice to the complicated feelings that still accompany coming to terms with one's sexual identity. I wrote the book for gay teens who are struggling with their sexual identity, but also for the girls who may date and fall in love with these guys. I also hoped to tell a good coming of age story that would appeal to everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation.

I did lots of research for David Inside Out in addition to drawing on personal experience. Among other things, I read a book of teen essays called One Teenager in Ten, attended a meeting of the Gay/Straight Alliance at Westport High School in Connecticut, and interviewed many gay and lesbian people, both adults and teenagers. In the book One Teenager in Ten, one of the boys wrote about how he read men's magazines (Road and Track, Hunter's World) to try to make himself straight. I thought this was both funny and poignant and used the idea for my main character. This is an example of dramatic irony - the reader knows that the plan is not going to work, but David does not know that.

My prior middle grade novel, Diving for the Moon, was about a 12-year-old hemophiliac boy who become HIV-positive.

More information about my law firm can be found at the firm website:

David Inside Out by Lee Bantle
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
Publisher Link:
ISBN-10: 0805081224
ISBN-13: 978-0805081220
Amazon: David Inside Out

David Dahlgren, a high-school senior, finds solace in running with the track team; he’s a fast runner, and he enjoys the camaraderie. But team events become a source of tension when he develops a crush on one of his teammates, Sean. Scared to admit his feelings, David does everything he can to suppress them: he dates a girl, keeps his distance from his best friend who has become openly gay, and snaps a rubber band on his wrist every time he has “inappropriate” urges. Before long, Sean expresses the thoughts David has been trying to hide, and everything changes for the better. Or so it seems.

In this thoughtful yet searing coming-of-age novel, Lee Bantle offers a raw, honest, and incredibly compelling account of a teenager who learns to accept himself for who he is.