Sunday, March 3, 2013

How important are fringe books?

Around my fourteenth year a librarian saved my life.

I don't think that is an exageration.  I was introverted, too sensitive and bookish.  My family life was dysfunction inc.  In a small conservative town, I had no one to really talk to and knew nobody like me.  I was a weirdo, as my piers frequently told me.  A freak.  I was overly smart and one of three girls in the excellerated programs.  I wore oversized shirts and boys sneakers and no make up. 

That librarian saw me and KNEW.  And she gave me some books that showed me people like me, or people who were different, succeeding, finding happiness.  You know... not self destructing.  Rubyfruit Jungle, Death Trick, The Catch Trap.  And a LOT of science fiction because in space nobody cares how you get your freak on.

I read a few books on my own, too.  Torchsong Trilogy, Maurice, The Front Runner.  There is a lot of fairly good lesbian pulp fiction but I didn't have access to that until I was older.  Many of the books were sad and angry.  I understand that that is a story that needs to be told, but here's my problem with the sad books.  All too often lesbian and gay characters are made to die young.  They MUST die young.  The only way to deal with any sensitivity to an aberration and still keep society safe is to kill the practitioner.  So you see you can show a gay person as kind and valuable but you have to make sure they die.  Otherwise you have to make a choice.  Society or the gay.  That idea was planted in me by those sad books and I spent a good chunk of my early adulthood terrified waiting for the lightning to strike.

Just like 'To Kill a Mockingbird' we can't let the outlaws flourish.  We can tell their story and portray them with humanity but they can't 'win'.

I hate that.

I have to say that nameless librarian, may she spend eternity in heaven, never handed me one of the sad books.  She must have known better.

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