Ask the Passengers by A. S. King (2012):

Warnings: 

  • Alcohol and Drugs: a parental character is depicted as an off-screen “stoner” (frequent user of marijuana/weed), multiple scenes of alcohol consumption by underage teens (ages 17-18)
  • Homophobia: depicted casually through negative comments from family members and non-violent bullying from peers
  • Family Relationship: questionable/unhealthy parent-child relationship between the protagonist and overbearing mother, perceived favoritism of one sibling over another, lack of familial support
  • Sexual Content: little to no graphic sexual imagery, pressure of one partner to pursue sexual acts (though they are not enacted)

Review:

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King is a story of maternal conflict, Grecian philosophy, and finding yourself, but primarily it’s a story about love and its complexities. Astrid Jones, the protagonist, is a big city girl stuck in a small town with even smaller minds. She’s gay—or pretty sure she is—but still wants some time to figure that out. Dodging questions from her two gay best friends and the girl she might be falling for, Astrid struggles to find a place to unload the weight of her complicated emotions. In place of a diary she sends her feelings into the sky, more specifically, to the planes that fly over her backyard. Her uncontainable love takes root in the hearts of the passengers, with small scenes of their struggles, fears, and hopes for the future inter-cut between Astrid’s own story.

She has dreams of becoming an editor in New York, but has to survive her war zone of a household before she can get there. Her uptight, workaholic of a mother swings from ignoring her to berating her, and her father has been distant since discovering the world of marijuana. Even the imaginary friend she’s created based on her vision of the philosopher Socrates does nothing but judge her and offer harsh but needed advice. With the help of “Frank Socrates” and the planes soaring above, full of her love letters, Astrid finds pieces of herself in those around her and shapes her path for the future.

Astrid, herself, is an easy character to identify with for me, personally, and I feel like her struggle is fairly common for all members of the LGBT community.  Just because her friends are gay and comfortable with their identities (albeit not “out”), it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s ready to open up to them about her questioning, and I think that’s important to show that. Discovering your identity and finding a label for yourself isn’t as straight a path as one might think (pun definitely intended), and that being a visible part of (but not necessarily the main conflict of) the story is a cool and refreshing take.

A lot of the conflict and tension within Ask the Passengers centers around Astrid’s home life, which, at first glance, isn’t “bad” by any means. She has two parents in a fairly stable relationship, and although her dad does struggle with unemployment, the family doesn’t seem to have any trouble staying afloat, finance-wise. She and her sister don’t get along and are in a constant fight for their parents’ attention, but what sibling-relationship doesn’t have those moments? And besides, there’s a few heart-warming scenes between the two that make up for that. Still, though, Cameron struggles with the great expectations her mother has for her, and the obvious bias she has for her sister. That, paired with her retreating father and homophobic sister make Astrid’s home a toxic place, and one that she spends a majority of the book trying to escape. A lot of teens will find comfort in this—knowing that even though a home might not be “as bad as it could” doesn’t mean it’s a place that fosters growth or understanding, and it’s okay to need a break. I think King balances the family dynamic well, having every member of the family work as an obstacle of Astrid’s, but also overall being a supportive, somewhat-functional unit.

One thing that wasn’t that appealing to me in this novel was Astrid’s romantic interest, Dee, or more specifically, Astrid’s relationship with her. Though Astrid is attracted to Dee and wants to be with her, she’s made uncomfortable frequently by Dee’s PG-13 advances, and I don’t think it was necessary for her to come on so strongly.  While it does add more depth to Astrid’s self-exploration journey, it does fall into the trap of assuming all someone wants from a relationship is sex, and might lead some readers to hesitate pursuing a same-gender relationship because of that misconception. I can see where King was going with the arc, but I have to admit it falls a bit flat for me, personally.

Overall, I think Ask the Passengers is a nice book, but not a life-changing must-read. I enjoyed the book, and connected with the protagonist and her plights, but nothing about the book makes it stand out from other YA lit, except for the fact that Astrid is queer. The style was clean and the narrative easy to follow, but it wasn’t very unique. Still, though, given the relative lack of books for young wlw (women-loving-women), I do think it’s worth reading, particularly for the high-school age range.

Sincerely yours, 

Nyla Linn (She/Her)

Rating: ★★★½ (3.5 stars)

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth (2012):

Warnings (some spoilers): 

  • Sexual Content: Two consensual semi-graphic sexual scenes between underage girls (ages 15-16 yo); a few light-hearted references to  sexual encounters both real and imaginary; brief, non-explicit recounting of a sexual encounter between an adult man and an underage boy acting as a sex worker
  • Drugs and Alcohol: Frequent use of alcohol by underage individuals (ages 14-16) as a social activity; frequent use of cannabis/weed by young teens (ages 14-17) for recreational purposes 
  • Homophobia: Overtly expressed homophobia within the context of Christianity throughout the course of the novel; teens are exposed to conversion therapy and made to deny their identity to serve the Christian God in an enclosed setting; this is directly questioned by the protagonist and other characters  
  • Depiction of Mental Health: homosexuality or fluid gender identity are treated as a mental illness by some characters in the novel and queer characters receive therapy to correct this perceived illness; the protagonist is not diagnosed but shows some symptoms of depression; a character who is not the protagonist self harms in a graphic but off-screen manner and is hospitalized as a result
  • Character Death: Two characters die in an off-screen car accident early in the novel

Review: 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Cam Post)is a novel by Emily M. Danforth about the young protagonist, Cameron, struggling with her sexuality in the midsts of the early nineties with the added complications of the death of her parents and her religious community. The novel follows Cameron from middle school to high school, documenting her relationships and growth as a teenage lesbian in Montana, and her eventual relocation to a school dedicated to leading her away from a life of homosexuality to one closer to God. Despite the grim setting and subject matter of the story, Danforth keeps the overall tone relatively light and fills the story with the sarcastic and lovable voice of the protagonist while creating a perfect portrait of youthful nostalgia. Full of old video rentals, not-quite-over-exaggerated religious practices, and teenage rebellion, The Miseducation of Cameron Post presents a fresh take on the story of a person finding herself in a world where nothing seems to fit.

The copy of Cam Post that I own is well-worn and weathered, many pages bent at the corners and some wavy with water damage from the rain. Most of this can be chalked up to the book being one I bought used, but some portion of its rough (loved?) condition is due to my own hands rifling through the pages for the past few years. Rereading the novel this most recent time only cemented something I already knew: The Miseducation of Cameron Post is my favorite book.

With a delicate quill dipped in badassery, Danforth masterfully connects with and navigates the teenage experience, talking through Cameron with just the right touch of sarcasm, humor, and angst. Like many teens, Cameron is finding her identity and place in the world, and more specifically, like many queer teens, this identity isn’t exactly what is expected of her and is constantly being compromised by the girls she falls for.

The most standout element of Danforth’s style, in my opinion, is how effortlessly she weaves in concrete, juicy, speaking-directly-to-the-senses details that bring her readers into the story, into the moment, and into Cameron’s head. Although I was a decade too late to grow up in the early 90s, Danforth slips me into 1989 Miles City, Montana, with ease from the first page onward. The nostalgia for childhood summers that don’t belong to me seeps into my skin, inked in by Danforth’s hand.

Emotionally driven, Danforth manages to capture feelings I, myself, can never put into words and takes the too-big-to-explain concept of what it’s like to grow up as a lesbian in a conservative area and makes it tangible for those who haven’t experienced it. I never feel more connected to my identity, history, and community as I do when I read through Cameron’s story.

Throughout The Miseducation of Cameron Post, the lead character, Cameron, faces harsh obstacles. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Cameron remains resilient, strong, and even retains her dark sense of humor throughout the book, and it is because of this that the book isn’t overwhelmingly depressing. Cameron goes through a lot (a lot), but the reader is spared the brunt of the heaviness due to the voice Danforth cultivated for Cam. She is a stubborn, witty, sarcastic character who takes the time to notice the small things that make life a little less bad: a loose strand of Christmas lights, cheesy movies, pretty girls—and pissing her aunt off. Even when she’s subjected to the exhausting tearing away of her personhood by God’s Promise Christian School and Center for Healing, she continues to rebel in both her actions and mind, never forgetting herself no matter how lost she feels.

Her perseverance and “screw you” attitude is what makes Cameron Post as a character. She’s so realistic, so tangible to me. She never apologizes for liking girls—her only regret is being found out. Danforth makes it clear through Cameron’s story that the adversity we might face in life doesn’t mean we’re wrong for being who we are and loving who we love.

Overall I think The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a worthwhile read for anyone, but most specifically for teen/young adult queer/gay girls looking for someone to understand them, because I think that necessary understanding and comfort through similar circumstances is exactly what Cam Post provides. Like Danforth quotes on her website, “when anyone asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story” (Mystery Manners, Flannery O’Connor), and so, I urge anyone with an interest in coming-of-age stories, LGBTQ experiences, or great works of fiction in general: pick up a copy of this book and have a look for yourself!

Sincerely yours, 

Nyla Linn (She/Her) 

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars) 

A to Z of LGBTQ+

Hello, dear reader, and here is a brief list of terms used within queer spaces. Please keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive and exists solely as a resource for readers of this blog who may come across a term they are unfamiliar with. Corrections and updates may be changed as needed. The list is alphabetical for searching at a glance, but [control + f] may be helpful if you are looking for a specific term. 

A

Agender: Used to describe someone who does not identify with any gender.

Ally: Used to describe someone who is not LGBT+ but supports the community; can also refer to a member of the community who is not “out” to others.

Ace/Asexual: Used to describe someone who does not experience sexual attraction.

Aromantic: Used to describe someone who does not experience romantic attraction.

B

Biphobia: Present both in and outside the LGBT+ community; perpetuates the idea that bisexual people are lying about their sexual identity and must either be “gay” or “straight.”

Bicurious/Questioning: Used to describe someone who is questioning their orientation and exploring their sexuality. In some situations “bicurious” has a negative connotation due to its sometimes questionable use in media and implication that bisexuality is a phase or “stepping stone” to another sexual identity. 

Bisexual: Used to describe someone who is attracted to two or more genders. Definitions may change for those who identify as Bisexual, such as “attraction to the same gender and to another gender” etc.

C

Cis/Cisgender: Used to describe someone who is not trans; identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth.

Coming Out/Leaving the Closet: When someone who is LGBT+ expresses their orientation or identity to another person or group of people who were not previously aware. Often referred to as “Coming out of the closet,” in which the closet represents the person’s perceived gender or sexuality.

D

E

F

G

Gay: Used to describe someone, typically male, who is exclusively attracted to their own gender; may also be used as an umbrella term for the queer/LGBT+ community as a whole.

Gender Binary: Concept that there are only two “true” genders: male and female. Generally considered negative as it is invalidates non-binary genders or those who do not align with either male nor female. 

Gender Identity: How one interprets their own gender regardless of it aligns with how others perceive them; unrelated to outward appearance or physical attributes.

Genderqueer: An umbrella term used to describe someone who does not conform to the traditional gender binary and may identify as having none or all genders, or a different gender entirely.

GNC/Gender Non-conforming: Applies to an individual who expresses their gender in contrast to traditional traits expected from their assigned gender. Not to be confused with genderqueer, this term can apply to cis individuals. 

H

Heteronormativity: The idea that heterosexual is the “default setting” for people and any other sexuality is deviant from the norm.

Heterosexual/Straight: Used to describe someone who is exclusively attracted to the gender opposite them on the binary; i.e. a heterosexual woman is attracted to men.

Homophobia: Discrimination and violence against someone because they are attracted to the same gender.

Homosexual: Used to describe someone who is exclusively attracted to their own gender.

I

J

K

L

Lesbian: Used to describe a woman who is exclusively attracted to other women.

LGBT+/LGBTQA: Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender but often used as an umbrella term for those either not straight or not cisgender. Longer acronym includes Queer/Questioning and Asexual/Ally

M

Misgendering: Using pronouns other than a person’s preferred pronouns; may be intentional or unintentional but still a form of transphobia, and therefor disrespectful and not tolerated within this blogspace.

MLM: Acronym for Men Loving Men or Man Loving Men; refers to community of gay, bisexual, or pansexual men who are romantically or sexually attracted to other men; may be used as a personal identifier: i.e. John is a man who loves other men so he identifies a mlm.

N

Nonbinary: Used to describe someone who does not identify as either male or female; may use they/them/their pronouns, but not always– ask first.

O

P

Pansexual: Used to describe someone who is attracted to all genders.

Polysexual: Used to describe someone who is attracted to multiple genders.

Pronouns/Preferred Pronouns: Used to refer to someone when not using their name; examples include but are not limited to she/her, he/him, and they/them; should not be assumed, ask if unsure.

Q

Queer: An umbrella term for the LGBT+ community; considered an offensive slur by some members of the community, and should be used with caution; may also be a personal identifier: i.e. John does not want to label himself as gay or bi, he prefers the term queer.

R

S

T

Trans/Transgender: Used to describe someone who identifies with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.

Transphobia: Discrimination and violence against someone because they identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.

U

V

W

WLW: Acronym for Women Loving Women or Woman Loving Women; refers to community of gay, bisexual, or pansexual women who are romantically or sexually attracted to other men; may be used as a personal identifier: i.e. Sarah is a woman who loves other women so she identifies a wlw.

X

Y

Z

Introducing the blog!

Hello, dear reader, and welcome to the Lit. Lesbian. On this blog you will find everything from reviews on the latest LGBTQ+ novels to discussion on popular tropes in media regarding queer individuals. The primary focus of this blog is to foster a place for analyzing and discussing LGBTQ+ representation in literature and other media types. 

While I will be sharing my own thoughts on various topics within this focus, I would love to hear other opinions and engage in conversation, so please feel free to get involved! Recommendations are always welcome. Please keep in mind that, although this blog is for every member of the LGBTQ+ community, as the primary author (me!) is a lesbian, most of the works discussed will be centered around wlw characters or relationships. 

I would love to boost the voices of other members in the queer community, as well, so drop a line any time if you want me to check out your content. I look forward to joining the wonderful blogosphere here and having wonderful conversation. 

Representation of LGBTQ+ people and groups is a vast topic made up of many working parts. Thank you all for being respectful and polite as we navigate through this subject together. 

Sincerely Yours, 

Nyla Linn (She/Her)