“Junior Willis” by Richard Natale— Confronting Self


Natale, Richard. “Junior Willis”, Bold Strokes Books, 2014.

Confronting Self

Amos Lassen

Leaving the Midwest in the early 50s, Tom Larson knows that he is going to have to face up to his sexual and romantic desires. He begins his awakening in Korea where he has a love affair with his commanding officer. Then on a trip to Cuba (before Castro) with his fiancée, he begins a romance with a young Cuban. But by 1969 that was all in his past and he is now a successful film/TV writer. However, he finds himself in love once again but this time with Junior Willis. Willis teases Tom with his wild tales of heterosexual liaisons and Tom believes that this love will never come to fruition. Yet his love for Willis consumes him and ahs he comes to accept himself as a gay man, American gay consciousness is beginning to take hold. He is living in that period between the end of the second World War and Stonewall. It just so happens when he finally stops questioning his nature and his desire for affection, love finds him.

We first meet a young Tom on a military base in Korea when he  begins to discover and play with his sexuality. Keeping in mind when the story is set, we see that at that time, people did not come out publicly. Natale introduces us to characters in the 50s, 60s and 70s who deal with their sexuality.

While this is a story about a gay man, it could be about anyone living in that period. Sex was not discussed openly as it is today. In many hears, happiness came with fear and doubt.

Here it is the characters that propel the plot and we learn about them by reading their wants and desires, by how they see themselves and by what they want out of life. This is how it was once and Natale does a wonderful job of describing it. 

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