“Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay” by Julian Cox— Witness to an Era

the gay essay

Cox, Julian. “Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay”,  (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), Yale University Press, 2014.

Witness to an Era

Amos Lassen

Anthony Friedkin for more than 40 years created full-frame black and white photographs that documented people, cities and landscapes. The majority of his work was done in California and in the period from 1969 to 1970, he created a series of photographs

that when viewed together provide an eloquent and expressive visual chronicle of the gay communities of Los Angeles and San Francisco at the time. This is the first book to explore the series. “The Gay Essay”  gives an in depth look at the times and includes the broader historical context that gave rise to it.

 



With the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City, the LGBT community was at its turning point and then was the time to begin to concentrate on community building and organized political activism. “The Gay Essay” provides “a singular, intimate record of this crucial moment. Friedkin’s portraits, taken in streets, hotels, bars, and dancehalls, demonstrate a sensitivity and an understanding that has imbued the photographs with an enduring resonance. This handsome book features seventy-five full-page plates and is accompanied by engaging essays and a poem by Eileen Myles”.

Julian Cox is the founding curator of photography and chief administrative curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

“Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth and the Politics of Stigma”by Jason Whitesel— Finding a Place

fat gay men

Whitesel, Jason. “Fat Gay Men: Girth, Mirth and the Politics of Stigma”, NYU Press, 2014.

Finding a Place

Amos Lassen

So much of what we do these days is a result of the culture to which we belong. Today there is great emphasis on the way one looks and for those who do not fit in, life can be very difficult. Gay culture is obsessive about the way we look so that being fat in a community that is obsessive about body image can be very difficult. The gay community has come up with what they might consider a solution and by that I am referring to the bear community. However, there is still a stigma about being fat and it exists and persists in almost all aspect of American culture. This forces some people to be marginalized and exist only on the edges.

In this new book, Jason Whitesel looks at Girth and Mirth, a social club for big gay men and he shows us how these men form identities and community in the face of adversity. The club has been in existence for over forty years and has long been a refuge and ‘safe space’ for such men. Whitesel is gay which makes him something of an insider but he is also an outsider to Girth & Mirth. He gives us an insider’s critique of the gay movement and he questions if the social consequences of the failure to be height-weight proportionate should be so extreme in the gay community.

He also looks at performances at club happenings and examines how allusion and campy behavior is used as a way of reconfiguring and reclaiming body images. The focus here is on the numerous tensions of marginalization and dignity that big gay men experience and how they negotiate these tensions via their membership to a size-positive group.

The author bases his findings on ethnographic interviews and in-depth field notes from more than 100 events at bar nights, café klatches, restaurants, potlucks, holiday bashes, pool parties, movie nights, and weekend retreats. This is a that book explores the pain and ill feelings that come from being put in an inferior position in gay hierarchies while at the same time it celebrates how some gay men can reposition the shame of fat stigma through carnival, camp, and play. What we really get is a look at one of the aspects of gay culture that has not really been studied before and we become even more aware of the importance of weight and body image in American culture.

I am not sure if this is going to herald a new field of academia—fat studies but Whitesel certainly uses the academic method to bring us his findings. I take it that this new field will “critically examine societal attitudes about body weight and appearance, and with that will advocate equality for all people with respect to body size”. I understand that here is very little research on weight-related stigma and weight preoccupation among gay men. Whitesel spent two years conducting an ethnographic study of the Girth & Mirth gay male social movement, attending over one hundred events. This then is a fascinating look at the world of men who are stigmatized twice– by body size and sexuality. Whitesel has captured the courage and humor by which they confront fat-phobia in gay culture as well as in larger society thus making this “an original, impressive contribution to LGBTQ, gender, body, and performance studies.”

“YOU AND THE NIGHT” — The Slut, The Star, The Stud, The Teen & The Transvestite Maid

“You And The Night” 

The Slut, The Star, The Stud, The Teen & The Transvestite Maid

You-and-the-Night-Kate-Moran-Julie-Bremond-Niels-SchneiderHere’s an unusual one, which bends to edge of gender and sexuality while taking us into a dream-life, hyper-stylised world!

Here’s the synopsis: ‘Around midnight, a stylish young couple and their exuberant transvestite maid prepare for an orgy. Their guests will be The Slut, The Star, The Stud and The Teen. Each comes with their own dark and impassioned secrets, unravelled in sequences and flashbacks, in a night that will stay with you long after.

‘Writer-director Yann Gonzalez’s sensual and erotic debut played to critical-acclaim during Critics Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and stars former international footballer, Eric Cantona and cult legend, Beatrice Dalle (BETTY BLUE) in this kitsch ode to love and lust.

‘With electrifying music by M83, helmed by Anthony Gonzalez, YOU AND THE NIGHT evokes the style and substance of Almodovar, Ozon and Lynch.’

The film is due out ion September 29th, 2014. 

“ORPHEUS DESCENDING”— New Hope in Mississippi

orpheus descending“Orpheus Descending”

New Hope in Mississippi

Amos Lassen

Peter Hall, the acclaimed director, gave his hands to a brave and bizarre adaptation of one of Tennessee Williams’ most complicated plays, “Orpheus Descending” which later became better known as “The Fugitive Kind”. Brook stayed as close as possible to the playwright’s vision— of the decadence and unruliness of the American south with its violence and sexuality. The South eschewed realism as saw itself as a universe that was impossible to accept as literal but so powerful in its emotions that we cannot deny it.

Vanessa Redgrave stars as Lady Torrance, the middle-aged proprietor of her husband’s mercantile store in the Deep South. Jabe, her husband, played by Brad Sullivan, is laid in a bed upstairs from the store, every hour further consumed by a cancer almost as malignant as Jabe’s own temperament. Lady doesn’t quite know if she grieves more because her husband is going to die or because he is taking so damn long to do it; for months she has endured his raging invective, everything from criticisms of her management of the store to accusations that she is trying to kill him. Neighborhood women, some related to Jabe but others merely gossips and snoopers, busybody around her store whispering about his condition and judging her own behavior as the wife of a dying man.

 Lady has gone so long without luck or love that initially she doesn’t even recognize a good thing when it comes her way and it comes in the personage of Valentine Xavier (Kevin Anderson), a guitar-toting drifter whose car breaks down outside town and who comes asking for a job in her store. Val immediately attracts the attention of all the women in the community but he is reticent and cool to their attentions and no one can make sense of him.

 The woman who tries the hardest is Carol Cutrere (Anne Twomey), the local “fallen woman,” who lets on she knows something about his past before initiating her attempted seduction. The problem with small town living like we have here is that even when Val refuses Carol’s advances, the mere fact of their interaction is enough to make him suspicious. It isn’t long before the men of the community watch Val’s every move.

 Because of this it is probably a blessing that Val has set himself in the employ of Lady Torrance, who is accustomed to dubious glances and thinks nothing of harboring someone like Val once he has proven on her own terms that she can trust him. At least, that seems to be Lady’s perspective; it is only after about an hour that we begin to understand how far-reaching Lady’s dreams are, how thoroughly thwarted her passions have been, and how cleverly she can plan for an escape route out of the hell she inhabits.

 The title implies, the myth of Orpheus as one of its chief inspirations and this overtly stages its developing conflicts as a sort of a parable. We are made aware of the story of the burning alive of Lady’s immigrant father to the smell of cigarettes that proves a give-away as to Val’s presence at moments he would probably prefer people not to know.

 Kevin Anderson, does a fine job navigating the tricky course Williams designs for this character, namely of achieving an incendiary effect on almost every character who passes through the Torrance Mercantile Store but without actually seeming to do anything to merit this. He says over and over that he wants to grow out of his past– he wants to “play it cool,” and Anderson lends sincerity to that project of lying low without erasing the sensual buzz around a man to whom Lady shouts, “Everything you do is suggestive!”

The rest of the cast is excellent as each creates a real character that draws on real emotions. It is impossible not to say something about Vanessa Redgrave’s performance. Redgrave exaggerates all of her physical movements and slathers on a an “Italian” accent that, while occasionally too weird to understand, achieves the dimension of theatricality and artifice that Williams so clearly intends for this character. She delivers a moving performance. Her Lady Torrance comes across as a devilish kind of a woman with energy but she also lingers for a long time whenever she can. Every wringing of her hand or tripping of her tongue in this performance is a grasp for the life that Jabe’s illness, her brutal childhood, and the town circle of vultures are forever threatening to take from her. Lady Torrance is the sort of role that calls for histrionics and these are supplied readily by Redgrave.  I saw the Broadway production from which this was filmed and I must say that I sat with my mouth open during Redgrave’s presence on the stage (95% of the play). She was absolutely amazing and deserved every second of the 15 minute standing ovation at the end (and this was a Sunday matinee).

“Orpheus Descending” is a play which, after all, describes the sad fate of men and women who look too long on visions of what they’d like to be, never noticing what sad sacks they have in fact have become and we certainly see that here.

“FIFTH OF JULY”— The Broadway Theatre Archive Production

the fifth of July

“Fifth of July”

The Broadway Theatre Archive Production

Amos Lassen

I had almost forgotten what a powerful addition to the canon of gay drama that this recorded version of the Broadway play is. I had also forgotten that I have the DVD of the original so I got it out and had another look at it and realized again just how strong it really is.

This is the story of Ken Talley, 32, strong, good-looking and a Vietnam vet with both legs shot off seven years earlier. He is cynical as we can expect. Jed, his lover, is bigger and stronger, a gardener and a good listener. On Independence Day 1977 Ken’s home in Lebanon Missouri receives visitors and most of them are part of past relationships,  both pre- and post-Vietnam and this means that a long will be talked about.

The show highlights Swoosie Kurtz’s Tony Award-winning performance and  this 1982 recording of it preserves what is likely to remain the definitive production of Lanford Wilson’s highly acclaimed play. Originally presented on PBS’s American Playhouse, the videotaped performance retains director Marshall W. Mason’s original 1978 staging for New York’s legendary Circle Repertory Company, while allowing TV director Kirk Browning to “open up” the play with outdoor exteriors of Wilson’s Lebanon, Missouri, setting in the summer of 1977.

It is in Lebanon that Kenneth (Richard Thomas), a disabled Vietnam veteran, is reunited with several friends from their days as student activists, reflecting on their past, present, and future with varying degrees of trepidation, hope, and wisdom.

What makes this play so important is the casual portrayal of an openly gay couple (Jeff Daniels is wonderful as Kenneth’s supportive lover). College friends, who once agitated for a better world, find themselves looking for a way to revive their dreams. Lanford Wilson, the playwright, is a modern day Chekhov, as we see in “Fifth of July”.

I first saw this film 20 years ago when it was shown on television and I was blown away by it. The cast has real chemistry, is uniformly excellent and the story is not predictable. Here is drama with a few laughs thrown in. Having been witness to the turbulent sixties and the unpredictable 70s, this play really spoke to me. All of the action occurs during a two day period and it is during that short period that the pertinent histories of the relationships and characters are revealed as needed through the amazingly believable and agile dialogue.

 It is a credit to director Marshall Mason that he was able to mould these immensely talented actors into such a cohesive and convincing ensemble. Jed Jenkins and Kenneth Talley, long-time partners living in Talley’s boyhood home. The depiction of this gay couple is  wonderful. We see them as two guys who happen to be gay and love each other. Both Jeff Daniels and Thomas play their roles with ease and sensitivity. Throughout the play, one is continually convinced of the integrity and simplistic, devoted faithfulness of Jed’s character. The tenderness of the scene on the porch, after Kenneth has fallen, quietly and ever so beautifully convinces the audience of the profundity of the love these two share.

All of the performances are great but I must mention Swoosie Kurtz as Gwen. She walks away with the entire play in her pocket. The role of Gwen is the most flamboyant (and probably most fun to play) of all the characters. Gwen comes from lots of money and is, at the time of the story’s telling, an aging hippie. She continues to pop quaaludes and snort cocaine as her persona depends on them, but as the story unravels, we see that she is not nearly as dumb as she pretends to be or as her husband believes she is. Kurtz is stunning in the role.

 This film is an excellent introduction to one of our best American playwrights. He wrote this wonderfully sweet, bitter, funny, and ultimately enjoyable play and this film captures all of those qualities. It is openness about what some considered taboo subjects is amazing in 1982. AIDS hadn’t been fully discovered just yet and we have a gay couple who are not threatened by the ravages of disease, like so many post-discovery films. This is about an American family, disrupted by the Vietnam War and the radical dreams of the 1960s–the desire to be different than the generation before. The actors represent real people with real agendas.

For those of us who were young when the play’s characters were young (in the Vietnam war era), we relate to the idealism and disappointment of that time. There is  sentimentality here and it reminds us all too well of how it once was.

I am not sure but this might just be the first movie with a gay couple whose sexuality is neither the focus or the melodrama of the story. It was just there, it wasn’t “in the way”, and it presented a gay couple as they truly are – just part of the family like everyone else. We are invited to join the family, and as we watch we feel as though we’ve become a part of the characters’ lives. When the movie ends, we feel as if we have lost family.

This is the trailer of a later production.

5

 

“Dumping Las Vegas” by J.P.Bowie— Saving Brother

dumping las vegas

Bowie, J.P. “Dumping Las Vegas”, Wilde City Press, 2014.

Saving Brother

Amos Lassen

Jerry Peterson’s brother Mike is in trouble. He is a gambler and has lost a fortune in Las Vegas. He pleads with Jerry to help him out and being a good brother, Jerry heads for Vegas even though he hates the city. However, when he gets there he sees that things are much worse than he thought. Mike is being held hostage until his gambling debts are paid. Mike meets Taylor Maitland who is Vegas writing a story on compulsive gamblers, something his father suffered from and was unable to get away from. Taylor volunteers to help Jerry save his brother and the two men begin trying to locate the people that have Mike. As we can well surmise, this is no easy business. As Jerry and Mike work on the case, they become sexually drawn to each other and they even manage to find time to make love in their hectic schedules. They also get caught up in violence and there are two men out for blood following them around.

Actually Taylor know about Mark before Jerry did because he is the one who called Jerry to tell him about his brother. I could tell from that point on that the two would fall for each other and become a couple. Now they have to rescue Mark as well as build a basis for a new relationship for themselves.

I have enjoyed Bowie’s writing in the past but this one did not catch my mind the way that others did. But that is my only complaint—the scenery was gorgeous, the prose is polished and well used and the characters are finely drawn. Also, although the guys become a couple they did not act on love at first sight. Bowie combines romance and adventure and gives us a fine read and I get the feeling that we will be hearing from Jerry and Taylor again. 

Matt Bomer As Gay/Bisexual Star Montgomery Clift ‘If It’s Done Right’— The Return of Montgomery Clift

Matt Bomer As Gay/Bisexual Star Montgomery Clift ‘If It’s Done Right’

The Return of Montgomery Clift

montgomery-clift-matt-bomerLast September the news emerged that Matt Bomer was attached to star in a biopic of legendary gay/bisexual 1950s star Montgomery Clift. However we’re heard little about the project since.

So while talking to Bomer in the set of White Collar, Xfinity LGBT decided to ask him about the project and whether we’re still likely to get to see him take on Clift.

Thankfully the film is still in the works, but it’s still waiting for all the right pieces to comes together. Bomer says, “It’s potentially on track to be made in the way that we’d like it to be made, at the home we’d like it to be made. But I’m only going to be a part of it if it’s done right. I have too much respect for Monty and Liz [Taylor, Clift's close friend] and that whole world and that whole generation of actors…we could do it tomorrow and make some salacious version of the story and that’s not what I’m interested in.”

In the late 40s and early 50s, Clift was on the path to becoming one of the biggest stars in the world. After The Heiress, Red River, A Place In The Sun, I Confess and From Here To Eternity, he was a true heart-throb with three Oscar nominations to his name. In many people’s opinion he was a talent on a par with James Dean and Marlon Brando – and all that by the age of 24.

However, Clift was also gay (or at least bisexual) at a time when homosexuality was illegal. He never really came to terms with his sexuality. He suffered from severe self-loathing throughout his adult life (as did many gay people back them) and became a severe alcoholic. In 1956, during the filming of Raintree County, he crashed his car while drunk which caused various injuries, including facial lacerations that meant he was never quite as good looking again. While he continued to work, with a prominent facial scar and alcohol quickly ageing him, his roles were limited and his days as a heart-throb were essentially over.

He died in 1966, aged only 45, from alcohol-related occlusive coronary artery disease. Acting teacher Robert Lewis famously described Clift’s death as the longest suicide in history.

It certainly a story worth telling, but as Bomer says, it needs to be done right, so that it doesn’t just become another movie about a gay guy who dies. Although Clift was famous, his story is typical of thousands of gay people at the time, whose life was destroyed by society’s attitude towards their sexuality, which not only criminalised same sex acts but also ensured they hated themselves.

It’ll also be interesting to see whether Bomer’s reference to the film being made as ‘the home we’d like it to be made’ means HBO. The pay-cable network was behind The Normal Heart, which Bomer just starred in, and with its track record for gay-themed projects such as Looking and Behind The Candelabra, it would seem a sensible home.

 

 

“Same Difference”— A Documentary About The Different Experience Of Two Gay Teens Seeks Funding

“Same Difference”

A Documentary About The Different Experience Of Two Gay Teens Seeks Funding

 

same-differenceFor some young people there’s never been a better time to grow up LGBT, with some rarely facing homophobia directed personally at them. However, with attitudes towards homosexuality often polarised (particularly in the US), for others the increased visibility of gay people and the vitriolic attitudes of some people mean there can be intense pressure of them, which can sometimes lead to tragedy.

The difference is often the area they grow up in and whether there are any support structures to help them.

The documentary “Same Difference” wants to take a look at this through the stories of two gay teens, Graeme Taylor and Justin Aaberg, the latter of whom committed suicide in 2010 at the age of just 15. In order to get the doc completed, the makers have launched an IndieGoGo campaign hoping to raise $135,000.

“Same Difference” is a feature length documentary that presents the lives of two adolescent boys who identify as gay from a young age. Graeme Taylor, now 18 and off to college, grows up and goes to school in a supporting environment that allows him to thrive. Justin Aaberg (1995-2010) unfortunately grows up and goes to a school filled with intolerant backwards policies and scandal. Justin was just one of nine teens that took their lives while attending the Anoka-Hennepin School District between 2009-2011. This resulted in state health officials declaring the school district a suicide contagion, leading to a Department Of Justice investigation.

‘The role the school played in these deaths is explored through Jefferson Fietek, the only openly gay teacher in the district at the time. Additionally Mellisa Thompson, a parent in the district, highlights the shortcomings of the school board and the administration. Dr. Dorothy Espelage, Ph.D, Dr. Antoine Douaihy M.D., and Dr. Liz Winter PhD, LSW, examine the current research on anti-bullying and offer solutions to handling gender issues among adolescents within schools.’

You can watch the trailer below and find out more over at the film’s website. If you want to help, head over to IndieGoGo.

“FIFI HOWLS FROM HAPPINESS”— A Provocative Artist

fifi poster

“Fifi Howls from Happiness”  (“Fifi az Khoshhali Zooze Mikeshad”)

A Provocative Artist

Amos Lassen

Bahman Mohasses is a provocative and enigmatic artist who is the subject of this new documentary by director Mitra Farahani. Mohasses has been called the “Persian Picasso” and his art has been acclaimed universally. It once dominated pre-revolutionary Iran and what makes this so interesting is that it is irreverent and uncompromising. Mohasses is a gay man in a world that does not accept him as such so his relationship with his homeland is one of conflict. Yet he is honored by the elite in the art world and lauded as a national icon yet he has been censored by the ruling regime. He had no choice but to flee his country (30 years ago) and he now lives in Italy maintaining a secluded life. He is known for his scathing declarations against the present regime in Iran and for his iconoclastic art. The regime destroyed much of his art and he did away with even more than they did. He rages at the thought of man’s inhumanity to man, the destruction of the environment and the futility of idealism.

fifi1

Mohasses is a chain-smoking recluse who loves to curse yet he possesses a tender soul (with a touch of mischief) and he can launch into an anti-political rant at any moment. His work is unforgettable and ranges from the tender to the playful to haunting to grotesque.

Mitra Farahani has been anxious to interview him and she finds him living alone in a hotel room in Rome as he is beginning his autobiography. She sees (and shares with us) the inimitable spirit of the man behind the image. He is both painfully sensitive and crudely comical, “condemned to paint,” but cannot compel himself to leave anything behind as a legacy.   We learn that when a pair of artist brothers and ardent fans of Mohassess commissioned him he became inspired and had a renewed sense of purpose.

His life is like a fable—he was a haughty neurotic who solely existed to paint and to smoke and maybe for a short while to speak to the outside world. Mohasses says that paint and pissing are very much the same in that both are vital and necessary to exist. He is arrogant but not unpleasantly so and even though his paintings and his sculptures are breathtaking and ageless,  only a few remain. After a protracted self-imposed exile, Mohassess returned to Iran in the early 2000s and was received with no fanfare and like most artists are in the country: with faint respect, unconcern, and quietude. He was so angry about his that he slashed nearly all of his paintings, chopped up most of his imposing and majestic sculptures, and left the country unhappy and disheartened again.

fifi2

Director Farahani found him just as he was about to become 90. The interview gave him the chance to retain “those fading glimmers of glory through the enraptured eyes and wonderment of an inspirited young artist and her camera”. Throughout the interview, Mohasses tries to get control of it yet he values Faharani. He was indifferent about leaving a legacy and was intent on winning back what he had lost in prior decades to history to revolution and to his flaunted self-destruction. He told Farahani to begin the film with a voice-over of him speaking of his childhood and birth, cast over a moving image of the sea. Immediately, Farahani obliged. At another point, he instructed her to drive through Rome and film the scenery, and once again, she was happy to indulge him. She wants to give back to him in return for his interview. Both artist and director are in love with the romance found in the intermingling of reality and fiction. She wants to film him painting again and to see her hero return, striving to be the one who captures this triumphant homecoming. As they speak, Farahani is struggles to find potential patrons interested in a new painting by Mohassess. Finally, two Iranian artists, Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh show interest.

fifi3

And then Mohassess dies. As the director is looking at some of the art in the hotel room, she hears a cough that becomes louder and louder and he says that he is hemorrhaging but not some simple, uncomplicated hemorrhage. “I am dying,” he then says in a voice completely unlike his own, charged with muck and pain and dying. “I am dying,” he asserts again, in front of the one person who cared to root him out.  Farahani decided to include the death scene in her documentary because it is vital to learning about Mohasses. His death captured on film almost presents itself as Mohassess’ gift to Farahani, as something that is more valuable than any painting, sculpture, or piece of art. His death is so sad and the build-up to it in the film is almost fictional in the way it happened. Here we see that art and life do not imitate each other except in the case of Mohassses. He not only appeared to live his own life as a great work art, with eccentricities and self-imposed exiles and a realistic and beautifully melancholic death, but he also seemed to live with his art on a more personal basis than most artists. who left his last act of destruction for a stunned camera to capture, almost as if death is no different an art than creation.

Opens at Lincoln Plaza in NYC – August 8
Opens at Laemmle Theaters in LA – August 15

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50Isgf9j9Dw

“The Friendship Stones” by Alan Black— Growing Up Quickly

the friendship stones

Black, Alan. “The Friendship Stones”, (An Ozark Mountain Series), CreateSpace, 2013.

Growing Up Quickly

Amos Lassen

Growing up in the Ozark Mountains, LillieBeth believed that everyone was basically good. However, at an early age she was forced into an adult world of evil and this made her grow up as quickly as possible. Her father came home only on the weekends so it was up to her and her mother to manage their small rented farm.  Because she had to, she soon became very good on a .22 rifle and she worked hard on the farm. She tired to help everyone and then she was shocked to meet someone who did not think like she did—the old man down the road, Fletcher Hoffman, does not want to be her friend. She makes it her goal in life to convince him that he is loved. Here you sense her innocence.

She feels compelled to obey the command to love our neighbors, a scripture she learned at her little country church and school house. It comes as an immense shock when she learns the friendless, crazy old man down the road does not want to be her friend and it becomes her mission to convince him that she loves him and wants to be a good neighbor. She only knew the basic pleasures of life and totally believes in the goodness of God but at twelve she begins to notice boys and dreams about bring married. She is totally innocent yet she has a sense of responsibility and is very determined to do what she thinks God asks of her. She especially wants to be friends with those who are lonely and alone. When she goes to see the old man she is surprised that he does not want her on his property but she is determined and continues to go there time and again. Her responsibilities grow as she matures and she becomes determined to do what God would want and share her time with those who are the least likely to have anyone to be their friend, because they need love the most.

Alan Black is a master of description and we not only read about the Ozarks and LillieBeth but we sense them as well. We read of how LillieBeth is forced into growing up early. This is her story and it is a multi-layered one at that. LillieBeth is an amazing character who does her chores and never complains. Neither does she complain about going to school just once a week because it is so far away and her mother needs her at home. At church she learned that God wants us to love each other and she takes that very seriously. She is mystified by Hoffman who just wants to be left alone.

As she tries to become Hoffman’s friend, a pair of “no-gooders” attack her and they are known in the community as rapists who destroy lives. As if that is not enough trouble, her landlady tells her that she and her mother will have to move because she wants the farm for her son and his wife. This means that she and her mother will be homeless. This is especially hard on LillieBeth since it is the only home she has ever known. As she matures, LillieBeth is confused by all of the emotions she feels but she does find it difficult especially after the attack.

The story is hard to categorize in that it is a coming-of-age story on a Christian theme and there  are elements of other genres as well. Above all else it is a fascinating read that gives us a look at how one young girl tries to do the right thing.