How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity
  • How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity
  • How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity

How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity

by Michael Cart, Francesca Lia Block, David Levithan, Ron Koertge
     
 

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A girl thought to be a boy steals her sister's skirt, while a boy thought to be a girl refuses to wear a cornflower blue dress. One boy's love of a soldier leads to the death of a stranger. The present takes a bittersweet journey into the past when a man revisits the summer school where he had "an accidental romance." And a forgotten mother writes a poignant letter

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Overview

A girl thought to be a boy steals her sister's skirt, while a boy thought to be a girl refuses to wear a cornflower blue dress. One boy's love of a soldier leads to the death of a stranger. The present takes a bittersweet journey into the past when a man revisits the summer school where he had "an accidental romance." And a forgotten mother writes a poignant letter to the teenage daughter she hasn't seen for fourteen years.

Poised between the past and the future are the stories of now. In nontraditional narratives, short stories, and brief graphics, tales of anticipation and regret, eagerness and confusion present distinctively modern views of love, sexuality, and gender identification. Together, they reflect the vibrant possibilities available for young people learning to love others—and themselves—in today's multifaceted and quickly changing world.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Heather Christensen
An array of gay, lesbian, and transgender characters explore the common theme of identity in this provocative collection of short stories. Each of the twelve renowned authors presents a unique perspective—from a six-year-old girl who knows she is really a boy in Trev by Jacqueline Woodson to a young voyeuristic stable boy in Margo Lanagan's reworking of the well-known poem "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes. Ron Koertege's metaphorical story, My Life as a Dog is a poignant tale of coming out, whereas William Sleator depicts a dangerous affair in Fingernail, the story of a young Thai. Two stories are in graphic novel format—Eric Shanower's Happily Ever After, in which two young men come face to face with a genie and discover the pain of wish fulfillment, and Ariel Schrag's comical San Francisco Dyke March. Gregory Maguire skillfully navigates two periods in his story of an Iranian American man remembering a life-changing first love affair. In this story and two others, the main characters are not teens but adults reflecting back on their youth. In fact, most of the protagonists in this collection are older teens and detailed sexual scenes are not uncommon. Reviewer: Heather Christensen
Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
This collection of twelve stories focusing on gay, lesbian, and transgender characters defies boundaries between young adult and adult literature. The authors, many award-winning, experiment with a variety of genres to explore sexual identity. In graphic mode, a selection depicts two gay teens (one reluctant) whose problems are confused and then untangled by a genie from a bottle. "First Time" examines, in two voices, the seduction of one girl by another. Most cleverly written is a narrative variation on Alfred Noyes's poem "The Highwayman," in which a young stable boy is brutally and painfully raped by a passing soldier; he loves it and longs for more (causing havoc with his obsession). Another writer has Lep, a young man in Bangkok, picked up by a cruising Frenchman who makes love to him and twice almost kills him—Lep decides it was worth the risk because he learned English and now has a better job. Especially poignant are the bittersweet emotions of a devoted gay father who accidentally encounters his glamorous former lover. While Cart celebrates the progress that allows sexual identities once suppressed in children's literature to be presented as "ordinary," not all these lives can be so described. Some teens will find themselves reflected in the stories; others will construct what meanings they can. It might be well to make clear to young readers that just as understanding and recognition of diverse sexual identities is desirable; rape, exploitation, and brutal sexual violence can never be tolerated or condoned as ordinary. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—This collection's refreshing perspective—that gay, lesbian, and transgendered lives simply are, as Cart states in the introduction, "as wonderfully various, diverse, and gloriously complex as any other lives,"—distinguishes it. Twelve acclaimed authors contribute stories ranging from sweet and nostalgic to lyrical and desperate, capturing the blissful/painful process of self-discovery. Highlights include Margo Lanagan's retelling of "The Highwayman" from a voyeuristic stable boy's point of view and Gregory Maguire's story told from different points in time, in which an 18-year-old Iranian-American boy discovers the impact a summer of accidental love can have on his entire life. The formats and settings of the stories are as varied as the characters. Graphic novelist Ariel Schrag's "San Francisco Dyke March" gives funny tourist observations, and in "Happily Ever After," Eric Shanower illustrates how love, not genies, fixes troubled relationships. William Sleator's compelling Thai character finds a dangerous love. Francesca Lia Block, David Levithan, and Emma Donoghue customize the epistolary story. Julie Anne Peters skillfully voices two teen girls' trepidation and ecstasy during their first sexual encounter. Ron Koertge's "My Life as a Dog" is an ingenious metaphor for coming out, and in "Trev" Jacqueline Woodson gently allows Trev to accept his gender identity. This collection, with some detailed sexual descriptions, is sure to find its intended teen audience.—Amy J. Chow, The Brearley School, New York City
Kirkus Reviews
Twelve renowned authors, some of whom contributed to the classic YA collection Am I Blue?: Coming Out from the Silence, use diverse points of view, settings and characters to bring readers stories of sexual and gender identity. Standouts in this collection include Eric Shanower's "Happily Ever After," a graphic-format story of two boys granted wishes that go horribly wrong, and Francesca Lia Block's "My Virtual World," in which social networking enables two troubled teens to form a bond of friendship. Three stories include transgender characters, further expanding this subgenre. In another two, nationality and language barriers serve as a vehicle for a meaningful exploration of sexuality. This collection focuses on older teen and 20-something characters, with even one character in her 40s, meaning that most are solid in their sexuality and gender identification and are exploring what it means to be part of a family, form different kinds of loving relationships and exist as they've accepted themselves. Provocative, quality content. (Short stories. 14 & up)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061154980
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/06/2009
Pages:
350
Sales rank:
891,331
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

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