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Posted January 11, 2006
Set in the mid-1940s, the story centers around the Brown family and is rendered in the form John's visits to his psychologist, an interesting literary device given that therapy was not widely utilized by the general populace. Initially John visits the doctor in an attempt to save his nephews from what John thinks of as 'the wasteland.' The wasteland is the perpetuation of the Brown family¿s various dysfunctions: denial of their Jewish heritage, inability to display emotion and communication with family members, a sense of guilt and over-attachment to one¿s parents, and a failure to accept and love one's self. Slowly John realizes he cannot save his nephew until he understands the motivations of his family members and comes to accept both himself and his family. The complexities of family and personality are well developed. The secondary characters are mulit-dimensional, although always seen through John's eyes. There is some repetitiveness and at times the story seems overly long, but it seems reasonable because the literary device concerns talking to a therapist. There is not a traditional plot, rather the story moves along as John discovers things about himself and his family. _Wasteland_ appears on the Publisher Triangles Top 100 Gay/Lesbian Books and contains clear, although limited lesbian content. John's sister Debbie is a tomboy who as an adult prefers to dress in pants she is also unmarried, has short hair, and only has female friends. John senses there is something 'queer' about Debbie, but also sees her as the best member of the family. Debbie encourages John to seek therapy because she has done likewise, and this act of encouragement ultimately rescues John and, in a larger sense, the entire family. Debbie's homosexuality is clearly named by the psychologist, but is not a primary focus of the story. Several things make _Wasteland_ unique from a gay/lesbian perspective: 1) Debbie does not seek therapy to be 'cured' of her homosexuality, which was a common literary theme of the time, but to learn to accept herself 2) Debbie is the first fully developed Jewish lesbian character to appear in contemporary American literature 3) Debbie, by recommending therapy, becomes the catalyst for family redemption, a heroine at a time when gay/lesbian literary characters were demonized.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.