The Stonewall Book Award is an award for GLBT books begun in 1971 focusing on books that have exceptional merit related to the GLBT experience. This award is divided into three sections, the Barbara Gittings Literature Award, the Israle Fishman non-fiction award, and the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award.
I chose to read Freaks and Revelations, by Davida Wills Hurwin, an honor book from the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award. I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely looking forward to reading a book from this category because I felt that many of the GLBT tend to focus on serious issues such as the marginalization and violece that many GLBT members face in the real world. I tend not to enjoy “problem novels” such as these because they are too emotional and too much like real life. Many of these books don’t have happy endings for all of the characters. I feel as if it might be easier for me to read stories such as these if they had some sort of filter, maybe a genre like science fiction or fantasy, might help me to better absorb the hardness of these novels. Science Fiction and Fantasy tend to create a world for the reader that has been removed enough from reality that it is easier to read.
Freaks and Revelations wasn’t an exception to my feelings. The novel was inspired by the real lives of Timothy Zaal and Matthew Boger. Much of the novel, especially the end, is almost true to the actual event. For me, that strikes a sense of dread, sadness and fear into me knowing that something like that has and can happen.
But I have to say that I loved the book. Not only does the ending get resolved exactly the way it did in real life but the writing was beautiful and Hurwin creates two characters that you grow to love and empathize with. These two boys are human and have gone through a lot. If this had been told any other way I would have hated the character Doug, the neo-nazi skinhead who commits a horrible hate crime that haunts him and his victim, Jason. The story is told from each boy’s perspective as they grown up and after the violence that altered their lives.
I was also interested in how Doug came to renounce his old life and start a new one. In the story, his violent actions startled him, but he didn’t truly change until he had children of his own and he saw how his actions were affecting their lives. This theme tied into the violent relationship he had with his father in the past.
Here is an article on the NPR website about the two men this story is based on.