Posts Tagged ‘homosexuality’

2 1/2 New Reviews

Friday, March 25th, 2011

So. After more than a month with no particular news on the No Going Back front, this past Wednesday two new reviews were posted, both positive.

One review was from Suey at It’s All About Books, a Utah blog with a couple hundred followers. She awarded it an A- (3 stars out of 5), writing in part:

The internal conflicts [Paul] goes through are heart wrenching. He loves his church and wants to still be part of it, but this is a problem since it feels being gay is wrong. But I loved how this issue was left in a hopeful way, where he didn’t necessarily have to decide, at least at this young time in his life, to deny either part of himself…. Bottom line: In the end, I’m glad I read this one! I would like to think that this book would be a help for anyone, especially a Mormon teenager, going through this same situation.

The second review was from Alison at Alison Can Read, a blog with over 800 followers  that’s not particularly directed to Mormon readers although Alison (a Minnesotan) is herself Mormon. My favorite part of her very thoughtful review was probably the following:

I loved the interaction between Paul and Chad. This story is told largely through dialogue. I’m obviously not a teenage boy, but I think Mr. Langford perfectly captured a 15-year-old boy’s voice. Reading about Paul, Chad, and their other friends hanging out whether at home or school was truly enjoyable. I loved how Paul and Chad messed with each other, trading barbs back and forth. It added bits of humor to an otherwise serious book. It also allowed them to discuss difficult issues, albeit in the uncomfortable, halting way that boys and men often do.

Yes! My attempt to depict teenage-boy awkwardness and attempts at camouflage when dealing with serious matters really does work for some readers! Alison continues:

One of my favorite things about this book was that no viewpoint was glorified. We see various members of the LDS community exhibit homophobic behavior, but others who love and accept Paul unconditionally. Paul’s friends in the Gay-Straight Alliance at school challenge him to accept being gay, yet have difficulty accepting Paul’s beliefs as a Mormon. Neither group was immune from prejudice. I also didn’t feel like I was being preached to. Considering that the characters’ religious beliefs were frequently discussed, that’s really saying something.

Alison also raises several concerns, most notably including the question of audience (adult versus teen and Mormon versus non-Mormon). While questioning whether non-Mormons might find the Mormon references puzzling, she also acknowledges the many reviews from non-Mormons who don’t seem to have an issue with this — something I have also found a bit puzzling. She concludes:

I really enjoyed No Going Back. It deals with a very difficult issue that a lot of people have to face. It doesn’t sugar-coat anything. There are no easy choices and no easy answers. There are no heroes and there are no villains. There are just a group of people trying to be good people, be true to themselves, and true to their beliefs and the aftermath when these things conflict.

Her review garnered 15 comments (not counting a rather silly one from me), including a couple from people who themselves might read the book. I’m quite tickled, to be honest.

And then there’s the half-review I referred to in my title, a quick mention of No Going Back about a month ago as part of a collective book report by Darlene Young, a friend of mine from the Mormon literature community. Her thumbnail description:I think this was an important story and told in an interesting and effective way. I’m glad it was published. The alternating viewpoint got a little monotonous at times and could be repetitive. I’m glad this book exists.”

And so am I (glad this book exists). Otherwise, this blog might not even exist! And that would be truly tragic, for some rather dubious values of “tragic”…

Non-Mormon Reactions to No Going Back

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

I’ve had another positive review of No Going Back from a non-LDS reviewer. Heather at Buried in Books wrote in part:

I was immediately gripped by the story of Paul a sophomore in high school who knows he is gay, but also knows it goes against everything his religion teaches…. What religion? Mormon which I knew nothing about and still know only a very small part of it. But Paul is very proud of his faith and very faithful and wants to stay true to his vows to the church…. The things [Paul] reveals to [Richard, his bishop], feels comfortable telling him, feels like he has to tell him, and the way the Bishop helps him, I have to say, I’d lie like hell. Nope nothing to confess here. I’ve been very good. Never done one thing wrong. Don’t need any help at all. Especially when I’d have to face him every time I went to my best friend’s house. My sex life in my high school years was definitely my own business and I’d never have discussed it with the minister at church. It’s a very different religion than what I grew up with…. This book is not filled with religious doctrine and preachy. Not at all! I would have returned it and said I just couldn’t read it. I have my own personal religious beliefs and I’m still trying to work a few things out so anything very preachy is a big turn off to me…. Towards the last few pages, the tissue box came out. I tried to be quiet because it was 2:00 am and everyone was sleeping, except me the insomniac or reader with a great book. Mr. Langford develops the characters so well, you feel exactly what they’re feeling and at the end you can’t help but cry with Paul and the bishop as he talks to Paul from his heart. It was gut wrenching, bittersweet, you don’t want that to be the solution…. It is not the type of book I’d usually go for, but I found so much to recommend about the book. The extremely well developed characters, their growth, the various relationships and how they grow, and how faith, in something bigger than yourself, can carry you through, guide you, help you make decisions, shape you, for better or worse. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a deep faith in anything, like Paul. I hope I do someday.

I really couldn’t hope for a better response than that — particularly from a reader who doesn’t share Paul’s faith (and mine).

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Talking with Readers

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

One of the best parts of having written No Going Back has been the chance to have conversations with readers of the book: Mormons, non-Mormons, ex-Mormons; literary readers, nonliterary readers, occasional readers; those with firsthand experience of homosexuality, those with secondhand knowledge, and those with little direct knowledge. Partly that’s because I think the themes of the book are important, and I like talking about them. And partly it’s because I find it fascinating — and instructive — to find out what my own writing looks like through other people’s eyes.

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Mixed News

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

The last week or so has been kind of bittersweet from my perspective. The Whitney Awards were announced, and while I was very pleased to have been a finalist, I was unsurprised to discover that I didn’t win the award in my category. (The person who did win the award, Jamie Ford, is a very fine author whose book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, is the one I thought probably would win, so I’m not complaining.)

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Review of No Going Back in U of U Paper

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

A positive review of No Going Back was published in today’s issue of The Daily Utah Chronicle, the newspaper of the University of Utah.

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Thoughts on Kushner, Angels in America

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Several years ago, prompted by a non-Mormon friend, I read Angels in America, a set of two plays set in New York City in the mid-1980s, written and performed in the early 1990s, that won multiple awards (including a Pulitzer). The play is largely about homosexuality, AIDS, and political conservatism. Several of the characters are Mormons, though Tony Kushner (the playwright) is not.

My reaction (which I initially posted on AML-List, and which was later published in more polished and expanded form in Irreantum, the journal of the Association for Mormon Letters) was that despite the Mormon characters and some Mormon iconic symbology, I didn’t really feel that the play was about Mormons or Mormonism in any meaningful way. At the time I wrote my reaction (2003), that was a perspective I didn’t see reflected or even much addressed in discussions of the work — bafflingly so, considering that 3 out of 9 main characters are supposedly Mormon.

So I wrote my response, which I’ve decided to repost below, in the hopes that perhaps this will prompt a little more discussion or at least awareness on this issue.

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Positive Review at A Motley Vision

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Earlier today, a positive review of No Going Back was posted at A Motley Vision: Mormon Arts and Culture blog. That’s one of the blogs where I hang out, so the positive response is particularly gratifying.

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NGB Article in BYU Daily Universe

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

On January 19, 2010, the Daily Universe, BYU’s student newspaper, ran a feature article on No Going Back that made the paper’s front page, sharing headlines with Haiti. They’d interviewed me the week before, and apparently also contacted Rex Goode, whose discussions on AML-List helped spark my initial ideas for the story, and Steve Walker, my old BYU English professor who read and endorsed the book in glowing terms.

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No Going Back Discussion Questions

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

One of my main motivations in writing No Going Back was to stimulate discussion, both about the book itself (hey! I’m an author, I like feedback; live with it) and about the topics it addresses.

Over Christmas break, I drafted a set of questions that I thought might help prompt interesting discussions among readers of my book. Sadly, the notebook where I wrote down my ideas disappeared… So here’s Take 2 at some “official” No Going Back discussion questions. Please feel free to post responses, additional suggested questions, etc. (more…)

Top Ten Reasons Why No Going Back Is a Great Read!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Yeah, I’m still on Christmas break. But I couldn’t resist the temptation to post something. And so…

Getting comments from readers of my novel has given me a new appreciation of Tolkien’s observation that elements of his book that “are to some a blemish are all by others specially approved.” Despite this, it seems to me that there have been some common themes among those who like my book. The following list, then represents (in unranked order) my summary of some of the top reasons why I think  No Going Back is worth reading — based on reader responses to date, together with my own thinking. (Or — to put it another way — no one else seems to be beating down the door to list all the reasons why my novel is wonderful, so I need to do it myself.) Please feel free to read, respond, and (hopefully) add reasons of your own! (more…)