Friday, July 16, 2010

Nothing Pink

Hardy, Mark. Nothing Pink. Asheville, N.C.: Front Street - Boyds Mills Press, Inc., 2008. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

ALA Rainbow List, Young Adult Fiction (2009)

Vincent has been praying, for as long as he can remember, to have the burden of homosexuality lifted from him. Every time his father leads an altar call, Vincent goes to the front of the congregation to be prayed over and have hands laid on him. It hasn't worked yet, but Vincent is not giving up. He knows God hasn't abandoned him; he can feel His presence. Vincent just needs to be patient and avoid temptation. Then Vincent meets Robert, at his father's new church of all places, and everything changes. As Vincent gives up praying for deliverance and spends more and more time with Robert and the two become more and more involved, Vincent still feels God in his life. Maybe all of these years he's been praying for the wrong thing.

Review: (kind of spoilery, but the ending is mostly what you hope it will be anyway)
Nothing Pink is a pretty straight forward coming out story. That said, it's a very well done coming out story. Vincent does a lot of struggling within himself, with the help of his strict Baptist upbringing, about his sexuality. He does everything he can to try to change himself including making out with girls, avoiding TV shows featuring guys in tight pants, and a whole lot of praying. But this is not the focus of the book. This all happens before the book starts, though it is alluded to throughout the beginning. The book actually starts on the day things start to get better, the day Vincent meets Robert. Even though Vincent still has doubts about the morality of his relationship with Robert and has to hide the extent of their relationship from his parents, this is mostly a happy book about Vincent's first love and eventual acceptance of himself.

A lot of Vincent's happiness with himself hinges on religion, or rather, God. His relationship with God factors largely into Vincent's life and the story. Vincent is moved by his father's sermons, hymns, and prayer. He acutely feels God's presence in his life. He is a devout and upstanding Christian, except for his sexuality. That's why he's so confused and hurt by God's lack of response to his prayers to be straight. As he becomes more comfortable with Robert and his relationship with him, he becomes more convinced that God is okay with it too. It's great. His parents, however, do not agree. When they figure out what's going on, they give him a talking-to that centers around this oft heard sentiment:
"We love you, Vincent...But God hates the sin of homosexuality, so we must hate it too, son."
To their credit, they never say that God hates Vincent, and they stress that they love him unconditionally, though Vincent doubts that their version of "unconditional" should count when they hate something that is so much a part of him. I did get the feeling that the mom, at least, would come around at some point after the end of the book.

During the talk with his parents and later when he is at church camp, Vincent does a lot of defending himself. In his own head. I love that he didn't have to stand up and be out and and proud right away or a spokesperson/defender of all people queer in his Baptist community. Sometimes that's all you can do, and it's great that Hardy provides this positive role model of someone who can only hold it together for himself but is still not weak. Outwardly, Vincent simply stops asking God to make him straight. Internally, he does a lot of building himself up, and that involves a lot of "God-talk." The religious over tones and general message of God loves the gays becomes a bit redundant and heavy-handed toward the end. This is definitely not a book for readers uncomfortable with Christianity. I appreciated the message, but it did kind of take over the book in a couple of places and pull me out of Vincent's story. But given how heavy-handed much of the anti-gay, religious literature can be, I had to forgive this repeated positive religious message.

Also, and this surprised me a bit, the book is set in the 70s. It's not overly obvious and so led to some confusing moments for me, such as when Vincent lists the TV shows he avoids and its clear that I should have recognized the titles. Other than that, only the feathered hair and continual Barry Manilow references tipped me off (and the title verso, which is where I got the actual decade of the setting from). And I do mean continual, with the Barry Manilow. You'll be singing Copa Cabana for days after reading this one.

Book source: Philly Free Library


Shooting Stars Mag said...

I skimmed the review as I don't want to spoil too much. I might read this one. Sounds like a good story though! Thanks for sharing.


Stephanie said...

This sounds like one I'd enjoy. I'll look for it at the library. Though I'm not sure I'm up to past-tripping to the 70s with Barry Manilow. :-D

Lawral the Librarian said...

Shooting Stars - Thanks! Also, I just checked out your new blog and I'm excited to see what gets highlighted there!

Stephanie - The Barry Manilow did throw me a bit, though I was fortunate enough not to know the tunes to most of the songs which effectively kept them out of my head (except Copa of course). Maybe you'll also be that lucky?

Brahm (alfred lives here) said...

Hey, this sounds like a good one, am gonna check it out.

And gotta admit I like the Manilow twise... so does that make me a "fanilow"?

Lawral the Librarian said...

Brahm - You can certainly be a Fanilow if you want to. :) Also, this is a great book; you should totally check it out!