Welcome to “I AM READING THIS SO HARD RIGHT NOW”
In this segment, I will be sharing spoiler-free notable quotables from books I am loving the hell out of. If you’ve ever read my blog before (Hi, Mom!), you know that I do not write summaries. In grad. school, that was my least favorite part of the annotated bibliography. I leave that business to jacket blurbs and publishers because I’m a big girl and I can do whatever I want within the confines of societal norms and Constitutional laws. Instead, I bring to you, my one reader, a nice little morsel of an excerpt, plucked straight from the cakey-insides of a good book.
Behold: The Less-Dead, by April Lurie. I’ve been working my way through ALA’s Rainbow Book Lists. The Less-Dead was featured on the 2011 version of this list, which “presents an annual bibliography of quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content, which are recommended for people from birth through eighteen years of age. [source].” The Less-Dead resonated with me for a number of reasons: 1) The protagonist is not gay. It’s told from the point of view of a straight teen who is just learning about the gay community. 2) It unabashedly discusses anti-gay religious propaganda and hate speech. 3) After the Trayvon Martin murder, this novel seems extremely topical. There are many differences between the fictional victims in The Less-Dead and Martin. Martin was African-American, the boys in this novel were not (Actually, I wasn’t entirely sure of their race). Martin has a family that loves him, the victims in this book are largely on their own. The boys in The Less-Dead are all gay and largely homeless. Due to this, their deaths mean a little less to the people in their communities. Hence, they are “Less-Dead”. Would Martin’s death be less controversial and more cut and dry if he were white? Would the boys in this novel matter more if they were straight and from middle-class or rich families?
The wind kicks up. I zipper my jacket and pull up the hood. I’m alone now, with time to kill and a lot of thinking to do. I walk along the path and read some of the nearby headstones.
Nov 2, 2006
I stop, realizing that the date must be a record of her birth and death. A stillborn. The plain headstone is covered with dead leaves and grass. I wonder is anyone visits her. I move along.
No last name. No year of his birth, only his death. Probably a homeless guy, like Doomsday. I wonder if he had a tragic story too.
Strangely, the next stone contains a long list of names but only one date.
“Hey!” I call to the gravediggers. “Can I ask you guys something?”
One of them sighs, sets down his shovel, and walks over to me.
“What does this mean?” I ask. “Why so many names, but just one date?”
He studies the headstone for a moment. “That’s what we call a mass burial…If no one claims a body, it’s cremated. The ashes get stored over there.” He points to what looks like a shed in the distance. “When there’s no room left, we bury their ashes together. It saves time and space.”
“Oh. Okay. Well, thanks.”
I stand there for a long time…Suddenly everything is quiet. The wind has died down, the gravediggers have left, and I hear footsteps behind me. I turn around and see Doomsday. “Hello, Noah. I saw you walking around. I wanted to make sure you were all right.”
“Oh, yeah. I’m okay…Doomsday, can I ask you something?”
“Why are certain people buried in that barren area, up the hill? Like the two other foster boys who were murdered, and a baby with no name, and a guy who’s just called Jimmy?”
Doomsday peers into the distance. “That part of the cemetery is owned by the city. It’s for people whose bodies haven’t been claimed…Some people call it Potter’s Field.”
A cold wind blows. Sweat prickles under my arms. “Potter’s Field?”
“Yes, it’s a term from the Bible. I’m sure you know the story. After Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, Judas realized the mistake he’d made, threw the coins onto the temple floor, then went out and hanged himself. Because the silver was blood money, the priests weren’t allowed to put it into the temple treasury, so they used it to buy the potter’s field. A place where they buried foreigners.”
“Also called field of blood,” I say.
“Yes, that’s right.” He shakes his head. “Like Judas, we all have blood on our hands.”
~~The Less-Dead, by April Lurie , pages 136-141
The Less-Dead tackles many serious issues while also delivery a poignant coming of age story wrapped up in a dark murder/mystery package. Offer it to the next teen looking for a mystery novel for their book report.
In the appendix, April Lurie includes a fascinating and helpful list of passages in the Bible that deal (or supposedly deal) with homosexuality. She debunks many of the references some evangelical preachers use to spread homophobic and hateful speech. I’m tempted to photocopy this section and keep it in my wallet.
~Love and Libraries, Ingrid