Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: Marion Dane Bauer's "Am I Blue: Coming Out From the Silence"

In 1994, sixteen authors contributed unique and, at times, bizarre coming-of-age stories to a collection called Am I Blue? Coming Out From the Silence. Marion Dane Bauer edits this delightful collaboration, which features settings ranging from a hidden beach cove in the 1950s (James Cross Giblin’s Three Mondays in July) to the fantasy world of female warriors (Jane Yolen’s Blood Sisters) to the terrifying parent-teacher conferences of a conservative high school (Nancy Garden’s Parents’ Night). Each story empowers youth in a way that honors the book’s dedication: “for all young people in their search of themselves.”

Structure: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The short stories vary lengths, themes, and plots, but overall contain effective individual layouts. Of the sixteen tales, only two stuck out as underdeveloped pieces, and even those don't lack powerful content.

Characters: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Again, overall very strong. The characters in C.S. Adler’s Michael’s Little Sister and Marion Dane Bauer’s Dancing Backwards in particular offer potent perspectives and interesting archs. Protagonists throughout the book offer first and third person narratives. I would have liked to see a few of character stories extended – M. E. Kerr’s We Might As Well Be Strangers was far too short to get me involved, and Ellen Howard’s Running characters, Terry and Sheila, needed to see a more satisfying conclusion. Otherwise, the collection offers an abundance of sassy role models, frustrating parents, empowered teens, and unexpected heroes.

Voice: 5 out of 5 stars

Across the board, readers can engage with each character’s unique voice. Stories are joyful, angry, shocking, and endearing, but generally very commanding. Readers have the opportunity to be inside sixteen incredible protagonists’ heads, and every minute is worth the read.

Am I Blue? was published by HarperCollins in 1994 and is the first published queer youth anthology.

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