Ever since I saw an interview from last year with Emily M. Danforth on Malinda Lo's blog, I have wanted to read The Miseducatication of Cameron Post. Her answers are so in-depth and there was so much to learn from that one interview (seriously, read it!), I knew I had to read this book! And I am so glad I did, because it's absolutely amazing.
On the day Cameron finds herself kissing a girl, her parents die. From that day on, her whole world changes. Living with her grandmother and her very religious aunt, she is brought up with certain ideas about homosexuality; Cam questions what she feels and what she's told, worrying that her parents died as punishment for her "sin". But the various people she meets along the way and the numerous movies she secretly watches tell her a different story. Cam tries to keep her relationships secret, but nothing stays secret for ever.
Oh my god, this book is so awesome, it really shows us the views from just over two decades ago - only two decades! - and most of it made me so angry! Seriously, there are some characters in this book I really don't get. Even when their views are explained with the Bible, it just makes me so sick! But more on that later.
What's great about Cameron Post is that we get to see Cam from the age of 11, almost 12, until she's 16. We get to see her first experiences with another girl from such a young age, and then see her grow, see her mature - in the way she thinks, in the way she speaks. This story is about Cam discovering and exploring her sexuality, and what the consequences of doing so are, but the death of her parents is intertwined. As much as this is a story about sexuality, it's mainly about Cam herself. Cam discovering she's a lesbian, Cam dealing with the death of her parents when she's reminded, when the event creeps back up on her. These two, huge, important things to Cam get linked for her in certain moments, like her belief that her parents died because she kissed a girl, the blame she feels. The reaction of her aunt and grandmother when the truth is finally discovered make her think about how her parents may have reacted if they were around. But they're not, so she'll never know, never know if she would have to go through with them what she is going through now. And questions from others crop up; would she "sin" like she does if her parents had raised her differently? If her parents hadn't died and she didn't "run away" from dealing with that by taking part in "sinful activities"? It's like there is a correlation between the two simply because they are forced together so often.
There are so many quotes I want to share with you, but there are just too many. I narrowed it down to the points I really want to discuss. The two different ideas that come across. The first is from Lindsey, a girl who Cam has a summer relationship with. She's a character who has thrown herself right into what homosexuality is, means, on a wider scale.
'With Irene, nothing we were doing or feeling was named as part of anything bigger than just the two of us. With Lindsey, everything was. She started me in on the language of gay; sometimes she talked about how liking girls is political and revolutionary and counter-cultural, all these names and terms that I didn't even know that I was supposed to know'. (p99)Lindsey is a lesbian, but it seems more like who she is, rather than just an aspect of herself. Like it's an attitude, a whole lifestyle. And she knows her stuff. She has all these opinions and knows all these things going on in the world and is so pro-active in the LGBT community. Lindsey does come across a bit patronising with her know-it-all nature, but it's refreshing to have such a voice in the book, when almost all over views are that it is wrong, wrong, wrong. Like the opinions of Pastor Crawford at her Evangelical church, Gates of Praise:
'"Don't be fooled by what you might see on television, the kinds of sick movements happening in parts of this country. Time and again, in Leviticus, in Romans, the Bible is exact and unwavering about homo-sesh-oo-al acts as clear abominations on the Lord."' (p100)He goes on to talk about how those who are "lured into this sort of unhealthy lifestyle" are the people who are "in most desperate need of Christ's love: junkies, prostitutes, the mentally ill and teenage runaways" (p100) - way to stereotype, huh? It makes me so angry! Cam does question whether she would be considered to be among those people, being an orphan, but as she says, 'How could I pretend to be a victim when I was so willing to sin?' (p100).
With both of these opposing sides, you can understand how Cam would be so confused over what is right and wrong, what to believe in, what to hope for.
'How could I possibly believe Lindsey when she told me that two women could live together like man and wife, and even be accepted, when Pastor Crawford spoke with such authority about the wicked perversion of homosexuality?' (p99)And then there is the worse view, in my opinion, where one of the characters denies the existence of homosexuality, and then compares this "sin" with murder. Murder! Can you believe it?! Lydia makes my blood boil!
'"There's no such thing as homosexuality," she said. "Homosexuality is a myth perpetuated by the so-called gay rights movement." She spaced out each word of her next sentence. "There is no gay identity, it does not exist. Instead, there is only the same struggle with sinful desires and behaviours that we, as God's children, each must content with...I know it's a book, it's just fiction, but reading that last line just makes me want to shout, "LOVE IS LOVE!" Seriously, this book brought out the rage in me, I swear. To think that people actually exist with these opinions disgusts me.
"Do we say that someone who commits the sin of murder is part of some group of people who have that identity feature in common? Do we let murderers throw themselves parades and meet up in murderers' clubs to get high and dance the night away and then go out and commit murder together? Call it just another aspect of their identity?...
Sin is sin."' (p298)
Beyond the various views of what people think about homosexuality, there are the experiences, the feelings, the love. And the questions. Not everyone is happy with what they're discovering about themselves.
'"It goes against everything," [Coley] said, some of her voice burried in the pillow. "This is like--it's just supposed to be silly or whatever. I don't want to be like that."There is so much more I want to discuss about this book, but I would be spoiling such a huge section of the book that is best discovered as you read. Speaking of which, if you visit Danforth's website (link, as always, below), I would advise not reading the reviews on there until you have finished the book. I had something huge spoiled for me by reading one of the quotes on there, and it really wound me up. Fortunately, I was only a few pages off it all kicking in, but still.
"Like what?" I asked. Somehow, even after what I'd just done, what we'd done, I felt ashamed, the guilty party.
"Like a couple of dykes," she said.
"What does that even mean?"
"You know what it means."
"How about God, for one," she said, turning and looking at me dead on...
"Doesn't this feel really big to you?" she asked. "I mean like too big? It's like the more time we spend together the harder it is to turn off."
"Maybe that means we're not supposed to turn it off," I said.
"Maybe it means we shouldn't have started in the first place," Coley answered.' (p226-227)
If I was to give this book any criticism, it would be... I'm not really sure what to call it. It took me weeks, weeks, like three or four, to read this book, and that's not down to the length. I was seriously loving this book when I was reading it, but once I put it down, for dinner, etc., I didn't want to pick it back up. It was hard. I had to force myself to pick it up several times. I just wasn't motivated to read it. I don't know if it's this book or if I was in a reading slump or what, but I had a real tough time getting through it. But this is probably, hopefully, just my personal experience.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an incredible coming-of-age novel that takes an awesome look at one girl's self-discovery, coming into her own. Now I've finished it, I can say for certain that I absolutely loved it! It's one hell of a powerful story, and I highly recommend it!
Published: 5th March 2012
Buy on Amazon US
Emily M. Danforth's Website