I received this book from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.
homophobia, internalized homophobia, bullying
Tammy Larson is unable to be herself anywhere, not at school, or with her friends, or in family dominated by her aunt Mandy and her anti-gay propaganda. She is a closeted lesbian and she’s always lived her life fearing for and unable to be herself and free.
Her only way to escape her strict and conservative Christian life in Orange County is her diary, where she writes to the gay civil rights activist, Harvey Milk, until the school starts a pen pal program and she meets Sharon.
Sharon Hawkins lives in San Francisco and right away she bonds with Tammy, sharing their love for punk music, feeling free to be themselves, their letter another way (except their diaries) to be absolutely (or at least trying to) honest with one other.
Sharon’s life in San Francisco, like Tammy’s in Ocean Valley, is full of secrets and lies.
She is struggling (at least in the beginning) to accept that her beloved brother, Peter, is gay and both of them are scared of their mother’s possibile reaction, should she discover it.
And in antigay fervor they fear for their lives. Both Tammy and Sharon finds in one other a true friend, starting to understand things about the world and each other.
I really, absolutely loved this book! It’s my first queer historical fiction and it was great! Set during a very complicated and awful time for queer people, the book is about this intense friendship (and more) between two young girls, their growth and how they will learn to fight for the freedom and right to love and stand up against injustice and hatred.
Told by two POVs, Tammy’s and Sharon’s, through their diaries’ entries and the letters they write to one other, in a very interesting and unique way, this book is moving, funny, heartbreaking and so, so important.
Reading Tammy’s POV was incredibly hard because I could feel her frustration, fear, her feeling trapped in her life, with conservative parents and relatives, homophobes, feeling scared all the time someone could see through her lies and hurt her. How she was forced to dress and wear her hair in a certain way, dominated by her cruel and hypocrite aunt and her whole community, politically active in their antigay propaganda, how she was forced to support that propaganda, because being out would mean changing everything.
Both Tammy and Sharon were taught to see being gay as a wrong and unnatural thing, something that should be corrected and pray away, but, Sharon thanks to her brother and Tammy thanks to her sexuality and feelings, learn to think with their own heads and to escape their conservative and homophobic world, finding a more friendly reality where they can be themselves.
It was interesting reading how Sharon starts to discover herself, through music shows, new friendships, opening her mind to a new world and identity.
Her bond with Peter is truly amazing and very realistic, down to their fights and misunderstandings. Reading about how she discovered her sexuality, her feelings was really fantastic, because, living in a community where people were antigay, in a school with nuns and homophobes, she, at first, struggle to accept her brother’s sexuality (it was incredibly cute readig how she decided to accept it, because she loves her brother very much) and then hers.
It was clear her confusion and frustration, finding difficult to understand what she should do or act.
Her relationship with Tammy is really intense, because, through their letters, they learn to be and questioning themselves, above all when Tammy comes to San Francisco.
Peter is another brilliant character. Seeing through Sharon’s and Tammy’s eyes, he’s a young man, sure of his sexuality, but fearing his mother’s reaction, fearing people would know the truth about him and hurt, since he was already bullied in the past. It was moving and empowering reading how, slowly, Peter becomes more sure of himself and his feeling for Dean, until he’s ready to move on and coming out, deciding to live according to his own rules, terms and feelings.
Absolutely intriguing the way the political and historical movement is both background and vital part of this book, how Tammy sees in Harvey Milk someone to look up to to gather the courage she needs to be herself.
I loved how Tammy, Peter and Sharon become politically involved, supporting Harvey Milk, propaganding against the Proposition 6, the Briggs Iniatiative, that wanted to ban gay teacher and whoever supported gay rights, helping in the bookstore, learning about civil rights and feminism.
It was interesting reading about political and historical figures, like Milk, Briggs and Bryant and how these young characters act in that movement. Cute the side characters, like Evelyn, Midge, Kevin and so on. Interesting and hypocritical aunt Mandy, with her being sanctimonious and weak and unable to reach out and change her opinion Sharon’s and Peter’s mother.
The adults in this novel fulfill, except Harvey Milk, the role of “villains”. Sanctimonious and hypocritical families, ready to do anything to have their perfect sons and daughters and refusing to see them for what they are, should they be different from their expectations and society’s “norm”.
Teenagers and young adults (Tammy’s friends and sisters, for example or Sharon’s classmates) are or molded according to their parents’, Church’s and society’s wishes and norms, or they represent a world where Tammy, Peter and Sharon can find haven, in Dean’s, Leonard’s, Evelyn’s, Alex’s (and so on) friendship and support.
I love how they managed to form a family, with their friends, how they support one other, helping each other finding a place to stay, a job, a way to start over, even with a broken heart.
It was hard to read how their families couldn’t, wouldn’t, accept their sexuality, how they, above all aunt Mandy, kept using God as an excuse of their awful behaviour. It shows the faults in the blind religion, using their Bible as a weapon to hurt and humiliate queer people. It was frustrating reading their rhetorics and false and hypocritical faith.
Tammy and Sharon fight against what people expected to be and to do, perfect daughters, straights daughters with boyfriends and a future with a family. In a climate of activism, for LGBT’s and women’s rights, they fights and understand themselves, their feelings and what people call friends and family.
Music from another world is beautifully and skillfully written and it’s a story about love and hope, hate and injustice, family and friendship and it’s more current than ever.