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Queer 13: Lesbian And Gay Writers Recall Seventh Grade Hardcover – August 19, 1998

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's probably a healthy sign that the autobiographical essays collected in Queer 13 display not only relief and anger, but nostalgia. Most of the contributors, including well-known writers like Wayne Kostenbaum (The Queen's Throat) and Rebecca Brown (The Terrible Girls), have overcome the stigma they felt in junior high. When they look back now at their sufferings, they're also able to recall moments of pure, unthreatened pleasure--although, having found the courage they once lacked, they tend to criticize their younger selves for having pandered to repressive parents or playground tyrants. It may be inevitable that these stories have a shared aura of sadness, since the universal experience of junior high seems to be bleak and crushing, but there are other commonalities that emerge: the "gay" childhood friend, for instance, who gets mercilessly dropped, or the casual cruelties of physical education. Some of the most affecting pieces are by writers who were battling other differences in addition to their sexuality, such as Rebecca Zinoric's "Becky's Pagination," about the indignities of being given special education because she was legally blind, and Marcus Mabry's lovely "Mud Pies and Medusa," about growing up black and gay. --Regina Marler


"A collection of not only some of the best current gay literature but also of the most compelling autobiography." -- Newsday

"Queer 13 contains 25 tales of the doldrums of the teen years from various points of view. The book highlights many up-and-coming new voices in literature, including Joe Westmoreland, Rebecca Brown and Michael Lowenthal. The memoirs range from painful to hilarious to eerily ral as these authors recount that time when our minds were raging almost as fast as our hormones. There's much to appreciate in this thoughtful reflection on past youth and the ungainly task of trying to assimilate, a sentiment anyone can identify with." -- HX Magazine, Oct. 23, 1998

"When casting about for survival tales of the seventh grade, Clifford Chase, who edited this book of essays, found that most gay writers had suppressed it, like time they'd spent in a cultural junior-high version of Dachau: utter oppression, grueling days, anxious and terrifying nights. They'd simply blocked it out. Seventh grade wasn't too fun for anyone, but it seems to be a particular watershed event for these wordy gays and lesbians, who have risen to the assignment and reconjured that particular year with pubescent horror: the longing, the armpit hair, the confusion, the shame, the teasing -- it's all here. Thankfully, as the sage Judy Blume always assured us, it's only seventh grade, and most everyone survives it. Even gay kids. Seen from these 25 collected pieces -- many of them quite clever memoirs; some of them merely more overwrought gunk from the para-memoirist craze -- seventh grade is quite a hurdle, but also a magic place." -- Hank Stuever, Austin American-Statesman

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (August 19, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688158110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688158118
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #774,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
My first reaction to QUEER 13 was: "Oh god, 13? Seventh grade...What a year that was..." Thirteen was one of those years that only now I can begin to appreciate and laugh at. I don't know if I'd like to relive it though. And this is perhaps why I was so hesitant to pick this book up. But I'm glad that I did. The stories are all beautiful. There isn't one that stands out the most because they are all so good (most are bittersweet--prepare yourself). I found myself crying and laughing and most of all remembering my own experience while reading this book. I highly recommend this collection be read by all.
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Format: Paperback
This collection of 25 autobiographical essays about gays and lesbians at age 13 is not for queers only. You may ask, what makes it a Jewish Book? Well, what is age 13? The age of bar and bat mitzvah's, the age of wo/manhood, seventh grade, hair growth, Keds, adolescence, zits, humiliation, name-calling, teen-star posters, summer camp bunkmates, Playboy magazines, and peer scrutiny. An age when you make your way to Junior High, gain friends, lose friends, outgrow friends, and are outgrown by others... a time when some focus on band practice and other on athletics, and others... who knows. At least six of the writers discuss their Jewish adolescence, so the book may be of interest to Jewish readers. They include Robert Gluck's "Three from Thirteen", in which he mentions the irony of his Bar Mitzvah parsha being the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Gabrielle Glancy's "Train", she discusses how she managed the school officer campaign of her German/Swiss, swastika loving classmate, even though she was obsessed with fellow tribesman, David Gittelman, as well as Diane McCann. In David Bergman's "A Close Escape," David recounts a sickly miserable life in Queens NY which was enriched by an enchanting performance of the puppet show, Sleeping Beauty, and his desire for association with one boy and lust for another. David's Bar Mitzvah was a grim, small, estranged affair which marked his escape from shul and elementary school. In Wayne Koestenbaum's "Fashions of 1971", Wayne writes about his boy scout uniform, bell bottoms, LOVE shirt, fringe, P.E. class jocks and coaches, tube socks, and Becky's slip. In Lisa Cohen's "Still Life with Boys" we find a make out scene with the Bar Mitzvah boy. And in Michael Lowenthal's (SAME EMBRACE) "Lost in Translation", he recounts Spanish class, the derision of classmates, a Bar Mitzvah sleepover party, and his desire for a classmate.
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Format: Paperback
I am not a fan of the short story form, preferring the long immersion in fiction that novels offer. This book is one of the few exceptions. I received it as a gift and am glad I did. The stories are thematically related and the writing is uniformly superior. These tales so capture the deliciousness, awkwardness, hope, and disappointments of budding adolescence that I imagine anyone could relate.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some of the intent of this collection was psychological investigation. The editor, Clifford Chase was looking for memories of "that key transitional moment." There are certainly many questions that arise from studying the early adolescence of homosexual people.
How does it arise that gay males have constellations of interests in particular fields? Why the liberal arts rather than the physical sciences? Why acting rather than football? Is this really true or is it a prejudiced stereotype? How and why do effeminate or butch mannerisms arise?
Does the gay student need to be protected from peer persecution? Are segregated high schools justified.?
A taboo question is that of "nature or nurture?" Many gays get annoyed if we even consider the possibility of homosexuality being other than inborn, although some transsexuals are liable to insist that sex roles are social constructs and that a chromatin negative person can choose to be a female.
The collection does not answer all these questions or identify a key moment. What is does have, and which may be a homosexual trait, is superb literary merit. Every story is a gem.
Most of the memories are surprisingly benign and many of the childhoods are remembered as pleasant. Recollections of being "scowled and smirked at" in gym class, such as that of Ralph Sassons, are counterbalanced by the titillating voyeuristic pleasures of such settings. The only horrendous abuse, in Justin Chins "The Beginning of my Worthlessness" was not inflicted as a penalty for effeminacy although it fed into a later feeing of homosexuality as a stigma.
(By the way the book "Peace from Nervous Suffering" that Sassons' mother found helpful is by Claire Weekes, an Australian pschiatrist, and I have often recommended it.)
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Format: Hardcover
Candi Cushman, Education Director for the conservative group "Focus On The Family," makes the following claim about this book "It's called Queer 13 and features erotic, glamourized descriptions of adult-child sexual interactions." She is denouncing this book as a book about sexuality disguised as a book about "embracing diversity."
While I have yet to read the book - and I definitely will - I thought that everyone should know about the hate that Ms. Cushman is teaching. I would not buy a book that glamourizes "adult-child sexual interactions" and I seriously doubt that GLSEN would promote such a book in public schools. Before I buy the book, could someone assure me that the book is about what so many of us suffered in school and not an erotic, gay version of "Lolita?"
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