edited by Marion Dane Bauer Evelyn V. Johnson Grade Levels and Audience: Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence (1994) edited by Marion Dane Bauer presents issues of adolescence and homosexuality in a valuable anthology of short stories. Christine Jenkins (1994, June), reviewing the book for the School Library Journal congratulates the authors for successfully conveying “the very mixed emotions that accompany the acceptance of sexual difference at any age that places a high value on conformity to an established norm.” She recommends the collection for seventh graders and up. (p. 144) Reviewers in The Horn Book Magazine (1994, July/August) note that the sixteen short stories are important statements “about the resilience and hope of adolescents. As a group they form a powerful commentary about our social and emotional responses to homosexuality and our human need for love and acceptance. A remarkable and welcome collection.” They remark that though these stories have homosexuality as a common theme, they are “also stories of love, coming of age, adventure, and self-discovery. This book is recommended for readers “ages 12 through Young Adult.” (p. 457)
Introduction: Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence is a collection of short stories for young adults which addresses issues of homosexuality. Some of the protagonists have gay friends or family members, like Willie in “Holding.” Some of these young adults are discovering that they feel attracted to people of the same sex and are questioning their sexual orientation, as in the title story. Others, like the young people in “Parents’ Night,” have determined that they are homosexual and now must confront society, family, and friends. These stories are upbeat and positive. The reader feels compassion and pride for these sincere young people who are simply trying to find acceptance, approval, and love. These stories give readers the hope that the world will finally be kind to every sort of person, and that homosexual adolescents will retain the power to cope during adolescence to conduct meaningful, satisfying adulthoods.
One feature of this collection that is particulary rich is the author commentary. Marion Dane Bauer’s introduction is moving. She gets right to the point when she cites suicide statistics of adolescents. One out of three teenage suicides, she states, is linked to concerns about the victim’s homosexuality. She further points out that teachers have the responsibility of helping the student who is suffering, maybe dying, from lack of information. Not all of the authors represented in this collection are homosexual, but all share a concern for adolescents to acquire a broad view of life and people; that without accurate, inclusive information about sexuality, our society will continue to harbor pockets of fear and hatred toward those whose conduct does not match a perceived norm. Each of the stories includes a short statement from the author. Some comment on their own lives and careers, discussing their own writing process. A few of the authors have written fairly extensive commentaries. Gregory Maguire talks about the journeys of his life, literal and figurative. He wrote his story, “The Honorary Shepherds” after watching friends struggle and die from AIDS and says the story “was born of a conviction: As individuals have the power to break away from their origins, so they have the power to maintain and strengthen the ties that nourish them.”(Bauer, p. 83)
Plot Summaries of 16 short stories: 1. “Am I Blue” by Bruce Coville — A fairygodfather named Melvin helps Vince deal with his sexual confusion. Vince has been “gay-bashed” by Bruce Corrigan, the school bully and Melvin comes to his aid. Eventually Vince gets three wishes. His final wish is that all the gays in the world turn blue. We see by color shading how wide spread homosexuality is, from light blue to dark blue. Not surprisingly, the great homophobe Bruce...