Title: David Inside Out
Author: Lee Bantle
Pages: 193 pages
Release Date: September 13th, 2016
Source: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Young Adult, Glbt, Realistic Fiction
David Dahlgren, a high-school senior, finds solace in running with the track team; he's a fast runner, and he enjoys the camaraderie. But team events become a source of tension when he develops a crush on one of his teammates, Sean. Scared to admit his feelings, David does everything he can to suppress them: he dates a girl, keeps his distance from his best friend who has become openly gay, and snaps a rubber band on his wrist every time he has "inappropriate" urges. Before long, Sean expresses the thoughts David has been trying to hide, and everything changes for the better. Or so it seems.
In this thoughtful yet searing coming-of-age novel, Lee Bantle offers a raw, honest, and incredibly compelling account of a teenager who learns to accept himself for who he is.
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I'm especially excited to welcome a very special guest to my blog today! It's rare that I ever get the chance to talk to authors and ask some of my burning questions. Now before I let you go to read the post he wrote, I want to disclaim that I haven't read the book myself. I simply asked a question based off of all the reviews I had read. A lot of people mentioned that this book takes place when the GSA did not exist, and I thought that was pretty interesting. Interesting because I couldn't imagine living in a world without the GSA at my school. So I asked Mr. Bantle about what his experiences as a closeted teen in his time and coming out were likecompared to what it would be like to be an LGBTQIA+ teen today. Here was his answer:
Coming Out In the 1970's vs. Coming Out Today
by Lee Bantle
David Inside Out is a contemporary novel about a teenage boy struggling to come to terms with his gay identity. Am I David? No. I was born many decades before David at a time when gays and lesbians were not open or accepted. Gay/Straight Alliances did not exist. The many shows with gay characters did not play on television. The LGBT community was in its infancy.
Yet, David’s internal struggle was informed by my experiences. I was terrified at what I thought would be the consequences of being gay: Social suicide. Parental condemnation. A life of loneliness. So, I tried hard to change my orientation.
In the book, David snaps a rubber band on his wrist when he feels “inappropriate” urges, reads manly magazines and pursues a relationship with a girl. When I was his age, I went even further by undergoing weekly “therapy” in order to become straight. This was my own choice, done in secret. Of course, it didn’t work. The only positive outcome was that the failed attempt gave me the freedom to pursue self-acceptance.
While it’s a much different world today than when I was growing up, for many the internal struggle still exists. I wanted to write a book that dealt with the deep challenge that coming out and accepting one’s gay identity can be. The book does not speak for everyone. Thankfully, these days many teens are comfortable embracing their LGBT identity. But the book does speak for some. I know because I have gotten so many letters from readers telling me how much they identified with David, that the book described what they are going through.
When David comes out to his mother, he finds unconditional love. I wanted to show that this was possible and, I think, this is much more the norm these days. When I came out to my parents (during college), they sent me to the Mayo Clinic to see if I could be changed. (No matter that the earlier therapy had been a bust.) Fortunately, I saw a great shrink who wrote my parents a letter saying that if they tried to change me they would lose all the things that were special about me. This put an end to the nonsense about “changing” my sexual orientation. I have always worn as a badge of pride that I am probably one of the few people in the United States who has been certified as gay by the Mayo Clinic.
I did not have a Sean in my life. He is a composite character with traits drawn from various men I liked who could not handle being gay (and some of whom were comfortable having sex during the act, but freaked out afterward.). I see Sean as a cautionary tale. Many readers have expressed to me how much they loathed him. But I have some sympathy for him. He is making all the wrong choices, and yet I know what he is up against.
I think the protagonists in most novels are partly the author. While writing, as we try to imagine what our characters think and feel, we necessarily draw on our own experiences.
The learning that I hope my readers will draw from the book is to follow their hearts. If that leads to same sex partners, embrace them. Massage them. Send them love poems. Don’t be afraid to be your authentic self. That is all we’ve got in this world.
I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn in a sunny apartment where I do my writing. I set David Inside Out in Minneapolis, Minnesota where I grew up and went to college.
David Inside Out is based in part on my experiences growing up gay in Minnesota before the age of Gay/Straight Alliances, television shows like Will & Grace, and books like the one I have written. My goal in writing this book was to capture the evolving dynamics in play today while giving voice to the complicated feelings that still accompany coming to terms with one's sexual identity. I wrote the book for gay teens who are struggling with their sexual identity, but also for the girls who may date and fall in love with these guys. I also hoped to tell a good coming of age story that would appeal to everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation.
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