How Beautiful The Ordinary
What’s so commonplace about the Michael Cart-edited anthology for teens, How Beautiful The Ordinary? Nothing--and everything.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who picks up this collection that teenagers’ stories of sex, love and the complications of discovering those facets of yourself are as diverse as presented here. At the same time, such plurality of voices hasn’t always been represented in GLBT literature for teens and its presence here is welcome.
Opener "A Word From The Nearly Distant Past," from "Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist" author David Levithan, reflects this generation gap by envisioning the future of a handful of (fictional) teenagers who will benefit from today’s struggles. It’s a rosier picture, but it calls to mind an essay by Mark Harris in "New York" last summer timed with the anniversary of Stonewall about generation gaps in the LGBT community. It’s also the only piece that, even implicitly, attempts to generalize.
Stories like Francesca Lia Block’s "My Virtual World," a courtship conducted over social networking Websites, or Ariel Schrag’s graphic-novel depiction "Dyke March" focus on the individual experience, snapshots of their characters’ lives. Jennifer Finney Boylan’s "The Missing Person" and Jacqueline Woodson’s "Trev" explore cross-dressing as identity and the opportunity to find and map gender by doing the same. Margo Lanagan’s "A Dark Red Love Knot" imprints a love story over the classic tale "The Highwayman," imagining that a young servant alerts the police to his movements in order to see a handsome officer again.
In content as well as length, Gregory Maguire’s novella "The Silk Road Runs Through Tupperneck, NH" is the centerpiece of the collection. The story runs along parallel tracks of Faroukh, a teenage student sentenced to summer school who develops a relationship with a mysterious fellow student in his songwriting class, and decades later as an adult Faroukh sets out to find that student again. Despite its slightly moralizing ending--one man has exchanged success for the confines of a heterosexual relationship, while the other lives in happy domesticity co-parenting with his partner--"The Silk Road..." and its protagonist continually waver between self-confidence and self-discovery, exactly the tone of curiosity which the story ought to strike.
by Michael Cart
Publisher: HarperTeen. Publication Date: October 6, 2009. Pages: 368. Price: $16.99. ISBN-13: 978-0-061-154-980