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International Gay & Lesbian Review

Bare Roots

by Clifton Snider

Louie Crew: Louie Crew is the author of 1,389 books, essays and poems, including The Gay Academic and From Quean Lutibelle's Pew. He is the creator of the E-Directory of Lesbigay Scholars. He is the founder of Integrity, the international ministry of lbgt Anglicans (Episcopalians)

I found Bare Roots quite refreshing. Snider writes with a lean style that is as unpretentious as Justin, the main character. The book is very accessible and engaging.

As an only child of divorced parents, Justin learns soon to fend for himself, and he does so with sharp perceptions about those around him.He is a loner without being asocial. He develops several close friendships, but not until he goes to a bible college does he realize for sure that he is gay, in the final quarter of the novel. At the same school he grows out of some of the religious fervor that initially enthralled him. Justin is intellectually sharp but not precious or elitist. Snider closely observes each stage of his rites of passage.

I like the fact that the novel is primarily about Justin. Snider doesnot push the narrative for a larger commentary. He does not sacrifice the integrity of Justin's experience to write an expose of bible colleges, or absent fathers, or emotionally starved mothers, or uncaring lovers—although Justin encounters each of those obstacles. Snider has no pedagogical agenda in this book: instead, he is faithfully telling the story of a life.

I did not know a kid like Justin when I grew up three decades earlier, or did not know that I did. I wish that we had been buddies. Justin is not snide and sophisticated in the fashion of Holden Caufield; nor is he neurotic. Justin seems much more innocent than Holden. Justin is not taken in by an artifice for grieving, though he has cause enough. While Justin does not miss out on the isolation and the pain of growing up gay, he keeps level through far more of it than I did. It is only at the end of the book that one realizes the huge price that he is paying emotionally.

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International Gay & Lesbian Review
Los Angeles, CA