Every October since 2011, libraries, both public and private select a single book and all read it together. This is a time of brown bag discussions, panels, book club discussions, interviews and appearances of the selected author and other exciting activities surrounding the chosen book. In our upper Golf Coast region, local libraries such as The Brazoria County Library System, The Harris County Library System and The Galveston County Library System plus other individual libraries participate. Often a criteria for the selected book is that it is written by a Texas author or is about/set in Texas. Both are true of born-in-Texas Justin Dealer and his novel,Lone Stars.
Deabler’s novel opens with a gay, married couple discussing what Julian (one of the main characters) will tell his adopted son about his own family. The novel covers four generations of a Texas family, flashing back to the childhoods and parents of Julian’s mother and father. Julian’s mother and father’s unique love story is explored, culminating in Julian’s birth. His earliest notions as a child were that he was “different” both by race and gender. Julian was an extraordinary child. One of the scenes when his parents take Julian to the Renaissance Festival in Magnolia, Texas, and Julian amuses himself by trying on wedding veils, only to be vilified by the boutique owner’s boyfriend who calls Julian a “faggot.” Aaron, Julian’s father begins a campaign to toughen up his son, at least enroll him in sports, where his mother Lacy accepts her son as he is and supports and encourages Julian for the rest of his life.
Growing up gay in Houston is the autobiographical part of this novel, and I, the reader enjoyed reading about the places in Houston I frequented as a young married in Houston. In places, the story is a real tear-jerker, but it is never maudlin. It teaches that love is love and that it cherishes regardless of gender preference. Overall, it is a darned good read.
But I’m not finished yet!
I had the privilege of hearing Deabler read from the book and be interviewed by the director/head of Gender Studies at The University of Houston, held at the West University Branch Library on October 25th, with my fellow blogger and friend,Deb Nance, from Readerbuzz. The author read from a scene where Julian and his mother, Lacy are at a flea market in Houston (one I have gone to back in ’65) when Lacy is trying to interest Julian in a homecoming date. Julian tells Lacy to get a date herself (Aaron, the father, has had an affair and left his family a few years earlier.), for It is time.
The author expresses empathy for all people and empathy for Southern places like Houston that still deal with the challenge of accepting gay people. The novel is the story of migrants, of being different, of family relationships, of the need to be “seen,” first by parents, then by others. It is a story of Houston.