Monday, 15 June 2015

Review: This Book is Gay by James Dawson

Publication Date: September 4th 2014
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Length: 271 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Former PSHCE teacher and acclaimed YA author James Dawson gives an uncensored look at what it's like to grow up as LGBT. Including testimonials from people 'across the spectrum', this inclusive book explores everything anyone who ever dared to wonder wants to know - from sex to politics, how to pull, stereotypes, how to come-out and more. Spike Gerrell's hilarious illustrations combined with funny and factual text make this a must-have read.

This is an incredibly important book for everyone not just those whose sexuality is covered in the book.

James tackles a breadth of subjects and topics within sexuality so that no matter who you are and how well informed you may already be, you will learn something from this book. It acts like a sort of guidebook for those thinking about their sexuality, coming to terms with their sexuality, and those who may already be out and secure with it. The breadth of topics covered is staggering: common definitions and labels, stereotypes, biological theories, coming out dating, homophobia, sex, marriage, children, religious opposition, transphobia and HIV/AIDS. For such a slim volume it does a huge amount.

He gives clear, honest and open advice on all of these topics as well as pulling stories and thoughts from survey’s he has conducted with people from around the world and the result is a patchwork of support and advice that shows anyone reading this book that you are not alone. It gives snapshots into so many lives and it’s wonderful to see so many different views collected into one book, providing a thought provoking and engaging read.

Sex-Ed is woefully lacking in so many parts of the world, and almost non-existent for anyone whose sexuality doesn’t fall into the straight category. It leaves so many people isolated, confused and ignorant about things that should be taught as freely as straight sex-ed is taught, and this book is a fantastic step in the right direction to right this imbalance.

The only reason that this book doesn’t have a full five stars from me is because there are quite a few topics glossed over – for example I didn’t feel that there was nearly enough page space devoted to Trans, and I think the idea of being asexual was mentioned once? For a book that was supposed to be inclusive I felt that it leaned very heavily on Gay/Lesbian and didn’t look very far outside that circle. That’s fair enough if the book was just going to focus on that, but to act as though the book was all inclusive and then to only focus heavily on being gay or lesbian felt a bit frustrating.

It also felt as though the aimed for age of the reader was a bit all over the place. This is an important book, one that needs to be read by pretty much everyone regardless of their gender or sexuality or age, and there were some points that felt like they were aimed for much younger readers and then others where it shifted abruptly to more adult language. It didn’t quite strike the right balance for me as a book aimed at a wide group of people. It was an admirable attempt at a very tough job, but it didn’t quite hit all the right points for me.

This is a hugely important book, for those needing help, advice and reassurance for the things they are going through. For people who are curious. For people who are willing and open to being educated. The world has been so homophobic for so long that it is a relief to see books like this appearing on shelves. Funny, informative and engaging, this is one that I will be getting everyone I know to sit down and read.

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