Friday, October 2, 2009

Down to the Bone

Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole 2008

Rating: 5/5

IQ "He smiles. 'You're not gay right?'"
"I move away from him and twirl around him twice. I think about it for a minute, then say 'Right'. I guess it's just a matter of semantics. if he had asked, 'You've never been in love with a girl, right?' then that would be a different story."

I am a failure. I failed to see what I was missing out on by not reading about GLBTQ teens. I'm going to be completely honest, before I started reading Down to the Bone I didn't know if I could read this book without being uneasy. I felt almost hypocritical because ask me Do you believe in gay marriage? And I would say absolutely! You should be able to fall in love and marry whoever you want. But I didn't know if I could actually read a book about gay people. I hope no one takes offense to this, I'm trying to be honest and admit how wrong I was in thinking that. I didn't know if I could handle in a mature way, reading about girls kissing girls and being in love with each other. Could I relate, even though I'm straight? Well, the answer is YES! In reading Down to the Bone, I realized that the main character Laura (who is lesbian) felt the same way about being in love as so many other people (including myself). She went through the same feelings of her first love as anyone else; the happy, giddy, crazy in love feelings. And when her girlfriend of two years was forced to go home to Puerto Rico and get married, I felt SO BAD for her. It's the exact same as (for a straight person) dating someone for two years and then they leave the country and marry someone else. How do you feel? Heartbroken. Regardless of your sexual orientation. Why do I share this with my readers? Because I don't want anyone to not pick up this wonderfully honest, funny, amazing book simply because they don't want to read about same sex love. Don't allow yourself to miss out on a great book.

Laura is a great character. I love her environmentalist, girl-power qualities. "'True equality will happen when straight guys start dressing like and acting like girls.' I point to the guys. 'Girls picked up all your bad habits-like drinking, smoking, hooking up with everybody, going to the gym to get muscles, wearing suits and ties to work-just to be equal. It's cool for butches, kings and bois to dress like guys, cuz that's how they really feel. But for real equality you guys have got to start dressing in skirts and heels and putting on makeup.'" This idea of true equality had never occur ed to me. It was really interesting to think about. She's funny, but she did tell a few too many lies for my taste, lies that were pointless. I also didn't really understand why she didn't think she was lesbian. However, that just made the book even more interesting and I couldn't put it down.

Soli is Laura's awesome best friend. I think she should truly go down in the history books as one of the Greatest Best Friends of all time. She was always there for Laura, and this was especially true when Laura's mom kicked her out and Soli (and her mom) took her in. This may seem like no big deal, but (from what I gathered in the book), it is a huge deal for a Cuban mom and daughter to accept a Cuban girl as lesbian and love her anyway. Soli is wacky and cool. She's straight, but goes through so many quick relationships. Her and Laura's arguments are temporary and they always cheer each other up. It's a beautiful friendship.

Laura's mom made me so mad. How can any mother kick their child out of their house simply because she isn't in love with the 'right' gender? The scene where Laura is kicked out is so sad, especially when Laura gets on her knees and begs her not to kick her out. Laura's brother Pedri really wants his sister to stay. Laura and Pedri have such a sweet relationship, they are really close and loving. They don't have one of those always-fighting-couldn't-care-less-about-them-sibling relationships and it's refreshing to read about.

Down to the Bone also gave me a detailed glimpse of the Cuban community. It showed the good and the not-so-good. The Cuban mother and almost the whole Cuban community viewed being GLBTQ as something crazy and shameful. I don't think this negative attitude applies only to the Cuban community, it's the same way in many other immigrant communities and conservative towns (I say this based on polls and personal experiences). The good was the food, the Spanish language (specifically Cuban expressions) and the people. The strong sense of love and community. The food sounded (and is, I've had most of it) delicious (frijoles, flan jugo de melocoton, cafe con leche, carne asada, pastelitos and so much more!). Also Miami sounds like such a fun and vibrant place to live in. I loved the descriptions of the clubs, beaches and shops (I believe they are fictional but they are most likely based off of real places).

I loved Down to the Bone and I finished it with the full intent of reading more YA GLBTQ books. 8th grade and up (not very graphic, the sex scenes are brief, and not very detailed).

-Thanks so much for donating a copy to my giveaway Mayra!
Also, remember to enter my Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month giveaway. You could win this book!


  1. The thing with not thinking she was a lesbian:

    If the ONLY things you "know" about lesbians are the untruths, the stereotypes, the slanders, the icky things? If you've been told that lesbians are gross, and mannish, and man-haters, and and and? Then sometimes you don't realize right away that everything you've been told about lesbians is wrong; you just know that you're not any of those things. And since you're not any of those horrible things that lesbians supposedly are, then (you think to yourself) you must not be a lesbian.

    Remember that when most teens come out, they start out not knowing any more about LGBTQ people than most straight kids do. Newly-out LGBTQ kids often have to start by unlearning a lot of wrong things they've been told about LGBTQ people.

    Nowadays, it's becoming less and less common for young LGBTQ people to go through the stage where they say: "I don't know what I am, but at least I do know that I'm not a (insert slur here)!" There's the internet now AND there are good books (like Down to the Bone!) available. But even though it's becoming less common for LGBTQ kids to go through that, it still happens, especially if a lot of the people you grew up around have consistently nasty things to say about LGBTQ people.

  2. Oh, and I meant to say: I'm glad you took the plunge and read a book about kids who aren't straight. And I'm glad you ended up liking the book, too. :-)

    Another book I liked about LGBTQ teens of color was The God Box by Alex Sanchez, if you're looking to read any more. That's about a boy in a small Texas town who's trying to figure out if he can be a good Christian AND be gay.

  3. Ari, this is a terrific review. I love how you recapitulate your feelings for us as you review the plot. And your writing is so good. I can't wait to say, "Oh, yes, I used to read her when she was still writing just a blog!"

  4. Ari,

    Being honest and frank about how you feel adds so much to your review. I was surprised when I learned how uncomfortable and less than accepting teens could be about gay people. Then I realize how much teens struggle to fit in, figure out who they are, find their comfort zones and I realize I shouldn't have been surprised that some teens would be uncomfortable.

    Like Elizabeth said, there's more information, more opportunities to meet other gay teens now. Mayra is closer to my age (I think I might be almost a decade older) and I remember when I was in high school, I had gay friends but they didn't talk about it, I didn't ask and I knew some people were openly prejudiced towards anyone they thought was gay.

    Thanks so much for validating what a lot of us adults who love YA felt about this book and others.

    I'm with Jill,I know we're going to be reminiscing about when you were 15 and blogging. :-)

  5. I love your honesty Ari! I've always been really comfortable reading about guys who are gay, but not so much about girls, which is crazy. Then last year I just took a breath and dived in to 'Oranges are not the only fruit' by Jeanette Winterson. And you know what reading about these girls didn't threaten my own sexuality, it didn't freak me out (duh), it just gave me tons and tons of more reading opportunities (and it meant I was happy picking up 'The L Word').

    I don't know exactly what was holding me back, but I let something get inside my head, something that said as a straight girl I shouldn't be reading these books, what could I get from them...Clearly this was insane. So yay for you breaking down your own barriers and glad to hear 'Down to the Bone' is so good, it's on my list.

  6. I also appreciate your honesty, Ari--admitting our own anxiety and discomfort is the first step to overcoming it. DTTB was also my first LGBTQI book, and I've got a growing list of other great titles to consider. Great review!

  7. It can be so difficult to get students to read these books! However, when they do, they can develop a better understanding through someone else's eyes without all the stereotypes they usually hear. Nice review!

  8. This is one of the best reviews in the hertory of the world! Thank you Ari! It moved me and brought tears to my eyes to learn that my book helped you overcome your fears of reading LGBTQ books. I feel special! It means a great deal to me that you, an African American straight teen, connected with the universal feelings in an LGBTQ book. Your writing is strong and you focused on many important points. I feel so lucky to have met you online through Susan/Latonya from Color Online. This is starting to grow into a beautiful people of color community. I have a feeling that one day you'll be a famous reviewer. Gracias again. I've got on the biggest smile you've ever seen. : D

  9. This is awesome! And as a lesbian, I have to say, you sound like a great ally.

    If you have some time, maybe you could check out my review?

    And FYI, your beautiful honesty is what we need more of in this world.

  10. Wow... I REALLY want to read this one! It sounds incredible! And I don't think I've ever heard of another book that has a lesbian Latina main character. Thanks for the review!


I love to hear from you!! Thank you for sharing :) And don't be Anon, I try to always reply back and I like to know who I'm replying to ;)