— a friend’s comment when I complained about having to alternately try to persuade potential reviewers that my book Angel is not A. a preaching book trying to convert people or B. erotica.
It’s an experience that I, as a straight person, hadn’t really faced before but one that has since become familiar.
It’s that moment when you look at the person making friendly conversation, asking you about your life, and you stop and size her up. How do you imagine she is going to react? Do you know her to be a conservative Christian? Will she think of you differently after you respond? If you work with her, might her feelings about your response affect how she views you as a client?
My book is about a Christian minister who falls in love with another man. It’s about how his faith and relationship with his congregation evolve as a result.
Do I say this directly or do I speak around it? “It’s a bout a minister and his relationship with his congregation.” “It was inspired by a trip I took to the mountains.”
No, I can’t claim to know what it is like to have this come up about everything: your weekend plans, your family situation, “Who is that person who brought you lunch?” But writing LGBT literature, that is to say, writing one book about gay and bisexual characters, has given me a small taste.
Before I wrote the book, I had the luxury of holding but not voicing my opinion when it was not convenient, of keeping quiet and letting people assume I agreed with whatever they believed. Like most luxuries, it came at a high price: fear and inauthenticity.
I have friends who have reacted with— let’s call it surprise at the topic of my book. They love me anyway. My worries were unfounded. That realization spills over into many areas of my life. Trying to avoid offending anyone is a great way to avoid saying anything worth expressing.
I have a theory that social change happens not when the first trail blazers take a stand— as important as they are. The change really happens when average people stop nodding in agreement to things they don’t believe. I do think we’ve reached a point in history where a lot of people have stopped nodding.
I read a poem once with the title “Unlearning Not to Speak.” That is what writing lgbt literature has been for me, a process of unlearning not to speak.
People want to ask “is the church good or bad,” but I think that question is too simple. The church is made up of people. People bring everything that makes them human into the church, which means it is a combination of art and transcendent beauty and compassion and support and also prejudice and status worries and gossip. Does the cross stand for resurrection and rebirth, or is it a symbol used by people who want assurance that they are moral and perhaps more moral and upstanding than others? It can mean inclusiveness– as Jesus upset authorities by associating with the unclean– or it can mean exclusiveness as in “only those who believe in Jesus go to heaven.” It is all of that and many other things. I didn’t want to tell the reader what they should make of all of that. I simply wanted to present the story and to be sure the depiction of religious community life was truthful and then let the reader decide what it means. That’s why some people think Angel is slam on the church and some see it as a heart-felt expression of true faith."
— interview with author Laura Lee on Fighting Monkey Press
Angel is an exploration of faith, an exploration of the nature of love, and forces the reader to think about the difference between private and public identity. I have to admit, this one made me cry a number of times. The raw emotions, the lyrical writing and the unadulterated adoration Paul felt for Ian was overwhelming at times…
Angel is a book that needs to be read a few times. It should be essential reading for Gender Studies and Seminary in dealing with issues of Sexuality. It’s deep, it’s thoughtful, its beautiful and evocative. Angel challenges the reader to look at themselves, their lives and re-examine their preconceived notions.
Most of all though Angel is a love story. And you should read it.