Loren A. Olson, Oak Lane Press Softcover $15.95 (304pp), 978-0-9979614-3-0 Compassion is key in this book that serves to inspire those within the LGBTQ+ community to see that everyone’s struggle is different.
The second edition of Loren A. Olson’s Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight achieves an expert balance between the genres of memoir and self-help to advise and comfort newly out or closeted gay men later in life. This edition builds upon the 2011 edition by actively being more inclusive, addressing some concerns of bisexual erasure and biphobia, and recognizing recent strides in LGBTQ+ rights, while also acknowledging that the fight is not over.
Olson uses heartrending personal experiences to offer insight into the specific isolation and difficulties for gay men coming out when their lives are primarily woven into a heterosexual community, sometimes with wives and children. Through psychiatric theory, cultural and historical context, and personal anecdotes, Olson successfully comforts and validates this isolated community.
By using the phrase “men having sex with men” (MSM) rather than “gay,” Olson highlights that most MSM are not out, and successfully includes them in the conversation. This inclusiveness is important, as is his recognition of the geographic bounds of an active gay culture and ageism. He makes a good case for “a complex matrix of self-expression.”
While Olson mainly focuses on issues of gay men coming out later in life, the book is useful for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, their loved ones, and their allies alike. Adolescence is a turbulent time for anyone, but when you are a queer Latina millennial with a unibrow, who likes Aerosmith and punk rock, there are additional challenges. Indestructible, Cristy C. Road’s graphic-novel memoir of coming of age in Miami, is an edgy, honest, and nuanced chronicle of her young-adult years, accented with her highly textured, monochrome illustrations.
Though she describes a feminist mother and other supportive relatives, Cristy rebels against her family’s cultural expectation that queerness should be repressed. She’d rather dye her hair green and use live reptiles as earrings than go to a nail salon and is frustrated that “ideas like vegetarianism and resisting beauty standards only existed in white America.” She wants to stay out late at night, drink beer, and talk about sex.
The narrative is often insightful and reflective, and there are many colorful conversations between her and her circle of friends. These other “misfits” are listening posts and guides to an alternative and optimistic future. There is frank discussion of mature topics like masturbation and drug use, and the language is laced with salty and sexual slang.
Road’s illustrations have an overall punkrock, cartoony feel, but look past the dramatic composition and bold outlines and show how the artist magnifies the beauty in what typically might be viewed as ugliness—stubble on Cristy’s arms, lacy detail in music posters on a bedroom wall, grit on an urban sidewalk.
Indestructible is a vivid and highly personal account of Cristy’s journey to adulthood.