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The Grass Sweeper God Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
This book is a true emotional roller coaster. You join the characters through so many highs and lows throughout. Every time they fall, your heart breaks for them and every time they pick themselves back up, you can't help but feel pride. You are able to fully connect with each and every one of the characters because of the fluent and in depth way that they are all written about.
This book touches upon the lives of so many homosexual men and women who were forced to hide who they were, or be beaten for not hiding it. So many people were made to feel disgusted at who they really were and this books shows that so clearly. The way in which homosexuals were treated back then was so sickening. And although people are slightly more accepting now, the battle that you fight alongside the characters in this book is still ongoing.
This book was truly heartbreaking to read, but I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand what it was truly like to be a homosexual just a mere 60 years ago!
Yet, this 'excrement' feels that there must be better in this world, it is something he feels against all the world is saying, something that comes from the soul, so, 'For some reason, he imagined an angel's harp singing in his ear, then remembered a drum roll like the devil talking.' This duplicity, this contrast between what Smiley's reality is and what it could be, runs through the whole books. The Grass Sweeper God reminds me of the best passages from Steinbeck, where the stark reality (here also taken up by the rural environment of the first chapters, the attention to animals, what they look, sound and smell like) in a place aptly called 'Solitude' (I think the reference to Soledad is clear), and the theme of 'being different' is brought into the contemporary world with the same mix of harsh realism on one side and touches of symbolism on the other:
'Outside, under the breezeway to the cafeteria that served as sixth-period study hall, Belch and Victor stopped them. "*** boy, you see this fist? I'm gonna pulverise you with it, pretty boy. Instead of bursting it into the locker, I'm gonna bust your mouth with it."'
Not long after, though, light comes into Smiley's life, in the physical shape of the Circus del Sol (again, pay attention to the name...), where Madame Luna allows Smiley to see beyond the immediate reality and constraints of his life in a beautiful moment when the situation creates one of those moments when, though the words you hear are what is being said, they mean something completely different to you:
'Do you, Smiley Hanlon, want to be a girl?' 'Yeah.' 'Not in this universe.' Smiley had forgotten all about his question. Did she just ask me if I wanted to be a girl?
And here the beauty of acting, the experience not so much of 'presenting a fake character', but allowing someone who is inside of you to use your body to surface from deep inside you and smile to the world, becomes for Smiley a cathartic epiphany, that will, in the long term, change his life.
Solitude is deemed 'too tough' for Smiley, like it had for his mother (a hint at how hard it is to break patterns?) and he ends up in New York, where, things will change, but not necessarily for the better. In fact, if Steinbeck was concerned with the rural setting of the Dust Bowl, Doug Howery's 'Dust Bowl' covers both town and country and the Big Apple is 'colder' than Solitude, but at least, it allows Smiley to chase that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow which he novel mentions repeatedly. Smiley has now turned into the actress she had experienced being for the first time back in Solitude, and a convincing, persuasive one, while the narrator engages us on a play of words with religious meanings:
"Are you real?" the trick asked, "I mean, you are a woman, right?" She had to make a believer out of this one.
Sixteen years pass, in the frustration of a New York where nothing changes, where The New York Times insists that 'Homosexuality' is still a 'concern', but.... on the horizon, a new light shines for Smiley, "The big, man-made neon star with an overlook towered on the hill about the valley of rapids, Virginia."
Doug Howery is an exceptionally talented author. He takes the reader on a journey that stirs up a multitude of emotions. This book had me crying, cringing and laughing like an idiot in places. The characters are well researched and the book flows beautifully. I will be recommending this book to everyone.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Being different in America has never been easy; being born different and in the wrong body in Solitude, Virginia in the 1950’s, is brutal. Smiley Hanlon lives day to day trapped in a Coal Miners town, buffeted by the Appalachian’s and generations of hate and mistrust. Any hint of being different, or being a ‘Freak’ is enough to ostracize you, pigeon hole you and make you a target for bullying – or worse. Backed by his best friend and protector, Lee Moore, Smiley made it through the days…until the night everything shattered. Chosen as the lead in a new town production called Dorothy of Oz Coal Camp, it seemed to be the beginning to acceptance and maybe even happiness, but the world is cruel and mankind even crueler. The triumph of the play decayed into a Coal Miners version of “Carrie” culminating in a tragic and horrific moment that would change both Smiley and Lee, forever.
This is their story, but it is also the story of so many others – both in this book and out of it. From the backwoods of Solitude to the sprawling cement gardens of New York City, this book spans 20 years and many lives. History comes alive with the recounting of the Stonewall Riots while the chilling fact that homosexuality was, and in many places still is, considered an abomination worthy of mental illness and subsequent shock treatment is disturbing and humbling. This tale breaks a heart, crushes a soul and somehow gives birth to a beautiful butterfly.
Doug Howery illustrates with words a pain few can comprehend, weaving this complex novel in scenes compelling and deep. There is a risk to his vision, words that leave little to the imagination – and honesty that begs the reader to look a bit deeper. This is an amazing book, one I highly recommend. Well written and poignant, no matter your genre preference – this novel should be in your library.
The Grass Sweeper God is a unique story set in an Appalachian coal miners town in the 1950's. The main character is a young boy named Smiley and he is treated as mentally disabled and an outcast because he is effeminate and likes to wear women's clothing to school. While he has the support of his best friend, Lee, during the daylight hours, things are not as supportive at home with his aunt and uncle that are raising him. Smiley is chosen to play the lead in an odd spin-off of the Wizard of Oz, called Oz Coal Camp. This doesn't sit well with many as it's a female lead and some tragic events come to pass as a result.
This was a powerful read for me. I'm gay and often thank my lucky stars that I was born and ""came out"" in a day and age when I am accepted by nearly everyone I meet. I am also so grateful for those who came before me who had to suffer the indignities and discrimination in order for the acceptance to be at the level that it is right now. Regardless, a book like this is an important one because I think that it illustrates a very real part of our history and one that we should never forget. Not to mention the fact that there are still places that this sort of discrimination exists today. Whatever can be said to bring light to hateful activities has my vote.
Social commentary aside, Doug Howery is a great writer and did a fantastic job with this material. He had me hooked and this is a book that nearly anyone can find an emotional connection to.
Smiley is a boy that has been born in the wrong body, in the 1950's and because he wears his aunt's blouse to school they put him in a class for slow kids. Being a female in a boys body is hard enough.... but to have to grow up in the 50's in a small rural town made it even worse. Smiley was always being bullied for being a "freak". Without his best friend Lee to stick up for him, things could have been worse. A teacher helps him get into a play based on the Wizard of Oz, playing Dorothy (to get this dressing like a girl thing out of his system). It seems almost that he might start being accepted more in that backward hateful town. Then things took a turn for the worse when something so awful and horrific happens that it changes Smiley forever.
This book spans about 20 years and follows not only Smiley and Lee but a myriad of other characters that were all incredibly developed and real.
This is a perfect book for today's day and age. With Gay marriage being legalized more and more, I believe everyone needs to learn about the history of the Gay Rights movement, and that is what this was for me.... an education. I had never heard of the Mattachine Society or the Stonewall riots. This puts you in the mind and heart of gay and transexual people... and what they went through, to come this far, will break your heart. This should be a book that is required reading in school, this is American history .... written in a way that will entertain while you learn about a time that is just as important as the Women's Rights movement, and the African American rights movement.
I would recommend this book to anyone. When I started reading this book, in the afternoon, I couldn't stop reading until I almost passed out on my kindle, and the first thing I did upon waking was grab my kindle to get back to the book. I laughed, I cried and I learned a lot. I can see this book winning awards, really..... it's that good.
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