Monday, 12 August 2013

I Know What Gay Is, Foxglove Lee

Official Blurb:
When the couple next door asks Jay to babysit, he can't help wondering… why him? Did they hire Jay as some kind of queer role model because they suspect little Sarah is gay?
At the park, when Sarah and Jay run across the guy he's been pseudo-stalking, Sarah insists she’s a boy. Darien’s sheer sexiness makes Jay pretty brain-dead, and he can't think what to talk about except how Sarah wants everyone to call her Frank.  The funny kid reminds Darien of his transgender cousin.  Could Sarah be trans, too? Should Jay talk to her parents?  What if they say it's none of his business? What if they fire him?
Well, then he'll just have to spend his summer watching Darien work in the park, sweaty and shirtless...

-Review by Kazza K

I Know What Gay IsThe official blurb does a good job of describing this short by Foxglove Lee. So there is not much to add as far as a review is concerned because it is short. So, some of my thoughts and feelings.

The title is something that five year old Sarah mentions to her fill-in babysitter, Jay -

"I know what gay is."
Jay nearly choked on his grilled cheese. "Oh, yeah?"
Sarah gave a resolute nod after wiping her milk moustache off on her sleeve. "Gay is when boys marry boys and girls marry girls."
How in depth should he let this discussion go?

This short is very well written. It combines the realistic thoughts and dialogue of a teenage male, Jay, his babysitting duties, and his crush on a school friend, Darien. The book is light but has a thought provoking and sensitive look at Sarah, the five year old neighbour of Jay who he is babysitting; and the possibilities of a his young neighbour either being lesbian or transgender. Sarah likes dressing in her brother's clothes, she likes playing soccer, does not like playing with other girls, and she wants to be called Frank.

Everything is well written - the age-appropriate way all the characters speak. The way Jay cutely lusts after school friend Darien, who works at the local park. The way Darien is so confident and the fact that he is keen on Jay. And the way they both treat Sarah, aka Frank. The understanding that Jay tries to have at such a young age himself for his young neighbour, and the way the character's interactions makes you think in many ways-

It seemed weird that Annie and Wayne asked specifically for Jay to watch their daughter for the two weeks her regular nanny was on vacation. People usually thought it was weird for guys to spend too much time around kids - especially gay guys, for some stupid reason. Like all gay men were child molesters or something. Ridonculous.
But Annie and Wayne next door obviously didn't think that way, so that was pretty cool.

Sarah is sure of who she is and has chutzpah about it. Her brother has gone to camp and when Jay asked why she wasn't at camp. Sarah explained she wasn't old enough but when she is  -

"They even said when I'm old enough I have to go to girl camp instead. I said I'm a boy too, but they told me no, so I'm gonna sneak into the boy camp and say I'm a boy and they'll believe me because I am one even if Dad said I'm not."

"Sarah, grab your soccer ball. Time to go."
He felt conspicuous like a cat among the pigeons when Sarah didn't answer. Was it just his imagination, or was everybody staring? He couldn't take his eyes off the kid who wouldn't acknowledge him, not for a second. She didn't look up....
All at once , he understood.
"Frank," he called. "It's time to head home. Say bye to your friends."
Gazing at Jay with a cheeky but grateful grin, Sarah picked up her soccer ball.
Frank picked up his soccer ball.

There are lots of quotable lines. Nothing heavy or over the top but all nicely considered and written by the author. I highly recommend this terrific YA short to anyone wanting a quick, cute, yet thought provoking read.

**Some of my extra thoughts**

I am for anything that touches on children not being dismissed out of hand as not knowing how they are feeling about something as important as gender identity. Don't get me wrong, I'm not for labelling a five year old, and Foxglove Lee certainly is not doing that here, but I am all for being open and aware as a parent. It is a nice book for both teenage readers along with older YA readers, like me.

I want to add a personal note. By the time our son was five, my husband I had more than an idea he  could quite possibly be gay. I won't go into the whys of that as we didn't care what his sexual orientation was/would be as long as he was/would be happy and a decent person. So this book resonated with me. Children should not be discouraged from feeling a particular way. Talk to your children, don't judge, and don't label. Be prepared and love them as they are precious and they are born the way they are.

4.5 Stars


  1. What a great review of what I can tell is a great little story. From reading this, I simply adore Sarah/Frank. You know how much I love children in my books. :)

    Your last few lines are dead on. If only all parents felt that way. Children should be loved unconditionally, regards of who THEY love.

    1. For sure, Cindi. Parents should love their children unconditionally, but there are more than a few who don't. Too many being thrown out of home and living on the streets. This is a terrific short read - nothing preachy or inappropriate. I guess I just ran with the ball a bit :) I will be reading more by the author.