Thursday, August 6, 2009
Surreptitiously Gay: The Westing Game?
All right, this piece was written several months ago, and just brought to my attention today via Worth the Trip, but since as you know The Westing Game is my favorite Newbery, I was intrigued by the question of whether there's a gay subtext. Before I read the piece, I quickly scanned my memory for guesses as to what the blogger might be looking at. Angela's friendship with Sydelle Pulaski (those matching checkered outfits!)? Turtle's tomboyishness? Judge Ford's... Judge Fordness?
It's nothing so straightforward as that, and I think this is really more about one person's response to The Westing Game than anything I'd pick out as being queer. (Really, the most surprising thing to me was the author's comment that some of his students wonder about A Separate Peace, even though "sex and sexuality don't feature" in it. I honestly thought that was what A Separate Peace was about, even if it isn't written explicitly. Isn't it?)
Philip mentions a few other books with queer subtext, or possibly queer subtext, like Harriet the Spy. What other children's books have you considered in this context? Since Betsy-Tacy is the hot topic right now, I'll say that I've never noted the slightest hint of a queer subtext between the two of them, though it's questioned occasionally by fans--but in Carney's House Party, in the Vassar chapters, it's barely even hidden. The Sue Barton nurse books are crawling with it (this is probably not a revelation to any of you by this point, but the author of Sue Barton, Helen Dore Boylston, was Rose Wilder Lane's life partner). The boyfriends in Nancy Drew were never anything but a joke. The first Babysitters Club/Friends Forever book, Everything Changes, practically reads like slash fanfic--and speaking of Ann M. Martin, when I read the final California Diaries book (this series is AMAZING, I'm not kidding) I almost cried because she and her ghostwriters never came right out and said Ducky was gay, although they left enough hints for people in the know. My most recent discovery was A Solitary Blue, which I loved loved loved and thought was very gay. Oh, and for a newer book, I haven't got a doubt about one of the characters in The Green Glass Sea and White Sands, Red Menace.
I could (and do) go on like this for a long time, but any other offerings? Or thoughts on The Westing Game? (By the way, my vote for Newbery-with-most-queer-subtext is probably The Twenty-One Balloons.)