The Full Spectrum : A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities
With The Full Spectrum, editors David Levithan and Billy Merrill provide an open forum for GLBTQ teenagers and early twenty-somethings with an assortment of personal stories, essays, and poems. The works range in theme from self-acceptance and first-time experiences to the coming-out process and future obstacles, both personally and politically. The collection is refreshing, harrowing, glib and thought-provoking, a catalogue of first-person accounts told in a variety of formats including email exchanges, diary entries, and letters to loved ones, as well as traditional prose.
"We must continue to tell our stories in hopes that others are listening," taken from Travis Stanton’s entry, A Fairy’s Tale, perhaps best describes what The Full Spectrum sets out to accomplish. Some of the entries sound almost child-like, whereas others are remarkably well-written, considering the age limit for inclusion was 23. Regardless, each story, poem, or rant makes for compelling reading, and the collection, as a whole, reminds the reader, and each of the authors, that while their stories are unique, they are not alone.
Nonetheless, loneliness and isolation are recurring themes throughout the collection. In Crying Wolfe, Jack Lienke tells the story of a high school acquaintance, Wolfe Reed, who shares his fondness for slasher flicks but acknowledges their friendship only in private. "Genuine connection, after all, isn’t suspenseful," says Jack, attempting to help both the reader and himself better understand his relationship with Wolfe. "It’s isolation that creates tension." Tyrell Pough, author of one of the shorter but arguably more disturbing entries, Continuation of the Life, shares details of abuse at the hand of his foster mother and the subsequent bullying he endures at three different group homes. In spite of his past experiences, Tyrell has a surprisingly positive outlook. "For those who are in the struggle," he says, "hang in there and just believe."
Given the obstacles these individuals have had to overcome, and at so young an age, each story still ends either on a high note or with the assumption that the worst is over. With titles as varied and self-explanatory as When You’re a Gay Boy in America (which explores a young man’s first encounter with internet dating), A Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom (portraying a sixteen-year-old’s struggle with gender identity), and A Quietly Queer Revolution (which chronicles a bisexual woman’s relationship with religion and her church), the outcome is always resoundingly positive and life-affirming. JoSelle Vanderhooft perhaps best conveys this sentiment with her entry, The Most Important Letter of Our Life, where she writes a letter, in present day, to herself as a teenager ten years ago. "I want to tell you every day of your life that sexual abuse, your father, the fact that you broke your toe on a chair once, whatever," she proclaims, "has nothing to do with your sexual orientation." JoSelle knows she can’t change the past and that her younger self is long gone, but it helps to serve as a reminder of the person she is now.
The Full Spectrum provides a wonderful outlet for GLBTQ youngsters, writers and readers alike. While the quality and content of some stories and entries is perhaps questionable, the editors are likely to generate a loyal following and continued interest in this writing genre.
by David Levithan & Billy Merrell
Publisher: Knopft Books for Young Readers. Publication Date: May 9, 2006. Pages: 288. Price: $9.95. Format: Paperback Original. ISBN 0-375-8329-04