Monday, January 27, 2014

Reader Response: The Miseducation of Cameron Post Pt. 2

Continued reader response to The Miseducation of Cameron Post for my Teen Materials class.

** Spoilers everywhere! **

Chapters Four and Five and Six

A major theme in these chapters is the complexity of Aunt Ruth. This is a woman who gave up her job as a stewardess immediately to take responsibility for her orphaned niece. She's always made up neatly and always polite, even if that politeness takes on a "hard edge" when she's struggling to maintain it. She does listen to others. She tried to maintain Cameron's family traditions, even outdoing Cameron's mother in terms of making everything perfect. But it's this very striving for perfection that vaguely bothers Cameron and bothers me as a reader. Margot was also neat, stylish, and polite but there was a strong sense that Margot was comfortable with herself and honest. I feel like Ruth my be a wreck underneath, like she needs to be as nice as she is to avoid coming apart.

Ruth is also an evangelical who takes Cameron out of her family's mainline church.
'"[...] It might also be nice for Cammie to hang out with some Christian teens."

As far as I knew, everybody I "hung out with" was a Christian teen, and even if some of them maybe weren't so convinced, not a one of them was talking about their doubts. I knew was Ruth was getting at, though; she wanted me to hang around with the kids who carried their Bibles class to class. She wanted me to wear the T-shirts of Christian rock bands and go to the summer camps, the rallies, to talk the talk and walk the walk.'
There, Cameron is given an Extreme Teen Bible like everyone else. This is the sort of target-demographic Bible with marginal notes and appendices which give answers to all sorts of contemporary questions, like how Christian teens should be handling TV watching or acne. Later on, of course, Cameron uses it to find out what Christian teens should think about same-sex attraction. I liked how Emily Danforth is subtly pointing out that lesbian relationships are covered in the written-in margins, not the Biblical text, but that the attitude of stoning two men to death is discomforting for lesbians all the same. Until attending Gates of Praise (abbreviated GOP, which I smirked at appropriately), Cameron only felt she needed to hide her attraction to girls because mass culture of the late 80s had shown her men and women together, not same sex couples, except for a few VHS movies that the video store clerk would make creepy comments about.

Gates of Praise and Ruth are elements I know well from my own childhood. For me, they represent a type of religiosity that covers over individual struggles with a group separatism. I'm sure it's very comforting for the right personality types. I doubt Cameron would give in even if her feelings weren't being demonized from the pulpit.

I'm not a fan of secret-based-suspense. That's what I expected to happen in these chapters: "When will Ruth find out?!" And, yes, that suspense is happening, but it's not a foreground concern. Cameron develops another relationship that is sweet, and interesting, and an opportunity for her to understand herself better individually and in a cultural context (the other girl is politically aware so we get to see Cameron react to lingo that touches on but isn't a perfect match for her natural feelings).

This book is being everything for lesbian teens that I wish Luna had been for transgender teens.

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