Sunday, October 02, 2005

Farm Boys

Just finished probably one of the best books I've read in a while--Farm Boys by Will Fellows. My wife had read it as part of her research for a novel she's working on in which one of the characters is a gay man farming his dad's land. She couldn't put it down and told me after she finished it that I really had to read it. And she was right. It was one of those books that once you start, you can't put down until you've finished it--or at least you don't want to.

Fellows put ads in gay papers in large cities throughout the Midwest in order to get the subjects for his book. He interviewed around 75 gay men who had grown up on farms in the rural Midwest. What follows are narratives describing their experiences growing up gay on farms where it is usually not the best environment for being different in any way, let alone homosexual. The stories range from a couple pages to long, drawn out descriptions of rural life. The men were anywhere between 30s to 84. It's an exceptional read.

I couldn't get over the similarity of the stories--isolation and loneliness figured prominently for many of them. Some moved to large cities after high school, others either stayed on the farm or moved back, unable to get the farm completely out of the boy. At times, it's heartbreaking--I'm thinking specifically of the stories involving the man who died of AIDS and the man who committed suicide shortly after his interview after battling a lifelong clinical depression. Other times, you just want to stand up and cheer the bravery of some of these men.

I would encourage everyone to read this--you don't have to have a rural background to follow it, and you certainly don't have to be gay to enjoy it. The voices of these men really resonate--I think that everyone who is unsupportive of gay rights or homophobic or whatever you want to call it should read this book. It put a very human face on what to many people in the rural Midwest is still a foreign and threatening concept.

Read it. Today.

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