In this tender-hearted debut, set against the tumultuous backdrop of life in 1973, when homosexuality is still considered a mental illness, two boys defy all the odds and fall in love.
The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely "normal" and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal--at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.
Jonathan doesn't want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be "fixed" once and for all. But he's drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he's perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.
A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA.
Almost psychedelic in tone, this YA debut set in 1973 is a love letter to self-acceptance, even when the world is far from accepting. Gay during a time when queerness is criminalized, Jonathan, a white, asthmatic teen, lives with his alcoholic father in St. Louis and voluntarily undergoes aversion therapy graphically depicted electroshock treatment in the hope of avoiding being arrested for homosexuality, as his uncle was. At the same time, he can't control how he feels about cool and confident Web, a Lakota classmate who kisses him by a lake. To cope with bullying and his sense of isolation, Jonathan lives in his own imagination and talks to his absent mother and to his idol, David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. At times, Brandon's prose drifts into a vague, almost dreamlike form, which makes some of the nightmarish scenes, such as an almost-deadly asthma attack, all the more intense. While not a comfortable read, this deeply impactful book presents historical attitudes and policies with a chilling accuracy that might be best suited for mature teens. An author's note offers historical context and discusses non-Native Brandon's experience with the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits. Ages 12 up.