A Free Dreamer Review: This Book Is Gay by James Dawson

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This Book Is Gay coverFormer PSHCE teacher and acclaimed YA author James Dawson gives an uncensored look at what it’s like to grow up as LGBT. Including testimonials from people ‘across the spectrum’, this inclusive book explores everything anyone who ever dared to wonder wants to know – from sex to politics, how to pull, stereotypes, how to come-out and more. Spike Gerrell’s hilarious illustrations combined with funny and factual text make this a must-have read.

A book with a title like that can only be for gay boys and men, right? Well, no. Whether you are gay, lesbian, bi, trans*, straight, queer or whatever else, this book is definitely worth a read for everybody. That’s something the author and I absolutely agree on.

James Dawson is a gay cis-man, which of course influences his writing. Some parts are explicitly addressed at gay cis-men only. The author never denies that he can only write from that point of view. Which is why he decided to let an “expert” write the chapter about lesbian sex and love and had plenty of random people tell their story throughout the book. So there are plenty of opinions on every topic that’s raised. You never have to rely on just the author’s point of view.

The parts about transsexuality were a little short. But I guess it would have been too much to cram everything into this book, since this topic requires an in-depth study of the law and health system and can probably get quite complicated.

Because of the short chapters, which are again split up into smaller parts, you don’t need to invest a lot of time into reading about one specific topic. The book can be read in bits and pieces every now and again and you won’t have any trouble following the author. I only read this at work and had to frequently stop reading to serve customers and I never had any trouble. Thanks to this set-up, I’m convinced people who normally don’t like to read will have an easy time with this book too.

The tone is relaxed and funny. The writing style is very similar to most teenagers’ speech patterns in daily life. Sometimes this makes the book feel a little crude, which took some time getting used to. It’s not something you typically expect to find in non-fiction. The author easily conveys lots of knowledge without any complicated medical terms. Funny illustrations further help with keeping the boredom away and making it even more YA-friendly.

Even though I mostly felt this book was really awesome, I do have two very major things I very much did not approve of.

There’s lots and lots of talk about safer sex in the chapter for gay sexuality, and the author keeps stressing how important it is to always, always, ALWAYS use condoms throughout the book. Then there’s the chapter about lesbian sexuality and safer sex isn’t even mentioned. Not once. Not a single time. Ever. It left me baffled. It almost felt like the author was saying there was no way for two women to protect themselves when having sex, or that they can’t get any STDs anyway. I think that’s a very questionable message to convey. Everybody knows about condoms these days, but I’m sure there’s many girls out there who have no idea how safer sex for lesbians works.

And speaking of safer sex: At one point, the author talks about orgies disguised as “parties” and says you’d best use two condoms when going to one of those. THAT IS A VERY BAD IDEA. NEVER use more than one condom at once. More condoms don’t make you safer. The risk of tearing is far bigger than with one condom and you’ll be exposed to all the nasty stuff you wanted to protect yourself from in the first place. I seriously hope this was meant as a joke that was somehow lost in translation (I read the German translation).

To sum it up, “This Book Is Gay” is an interesting non-fiction book for young adults with an easy-going, funny tone and plenty of illustrations that are bound to make you laugh. It doesn’t mince matters and has some very interesting facts for straight teenagers too. This definitely belongs into every modern school library!
I really liked the message the author kept repeating: Be yourself, whatever that means. Your sexual orientation and gender identification is only a small part of your whole personality.

The cover definitely works for the book. The colours of the rainbow flag, big, fat letters, and nothing else. A little simplistic, but it does its job. The artwork in the book was way better.

Sales Link:  Amazon  | Buy It Here

Book details:

ebook, Kindle, Paperback, 271 pages
Published September 4th 2014 by Hot Key Books
Goodreads link