James W. Hicks, M.D.

Two Short Stories

In Media on June 19, 2010 at 3:19 pm

There are many coming-out novels, but who tells the stories of the not-gay and not-lesbian young men and women who have same-sex experiences?

The title stories of two acclaimed short story collections are narrated by a young man and a young woman who are left behind when their best friends recognize themselves as gay and lesbian.

In Drown, Junot Diaz, the prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, tells the story of two Dominican-American high school boys whose best friendship turns briefly sexual. But it’s the heteroflexible narrator who feels confused and marginilized, while the more confident, gay friend escapes to college.

In Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, ZZ Packer’s narrator is an alienated, Black college freshman woman who forms her first, strong emotional bond with a classmate, only to feel rejected when her friend embraces a lesbian identity. Is the narrator “really” lesbian, or flexamorous, or asexual?

Gay and lesbian labels provide an answer for the best friends in these stories. But for the young narrators, the labels don’t fit, and they feel shut out by the friends they love. Both stories are hauntingly beautiful.

How many friendships have been tested when sexual desire enters the relationship, forcing friends to think about their sexual identity without a framework for understanding their experiences?

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