Wednesday, 1 July 2015

'This Book Is Gay' by James Dawson (****)

Hello, readers! Today I have a book review for you, of the brilliant James Dawson’s This Book Is Gay. This book has been on my TBR pile for so long- almost a year, which is really embarrassing. I received this book last year in a goody bag at the YALC Blogger’s Breakfast and got it signed by THE MAN HIMSELF, however I haven’t gotten around to reading it until now. Since I have begun reading it, I have been trying to place my finger on the exact reason why I haven’t read it until now, but cannot for the life of me figure out why. Perhaps it was an inkling of stupid self-consciousness at reading a rainbow splattered, boldly-titled book on my way to and from school, or my family and friends seeing me with this book and thinking: ‘OH MY GOSHY GOSH I THINK SHE MIGHT BE GAY’. Look at the cover and title. I think you’ll agree, it’s not exactly subtle. 

But, cue the *eyeroll* (at myself, my younger self, not at you lot, just so you know). When I saw the book a few weeks ago, sadly neglected on my shelf, I thought to myself: ‘Who the hell cares? I should be friggin’ proud to read this book in public! I should be waving it from the rooftops! And if people think I am gay, what flipping fig of a difference does that make? You don’t hear people saying, ‘Oh no, people might think I’m straight!’’ Safe to say, I was a pretty silly person for having these worries, and I wish I could go back and read the book earlier. Whatever you may first think, this book is for EVERYONE. That’s the whole point of it, in my opinion. It is beautiful because of it’s inclusiveness. Whatever your sexual orientation, or gender, once you read it, you are left feeling more knowledgeable and less ignorant than ever before, once you turn the final page.

I received the book in a goody bag last year, and I am writing a review of my own volition. intrigued? Read the blurb here:

A funny and pertinent book about being lesbian, bisexual, gay, queer, transgender or just curious - for everybody, no matter their gender or sexualityFormer 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 gender and sexual spectrums, this frank, funny, fully 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-read.

There are many things I loved about this book. For one, James Dawson’s voice was what made the book the beauty that it is. I didn’t feel preached or dictated to, or that I was being ‘told off’ for being ignorant of certain things. You will also find yourself tearing up at a few places, and also laughing your head off (on public transport, in my case, which was hugely embarrassing but also surprisingly gratifying). The mixture of seriousness and upfront hilarity kept the book fresh and new with each page turn. I never knew what to expect, and that is what made it the most exciting and enjoyable non-fiction book I have probably ever read. Also, if you are fortunate enough to follow James Dawson on Twitter, you will be happy to know that the narrative sounds EXACTLY THE SAME AS HIS TWEETS. I.e, hilarious and lighthearted. I really love it when an author’s voice on social media sounds exactly the same as is in their books. It makes them seem like real people, if you get me. Not that authors are real people, Alix… *sarcastic applause*. 


Another aspect I absolutely loved were the illustrations. They not only gave the book it’s touch of humour and lightheartedness, but also added to the factual element, too. They made the book immeasurably special. This way, the book seemed especially created for young people, and not one of those books that say they are for teenagers but in fact are made for parents to enforce upon their unfortunate offspring. You know, like those fact books that have no soul in them whatsoever. It seems like James Dawson really gets what young people want from a book like This Book Is Gay. There should definitely be more cool illustrations in books for young people, in my opinion. 

A vital aspect that is fiercely incorporated in This Book Is Gay that I should probably have mentioned before is the factual element. I like to consider myself a marginally intelligent specimen of a human being, but I found myself constantly coming across information that I had genuinely never considered before. Dawson himself was a PSHE teacher and it was clear that he is not only hugely knowledgable in all areas of sexual education and puberty, but also how young people want to be taught about these things. If James Dawson had been my PSHE teacher at school, I would have learned a hell of a lot more. The stuff they miss out in sex ed at school is literally, cray. Why are schools still tiptoeing around the issues of sex and relationships? Why do children get talked about how straight sex works, and not sex between people of the same gender? Dawson opens up these questions, and lets the reader ponder over them. Safe to say, I learned a hell of a lot, about everything from legislation towards homosexuality in countries all across the world, transphobia, what different religions say about homosexuality and how to argue with a Bible Basher (someone who uses out-of-date and extreme Bible teachings out of context to argue in favour of marginalising people in society- not cool). In tackling generalisations and stereotypes (all whilst acknowledging that stereotypes exist for a reason), Dawson further emphasises his message that inclusiveness and understanding= cookies for all, and marginalisation and ignorance= no cookies AT ALL.

All in all, I think I have made it pretty clear that I loved This Book Is Gay, and I think that everyone should read it, whatever your sexuality and gender. You seriously learn a lot, no matter how knowledgable you think you are. The most important thing that Dawson emphasises through This Book Is Gay is that although times have improved since the 1950s, there is still a hell of a journey until there is equality for all LGBTQ* people in the UK and throughout the world, and this book only marks a small step along the way on this journey.

*LGBTQ is a generalisation of sexuality; sexuality is so broad that it cannot be defined through five letters.

Check James Dawson out here: http://www.jamesdawsonbooks.com

Buy This Book Is Gay here: https://www.waterstones.com/book/this-book-is-gay/james-dawson/9781471403958

Check out Stonewall here: http://www.stonewall.org.uk

Until next time :)