Saturday, July 2, 2022

Book Review: Music From Another World

From The Publisher: 
"A master of award-winning queer historical fiction, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley brings to life an emotionally captivating story about the lives of two teen girls living in an age when just being yourself was an incredible act of bravery.

It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others—like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom—and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against."

My Review:
Tammy and Sharon become pen pals as part of an assignment between their religious schools. The girls write and slowly start to reveal some of their secrets to each other. The girls also both write in their journals and the book is made up of diary entries and the letters the two girls exchange. Both are good Christian girls with secrets. When Sharon accidentally stumbles into gay rights march it changes something in her. It expands her horizons, and she starts to see the world differently.

I really feel for Tammy. Her aunt and uncle are fundamentalist Baptist leaders, and her aunt makes her life a living hell. Tammy has to maintain this good girl image, including pray-a-thons for anti-gay legislation to pass all while being a lesbian herself. I can only imagine how difficult being gay in the 70's would be. This was a time when girls were sent to mental institutions or to conversion camps as it was seen as something wrong and bad. Tammy must hide who she is.  She lives in fear of her secret being discovered. I cannot imagine having to get up and lead a youth group in prayer against essentially who you are inside.

Sharon goes to Catholic school and the nuns (teachers) refuse to discuss the movement that is happening. We see Sharon as someone who is struggling with the things she has been taught were right and wrong her whole life. She's just come to terms with finding out her brother is gay and keeping his secret when the proposition passes. She gets swept up in a protest after an anti-gay law gets passed in Florida and this first step changes her life. It teaches her to question the status quo. She ends up helping with some grassroots activism at a feminist bookstore and discovering punk music. All this time she's still coming to terms with what she believes, what she feels, and what she will stand up for.

I really felt there was a lot of growth between the two girls and Sharons brother, Peter as well. They all learn things about themselves and learn to stand up for themselves. The romances in the story don't feel like they are the main point of this book. The history and activism play a huge part and the romances are slow to build and not without their rough patches. I love that it focuses on the history and how tough things were for the LGBT community at that time and the struggles they went through to get us to where we are now. Things have a long ways to go, but we have come so far from 1977. I think that history is important. I also love that this book shows there are bits of magic and love and courage to be found even in the face of persecution.

This is a 4 star book for me. 

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