Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you will find a book that demands to be read.
So I don’t often read novels with lesbian protagonists. I’m not sure why: maybe it’s because it’s hard to find quality novels that interest me with female queer characters? Maybe it’s because lesbian lit is harder to find? Who knows. When I saw The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danfort sitting on the bookself in my local Chapters, I leaped on it. I had heard of the novel, but I knew nothing about it, other than something about it being banned at a high school or something. This book called to me from the bookshelf, and I am so glad I picked it up. I don’t know if I’d call it “life changing” but it’s definitely life influencing.
First off, Cameron is badass. She is not a femme fatale lesbian, or a butch lesbian, or any other lesbian cliche you can think of. She is a human being who happens to like girls. That’s it. Cam is, understandably, confused initially by her attraction to girls and she knows she “should be” ashamed of it, but she never really seems to be. She accepts herself, and realizes that that’s all that really matters. It takes time, of course, but she is so unapologetic: this is who she is, and nothing is going to change that. And I fucking love her.
This is a coming of age story. It’s a story about becoming yourself, and realizing that no one gets to choose who that is for you.
The first half of the novel is about Cameron discovering her sexuality, and her relationship to her peers. She kisses girls, she kisses boys and yet she never seems to worry too much about any of it. After kissing a boy, she decides that it isn’t for her and the boy– get this– actually accepts this and writes a nice letter telling her that he does. It’s such a nice moment that could have easily gone dark and cliche. Not everyone is a bad guy.
And even the people that should be “bad” really aren’t. Yes, Cameron gets sent off to conversion school, and yes, that’s bad, and yes we should hate her family for this but you– don’t. They’re all struggling, all trying to understand. They’re complex, and what they’re doing is wrong, but they’re doing it in sincerity. You wish they learn, and they realize that they can’t change Cameron, and it kind of breaks your heart when they don’t.
Honestly, I would have loved to read more about the school. I found this part utterly fascinating and heartbreaking, and I would have loved to see more of it. The best part, I feel, is that Danfort does not romanticize any of it. No one is “cured” from their “homosexual sins” because there is nothing to be cured from. It is extremely evident that this school is not doing anything it promises it will. But in a twisted way, the school does some good. It allows Cameron to burst from the cocoon she was hiding it, and face her past. It allows all of its “disciples” to realize that maybe, maybe, they’re perfectly broken just the way they are.
I love this book. I really, really do. I think everyone should read it, but I stress the need for this book to be read by young girls. It’s not a tragic lesbian story. It’s a book about the bravery involved in becoming who you are, and how the past can shape you, but it doesn’t have to control you. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is about being honest and true, and never letting the world control you.
4 dollhouses out of 5.