How do you deal with a secret you are keeping from your family, even when you know they would disapprove? What actions do you take when people like you are dying and the world doesn’t seem to care? Like a Love Story, a Stonewall Honor Book, revolves around Reza, Art and Judy, set in New York in 1989. The AIDS epidemic is the backdrop. This book addresses many issues that young people face – when parents that don’t seem to understand you, discovering and/or embracing your sexual identity and love. I chose this book because it represents the fear, hatred and confusion that LGBTQIA+ students go through. Students need to see themselves in the books they read and need to know that they are not alone in their journey.
(a.) I have have the privilege in my life, as a heterosexual, to love freely. Unfortunately, that is not the case with so many in the LGBTQIA+ community. And while I have not endured the homophobia that Art and Reza do, I have many friends and relatives who have had their own painful story of their journey. I have friends who, like Reza, had parents who would rather not have a child at all if they were homosexual, and others who still have not come out to their families for fear of the consequences.
As a middle school teacher, I see so many students find themselves at this time in their lives. It is the worst possibility I can image, for a young person not to feel comfortable with who they are. In the opening pages of the Like a Love Story, the reader is exposed to Reza’s inner monologue where he says over and over how much he hates himself for how he feels. He despises that he finds men attractive. Later in one scene, he reflects on the difference between him and Judy,
“And I wish she knew that her ability to even utter all these doubts out loud means she thinks highly enough of herself to respect the emotions inside her. I would never let my doubts leave the prison of my brain” (Nazemian).
Many young people go through this, and I am so glad that there is a book like this one that they can read. They can read this book and realize that they are not alone- not alone in their thoughts and not alone in who they are.
(b.) I have a semblance of the homophobia that exists in the world. I hear comments from my own family members about “what a shame,” it is to have a gay son or daughter. I remember a distant cousin nonchalantly telling me that his mother threatened to burn his hands off if she found out he was gay. As the school year begins, teachers have to complete training on things like sexual harassment, bullying and lock down procedures. One training I completed yesterday said that a person who identifies as LGBTIA+ has an exponentially higher percentage of attempting suicide. As a teacher, it makes me want to openly show students that they are welcome in my classroom, no matter who they are. As I was reading this book, I made my first pride purchase. True to Texas style, I purchased the shirt “Ya’ll means all” with a pride rainbow on it. If anything, this book reaffirmed my desire to promote love and equality for all. One of the most moving quotes is, “The most important four-letter word in our history will always be LOVE. That’s what we are fighting for. That’s who we are. Love is our legacy” (Nazemian).
(g.) In addition to the subject matter of the book (LGBTQ, homophobia, AIDS, loving oneself), I enjoyed the way in which this book was narrated. Each of the three characters, Judy, Art and Reza had their own chapter. This was particularly telling for the character of Reza. At the beginning of the book, the reader sees the dichotomy between Reza’s inner monologue in his chapter to how he appears to Judy. For example, in the first scene, the reader hears his deprecation of his sexual thoughts, yet when Judy is the narrator, the reader sees him through her eyes, as a quiet, contemplative heterosexual. In some ways, this makes the book innocently voyeuristic. Judy continues to like and eventually date Reza, and the reader just observes in sad silence, hoping that Reza will come out soon. It is also fascinating to see Art’s perceptions between him and Reza. He senses a connection with Reza, but Reza denies this at first. Meanwhile, as a reader, again, you sit back and hope that Reza finally comes to a place where he can be honest about himself and others. I loved this book and would definitely read another book by Nazemian and recommend it to others.
In addition to taking the reader through a year in the life of these three young adults, Like a love story is the one of self-acceptance and self-love. The story begins with Reza proclaiming how much he hates himself, and the reader gets to see him change, accept and love who he is. There will always be people who do not agree with the way in which you live. So, one must embrace one’s own skin and wear it with pride. I recommend this book for any library that serves high school students.
Nazemian, A. (2020). Like a love story. Balzer + Bray