Review: What If Someone I Know is Gay?

(Cross-posted at We Read to Seek a Great Perhaps)

book coverWhat If Someone I Know is Gay?: Answers to Questions About What it Means to Be Gay and Lesbian
by Eric Marcus
Published by Simon Pulse, 2007
ISBN 1416949704
Pages: 192
Ages: Grades 7 and up

It probably isn’t possible, at least in my part of the country, to introduce a book about sexual orientation into the required high school curriculum. That’s a pity, because if anything ought to be required reading for every teen, it’s Marcus’s excellent Q&A-style book.

What If Someone I Know is Gay? takes real questions and answers them with candor, honesty, and respect. The reader is never made to feel stupid or embarrassed not to know something. Marcus answers the questions simply, using scientific fact and personal anecdotes to illustrate his responses. His calm tone systematically dismantles misconceptions and mysteries, substituting understanding for fear.

As indicated by the title, this book’s professed target audience is straight teens who want to be better informed about their LGBTQ peers. That being said, I believe it would prove an invaluable resource for a reader who wants to better understand his or her own life. Popular culture promotes an exaggerated view of homosexuality, and Marcus peels that away to reveal a reality that is strikingly non-different from anyone else’s.

In 2005, Marcus wrote a similar book for adults (Is It a Choice?: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Gay & Lesbian People) after being surprised at the things his straight friends didn’t know about being gay and lesbian. Afterward, he was asked to write a version of his book suitable for younger readers; What If is the result. I should mention that What If’s language and content are suitable for middle level readers and may seem a little too young to older readers; Is It a Choice would be entirely appropriate for high school students.

Ultimately, even if we can’t get this book to every student, it ought to be in front of every teacher. If, as scientists believe, 5% of all men and 2.5% of all women are homosexual, most secondary teachers will have at minimum half a dozen LGBTQ students each year – and for some of those students, a well-informed teacher may be the only adult ally they have. I found this book and its adult companion text enormously informative, and highly recommend it to everyone.


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