Book Reviews

Camp ― Lev A.C. Rosen ― “Butch boys don’t cry in public.”

Camp by L.C. Rosen should be canon for every queer person that wants to live Pride at its maximum.

Inkish Kingdoms

One of the reasons I read this book was because of the first line of the synopsis: “Set in a summer camp, this sweet and sharp screwball comedy set in a summer camp for queer teens examines the nature of toxic masculinity and self-acceptance.” Contrary to many gay YA novels out there, Camp focuses not on the coming out process, which is still important, but it focuses more on the construction of the identity, acceptance, and expression of one’s identity and sexuality.

Every time I think about “toxic masculinity”, I cannot help to remember Candace Owens, a Trump supporter, attacking Harry Styles for wearing a dress, stating that feminism ruined the world and that we need manly men back. No, Candace, you are wrong. We do not need the concept of masculinity that society has imposed on us. We do not need to fall into the unhealthy norm of manly man, violent man, emotionless man, or repressed man. I wonder if she is aware that men died by suicide 3.63x more often than women and white males accounted for 69.38% of suicide deaths in 2019 (American Foundation of Suicide Prevention), so yes, we do need to change how masculinity is seen. In Camp, Hudson becomes the scapegoat for all that is “wrong” with men, but with a valid justification: patriarchy, chauvinism, trauma, and indoctrination. Hudson resembles what is wrong with masculinity. The repression of emotions, the no talk about feelings, the wrong idea on how a man should be or act, and that straight-acting men are better than fem males, which is a problem with the gay community since it reinforces discrimination towards more feminine males.

L.C. Rosen wrote a novel that is as diverse as the rainbow. He not only focused on male relationships but also on other sexuality and expressions, almost all colors were included in this parade of a book. He juxtaposes straight-acting Hudson against characters like George, who is gay, proud, and loud. The way George talked, dressed, and look is simply a perfectly sweet combination of a healthy person. He expresses his identity and sexuality without limits and restrictions. Nail polish and makeup are just mechanisms to drive the point that insignificant items like those should not define someone’s masculinity, sexuality, or personality. For example, it is ridiculous how high-hills and wigs are “women only” items when men invented them for men. A French King wanted to look taller so they invented high-hills… This only confirms that gender roles and genre stereotypes have been created by men without a defined purpose.

We all were born in a straight white male-driven society. We all have been exposed and indoctrinated to fall the rules of heteronormativity, and even though we are awakening from that nightmare and breaking the shackles of oppression, it takes time and a lot of support to break that shell and be as whole as George. To break the shell, we need to have conversations that we might not want to have, be exposed to things that we might not be comfortable with, and educate ourselves. Being self-aware is the first step to make a change and start acting. Randy exposes Hudson to “gay things” to open his eyes and horizons because many times people discriminate blindly as they were never exposed to those that are different. Again, nail polish and makeup play an important role in awakening the queerness of Hudson and accepting himself. – I was quick to judge and condemn Hudson’s behavior and way of thinking, but the plot twist of trauma and indoctrination made me realized that maybe we are too fast on casting a judgment and censoring someone. We need to be aware that everybody’s struggles are different and not everybody is exposed to diversity as we are.

Finally, one of the characters, Connie, mentioned how safety should come before “freedom” – she does not say it like that, but that is an easy way to put it – living in a homophobic household, living in a homophobic country or town is a risk for any kind of diversity. Violence is the rule to deal with what is diverse and different and society seems to reinforce that. We should all stay safe and have that as our priority, and we should help and protect each other instead of reinforcing discrimination, hate, and unhealthy standards.

Camp by L.C. Rosen is a sweet and strong intervention for the community to be more accepting even with its own people and members. – Inkish Kingdoms


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