And what a fortuitous choice!
Danforth’s novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post is excellent. Following the formative years of Cameron Post, a young woman in Miles City, ND, the story describes the character’s growth as young lesbian in a intolerant conservative community. We meet Cameron when she’s a relatively young girl, just as she’s discovering her sexuality and right before tragedy hits. Being an LGBTQ teenager is, I suspect, difficult enough, but being lesbian and also losing her parents means that Cameron had to figure a lot of stuff out by herself. I don’t want to give away the whole story by summarizing the book here, so suffice it to say that if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a young lesbian woman in conservative rural community, then this story provides a good primer.
Why I liked Miseducation
The fact that Cameron Post’s story is a good primer is, in fact, exactly what lead me to read it. My own child faced some of the same struggles as the book’s main character and recommended it to me as a sort of introduction to their reality. I can’t say that much of what I read in Miseducation was surprising or shocking, but it did distill some of the things I had heard and imagined into a digestible story that allowed me to make sense of what I thought I knew. And it helped me understand my kid’s world with a little more clarity.
It’s that sense of understanding just a little bit better that made me really like the book. I related to Cameron even though I’m a straight white middle-aged man who hails from a fairly liberal community. That’s the kind of writer Danforth is; she drew me in and told me Cameron Post’s story in a way that kept my attention for 470 pages. And when I say she kept my attention, what I mean is that she told Cameron’s tale in a way that made me feel the story as much as anything else.
What I didn’t like about Cameron Post’s story
Danforth’s writing is easy to read and sounds like it might be authentic if you don’t overthink every passage. However, bits of the book were a little lengthy and wordier than necessary. I also thought the story’s end could have been done a little better. But then again, endings are some of the most difficult material to write, and who doesn’t say that about many books?
There was nothing in the book that would prevent me from recommending it.
Take away – I recommend the book
I definitely recommend this book to young adults and parents of young adults. You needn’t be LGBTQ to enjoy it or grow from it, either. The story is fundamentally sound, with all the elements of a good novel. So you can enjoy it purely for the narrative. But for those of you who like to be a little more reflective, there’s plenty to think on. Simply reading the book is likely to increase your empathy for a large and increasingly visible segment of our population. And, as we all know, this is an age in which empathy is something we need more than ever.
A version of this review also appears on Amazon.com.