24 September 2014

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

I chose this book based purely on its cover, which is a cheerful yellow with little cut-out people on it. And the novel was cheerful. It was nice to see a coming out story that was handled so beautifully and so quietly.

One Man Guy tells the story of Alek Khederian, an Armenian-American teenager who just finished his freshman year of high school and got forced into taking summer school to bring his grades up. While he’s there, Alek meets Ethan, forming a friendship that quickly deepens into first love.

Not all coming-outs need to be fraught and dripping with tragedy. Not all gay kids get bullied. Not everyone gets kicked out by their parents. And it was very refreshing to read about a teenager who accepted himself, and his first love, with equanimity.

I also enjoyed the view into Armenian culture Guy provided. I’m of Iranian extraction myself, and though we’re Middle Eastern and they’re Mediterranean, a lot of the cultural values are the same - the emphasis on the family unit as a whole rather than on the individual, the importance of food and traditions, the crazy curly hair. Yes, I used to have a great bushy head of Persian hair before Persian-Pattern Baldness kicked in.

I could see my own family and cultural dynamics in play when Alek dealt with his parents, with their Armenian friends, with his brother. I saw bits of myself and my cousins in Alek and his brother, bits of my dad and my aunts and uncles in his parents.

One Man Guy was honest and loving and fun. It was satisfying and heartwarming and I thoroughly enjoyed every page of it.