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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Clay's Way by Blair Mastbaum 
9th-Feb-2006 08:27 pm
Surprisingly busy day, so I didn't do too much reading today.

Mastbaum, Blair. Clay's Way. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2004.
Summary: Hawaii. Teenaged skateboarder Sam is infatuated with the super-cool surfer/pothead/partyboy Clay, and they become involved. Unfortunately, Clay refuses to own up to their relationship, except after a brief period during a nature getaway after he almost drowns. Sam returns alone from the getaway and tries living briefly like Clay, but he can't hack it, and when Clay does come back, he is enraged by Sam's presumption and beats the boy up in front of all of his friends.
Comments: The Oahu setting of Mastbaum's debut novel was perhaps the most interesting thing going for it. Quite a nice change from the usual East Coast or Middle America settings of American novels of this type. The colonized history of the islands, as well as the peoples' mentality as depicted, makes for a clever juxiposition with the pressure of sexuality. (Of course, white people in Hawaii, and Sam is no exception, love bellyaching about their minority status, neglecting to mention that the economic and social superiority that they enjoy elsewhere in the US remains in force there--I've little patience for such crap.) Unfortunately, he didn't swing the multicultural aspects of the island quite as skillfully--you call that Japanese? *sighs* Otherwise, the story was your basic coming-of-age+coming-to-terms-with-homosexual-identity story, right down to the love object who is somewhat sympathetic but unwilling to come out and is therefore wholly unsuitable and unhealthy for the protagonist--and it's through Object's self-hatred that hte protagonist learns that he must accept himself as he is. Think John Fox's The Boys on the Rock, for one. Anyway, these sorts of archetypal stories never grow old, and it's a sure bet if you write one...but I'd like to see something genuinely original from Mastbaum in the future. He can do it, no doubt; he just hasn't. Yet.
Notes: hardcover, exclusive BCE; trade paperback edition available
Rating: 5/10 - A solid novel of its type, but it doesn't break the mold.
10th-Feb-2006 05:09 am (UTC)
there's a lois-anne yamanaka novel written for teenagers called name me nobody. you might like to try that one. it's a slightly more realistic picture of the socio-economic-sexual phenomenon that is hawai'i.

i will refrain from any further comment regarding queer/hawaii/japanese. *quirks an eyebrow*
10th-Feb-2006 01:01 pm (UTC)
Oops, I probably should have been more specific about the "you call that Japanese?" comment--the little bits of Japanese language used in the novel were incorrect. For example, he thinks "kyoodia" means brother. >_< 'Scuse me while I go shoot myself.
10th-Feb-2006 04:15 pm (UTC)
mmm. that seems a pretty elementary mistake for an author to make. shooting not necessary - i didn't mean anything personal by my remark, in any case. i mentioned this book to a friend of mine, and he said, "oh, it's so great!" at about the same time as i said "oh, it's so wrong..." go figure. we're about the same age, and we're both mixed-race, and we're both gay...i guess it's all relative....
10th-Feb-2006 07:05 pm (UTC)
Sorry--it was early in the morning; I was half talking to myself about the language errors. Which makes me wonder...do people in Hawaii even use "kyoudai" for brother as in, "What's up, bro?" or something like that?

You and your friend are both from Hawaii too, right? People can live in the same place and experience it in different ways, anyway.
10th-Feb-2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
*laughing* nah...we say man, dude, or brah.
i think we do see things very differently - his non-haole half is samoan, and my non-haole half is japanese, and there's an enormous difference in those cultures...hee...i just never really thought about it. really, you ought to read the yamanaka novel - she's been accused of bigotry and stereotyping in some of her portrayals of other asian groups, and it would be interesting to see your take on it. this novel is relatively gentle - her tour de force is a long piece of pain called blu's hanging, which, cruel as it is, is so beautifully written that you just can't stop reading, even when you wish you could...
10th-Feb-2006 09:23 pm (UTC)
*laughing* nah...we say man, dude, or brah.

That's what I thought. Japan Japanese, at least, doesn't use kyoudai as a form of address (umm...duh...), and it means sibling(s), not brother.

i think we do see things very differently - his non-haole half is samoan, and my non-haole half is japanese, and there's an enormous difference in those cultures...hee...i just never really thought about it.

Well, according to the textbooks (and what others from Hawaii have told me), those of Japanese descent are the most privileged and "white" of any Asian groups. Clay's Way enjoyed describing the underclass/gang dynamic and the accompanying cultural "island cool" there, so maybe your friend is more in tune with that.

I'll check out Yamanaka's writing. I see a few of her books floating around at my usual book-buying haunts. ^_^
28th-Feb-2006 02:07 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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