Welcome to QueeReads, our monthly review of the queer books I’ve been reading. I’m frequently asked about books that feature LGBTQA+ protagonists, themes, or authors so I’m here to share what I’ve found and what I thought. If you have a suggestion for future #QueeReads, please reach out!
“I don’t know why I can’t stop listening to this,” I said as I checked my phone screen for what felt like the seventieth time. How much more is there? Still four hours?
“Me neither,” my wife responded, her eyes glued to the road.
We were on a five-hour road trip to Switzerland, and thought we would give Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman a try. The film adaptation was nominated for and won a lot of awards this last year, so we were eager to check it out.
“What’s it about again?” Lisa had asked earlier when I found a copy available on our e-library page.
“Something about an Italian teen and a visiting, older student. Young, gay love and coming of age…” I tried to recall the trailer of the film. “So a drama, I think.”
She gave a noncommittal “hm…” and I tried to rake my brain for more details. Lisa usually avoids any books, films, or TV shows involving tragedy (i.e. illness) and/or what she refers to as “dumb people doing dumb things” (i.e. characters seemingly choosing to not go running headfirst into their happily ever after or otherwise true potential).
“Well, I’ve seen a lot of good reviews of the film and the book online,” I said, trying to sell it. I can’t read in the car (motion sickness…bleh!) so anytime I can convince Lisa to listen to a book with me is a huge plus. “And the audiobook is even read by one of the actors from the film. Neat.”
I downloaded it and reached for the aux cord, “let’s try it for ten minutes and if we don’t like it we can just listen to Lizzo.”
Fast forward four hours later, and we’re both staring at the road ahead, heads cocked to the side as we try to decipher the mind of 17-year-old Elio.
We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Call Me By Your Name takes place in a coastal town of northern Italy in 1983 where a young Elio first meets a visiting grad student who is being hosted by his father for the summer. Over the time of his stay, Elio (17) and Oliver (24) grow obsessive, fascinated, and infatuated with each other, culminating in once-in-a-lifetime romance as they take hold of a relationship they simultaneously fear they will never be able to have again.
The novel is told entirely from Elio’s perspective as the form of a recollection of his transformative summer. As he describes the events as he remembers them, he gives the reader access to his thoughts at the time which range from insecurities and self-loathing, to fantasies both sexual and violent, to his private philosophical musings. As a 17-year-old, Elio’s moods and opinions swing from zero to one hundred at a tip of a hat, or rather, a waft of sunscreen from Oliver’s favorite spot by the pool.
At times, his tangents were confusing and disorienting, especially from listening to the audiobook. It was easy to get lost in his imagination and not be sure where the line was between his reality and his desires. Overall, the writing convincingly conveys the mind of this young protagonist as he grapples with the meanings of his and Oliver’s actions and wants.
We will say though—this book is not here to make you comfortable. It is a romance, a gentle study of expressions of homosexuality, but not a chick (or dick) flick by any means. The result is an intensely intimate, honest, sweet and sometimes disconcerting depiction of an individual’s first encounter with a passionate love.
(To put it bluntly, since we’re two lesbians listening to a story about two men, there were (at times) two too many penises for our taste, but of course, we wouldn’t discourage you from reading it!)
Also, Armie Hammer’s narration of the audiobook was pretty excellent (although keep in mind that he portrays Oliver in the film and in the book he voices Elio instead).
Have you seen the movie? Did you like it? Should we watch it? Let us know in the comments below!