Book reviews

Chelsey Johnson’s Stray City (Custom House, 2018)

A delightful novel of a pregnant lesbian who chose life.

Wait…what?  A lesbian becoming pregnant by sex, which is reserved for heterosexual, married love?  And then choosing to give birth instead of aborting the child?  Doesn’t the main character know, if one is gay or lesbian, that he or she must support the anti-life positions of the aggressive gay and lesbian agenda, illustrated by the extreme abortion platform of the Democratic Party?

Angela Morales, the lesbian main character, does not follow the political nonsense which presumes that giving birth is a manifestation of, as one of the “rules of the lesbian Mafia” reads, “white supremacist heteropatriarchy” blah blah blah [19].  While Angela cannot account for her attraction to the eminently masculine (and, by definition, heterosexual) Ryan, she has sex with him enough to become pregnant.  Reminiscent of Hemingway’s famous short story about abortion, Angela moves from calling the unborn child an “it” to the more personal “you” (187).  When she realizes the humanity of the unborn child, the choice is obvious: the child deserves to live.

While the novel could have ended after this life-affirming choice, doing so would have deprived readers of a lesbian perspective on the nature of heterosexual normativity.  Angela retains her lesbian lifestyle and, apparently, does not care to use her same-sex attraction in a nongenital way.  Her character is, after all, a fallen away Catholic, so readers know just how ignorant she chooses to be about her sexuality.

The author may have wanted to demonstrate the normalcy of lesbian relationships.  That she has failed to do so cannot be held against her.  After all, as deconstructionist critics claim, whatever an author says should not and cannot necessarily be trusted since words are inherently unstable.  Besides that, even though the author may have wanted to illustrate the propriety of lesbian genital activity, other readers can see that the lesbian component of the novel reinforces heterosexual normativity much more.

Thus, whatever Johnson intended to convey in this novel, the heterosexual normativity of the characters’ lives is inescapable.  While the first half of the novel concerns whether Angela should engage in sex with Ryan and then, when she is pregnant, choose life or abort Lucia, the second half of the novel revolves around a standard and stereotypical element of broken heterosexual families: her daughter, Lucia, nearing age ten, wants to meet her father. That the novel ends with Lucia playing innocently with Ryan’s cat, her mother in tow, testifies to something which gay and lesbian authors miss: the natural, heterosexual instincts of the human family cannot be denied, despite whatever censorship, neglect, or distortions gay and lesbian activists want to impose on them.

However, I would not want to destroy the lesbian structure of the novel that much because there are some episodes which invite commentary, especially since they have political overtones.

Ryan’s abandonment of Angela and the unborn child should disgust every man.  Ryan is a typical lost boy who thinks that his masculinity is equivalent with his sexuality.  One can argue that no one should be harsh with Ryan.  He was raised by his mother, and he is not a man of faith, so he has no male role model either in the form of a living man or in the form of a heavenly influence like Saint Joseph.  However, I argue the opposite.  As students know, all literature serves to entertain and to teach.  Ryan’s character indeed entertains, but it also teaches a young man not to view his sexuality as just another thing to do when the bars close, or when the opportunity presents itself, even if that “opportunity” is a lesbian who finds him attractive.

Political messages aside, Johnson has written some good comedy.  One of the funniest passages in the novel is Angela’s disclosure to her lesbian friends that she is pregnant (177-187).  The gaggle of women who gossip and manage successfully to force Angela to disclose her pregnancy is a stereotypical “women gossiping” passage that is utterly comedic.

I can see how this novel would be censored by the more aggressive elements of the gay and lesbian agenda.  Why would any lesbian choose to give birth instead of abort an “it” resulting from mere genital activity with a heterosexual man?  The character of Angela proves that even someone with same-sex attraction who is unwilling to redirect her sexuality in morally acceptable ways does not have to follow the gay and lesbian agenda which supports abortion.

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