Author: César L. Baquerizo
Expected Publication: June 14, 2016
LGBT Fiction | 302 pages | by Pen Name Publishing
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Disclosure: I received an eARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
At Read Diverse Books, I focus on lifting the voices of as many marginalized groups as possible. I genuinely enjoy this work and will happily do it for as long as I am able. But promoting and uplifting the voices of so many different groups means that sometimes I forget to read the stories that reflect my unique life experiences. In particular, I have neglected to read much gay fiction in 2016.
Reading gay fiction that is written by gay authors has always been my preference, though I sometimes enjoy the stories written by straight authors. But there’s something about LGBTQ #ownvoices fiction that resonates with me in particular because I find the voice more authentic, personal, and relatable.
A Safe Place With You resonated with me because I felt and knew that César L. Baquerizo was personally invested in telling the story. The honesty and urgency with which he tells it is palpable. In the Acknowledgements and Author Bio at the end of the book it becomes clear how passionate he is about fighting for the equal rights and acceptance of the LGBT community. This novel is the kind of story that can make a huge difference in a young person’s life. We need more of these kinds of books to be published.
The narrative follows several important figures, but it is generally centered around two young men, Tomás and Sebastián who live in Guayaquil, Ecuador during the late 80’s and early 1990. At this time, the World Health Organization considered homosexuality a disease and mental illness. In Ecuador, same-sex relationships were illegal and punishable by four to eight years in prison. And for years, there were hundreds of rehabilitation centers around the country that aimed to “cure” homosexuality through inhumane methods that sometimes amounted to torture. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories.
Tomás and Sebastián are connected by another young man named Christian, who we meet early on in the story after he has committed suicide. Life is a nightmare for young gay men and women in Ecuador who simply want to be themselves and love freely. Society stigmatizes their entire existence and makes them social pariahs. After Christian’s suicide, Tomás and Sebastián are admitted into a sexual rehabilitation clinic, abandoned by their parents for months with the hope that their “sexual deviance” would be fixed or cured.
This rehabilitation clinic is called “Grow and Live Normally,” and in this facility we meet several other young men and women who have been forsaken and rejected by their parents. Together, they suffer indignities and must deal with physical and mental anguish every day. But together, they also bring each the comfort of their friendship and support. We also meet the staff of the clinic, lead by the villainous Dr. Rutherbor, whose motivation for creating this facility is as corrupt and vile as you would imagine.
A Safe Place With You is not a happy story, which you should all expect, given the subject matter. But at its core, it really is a story about love and learning to accept yourself. Its message is actually quite heavy-handed and at times I found it a bit distracting from the overall narrative. This novel very clearly aims to educate readers about the horrors of sexual conversion therapy, and has a very explicit message and agenda. I obviously support the message, but at times, the characters seemed more like mouthpieces used to relay this message. As a result, the dialogue didn’t always sound very natural, it sounded didactic and like a speech.
But this is a minor gripe because the ideas the novel is trying to express are incredibly important. I think this book may be best appreciated by young readers who are trying to understand themselves, and who need a kind and relatable voice to guide them through these tough and confusing years. I would have loved to read this book when I was a teenager who felt lost and isolated. The messages of self-acceptance and finding value in your authentic self certainly would have been a blessing to hear.
The copy I read was an eARC, which means that it was probably not in its final draft. I try to overlook errors and typos for ARCS, but there were quite a few scattered throughout the entire novel, so it detracted from my enjoyment a little bit. Also, the original story was written in Spanish and what I read was the first translation. Some of the language was awkward and I expect it to be straightened out for its final print.
A Safe Place With You will be released world wide on June 14, 2016. While I did have some issues with it, I did enjoy the story and recommend it to everyone, especially if you like reading #ownvoices LGBT fiction. The story reads very quickly, is filled with interesting and complex characters, and carries a powerful and important message that every young person should hear.
Find the book on Amazon: A Safe Place With You
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