Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lots of Buzz for NO GOING BACK

Jonathan Langford's novel NO GOING BACK, which I published through my Zarahemla Books enterprise, is getting lots of good coverage. Here are some recent highlights:

Doug Gibson at the Ogden [Utah] Standard-Examiner gives NO GOING BACK a great review. "The new Zarahemla Books offering has a premise that many haven’t contemplated before," Gibson writes. "It allows the reader to get inside the head of an active-in-the-church gay teenager who desperately wants to live the gospel and the law of chastity." Gibson concludes, "I wish this book was on the shelves at Deseret Book. A lot of us could benefit by reading it."

Read the full review here:


Coming Down the Mountain continues its series of interviews with NO GOING BACK author Jonathan Langford.

Jonathan discusses the novel itself here:

And he discusses his experience with Zarahemla Books here:


At North Star, "a place of community for Latter-day Saints dealing with issues surrounding homosexual attraction who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Jonathan wrote a personal article about NO GOING BACK:

And North Star director Ty Mansfield said of the novel:

LDS writer Jonathan Langford has authored a masterful fictional narrative in
No Going Back. “Fiction has tools for getting inside the minds of characters,” he
explained, “showing them in a more complete context while exploring the
variations and possibilities of human experience.” The novel gives readers a
window into the inner workings of the heart and mind of an LDS teen who struggles
to reconcile his faith and his sexual feelings in a modern culture that’s
vastly different than the one most of us grew up in. As I wrote in an endorsement
of the book, it “brings to life through narrative what I imagine will be the
struggle of many youth growing up in today’s evolving culture around gay issues.
Parents, friends, priesthood leaders, and peers are all a critical part of how we
negotiate our sense of self-identity and life choices, and this story is
masterful in how it brings to life all the tensions associated with
that process.”

While the book doesn't always paint a picture around this issue as we hope
it would be, as an ideal, the story resonated with me as a markedly realistic and
candid portrayal of the potential conflicts our next generation of LDS youth will
face, particularly those growing up in communities where Latter-day Saints or
other conservative faith groups are a minority—a rapidly growing proportion of
Church membership. The more we as a community fully acknowledge that potential
reality, the better we'll be equipped to meet our youth where they are and offer
them the resource we hope might help them along a gospel-centered path.


Here's an AML-List review of NO GOING BACK by Vickie Cleverley Speek:

I remember playing tag and other games with the neighborhood kids when I was growing up. We would call each other "faggots" and "fairies" not knowing what the words meant. We just knew the words were an insult and meant something we didn't want to be.

As a teenager, a gay student was intimidated into leaving school. Charles wore cowboy boots and a pin on his shirt pocket that said "Davy Crockett." He carried a briefcase to carry his books to class. Boys would kick the briefcase down the hall, then trip Charles as he scrambled to get it. Girls would snicker behind their hands and turn away. "Fag!" they whispered as he walked by. Charles ate lunch alone. He walked to class alone. He had no friends.

Charles was in my seminary class. One day he wasn't there. "I hope you guys are proud of yourselves," our seminary teacher said, "You drove Charles out of school. He won't be back. Of all the people in this school, you, as members of the Church, should have known better."

"By the way," he added. "That pin he wore — Davy Crockett is Charles' real name. He is a direct descendent of Davy Crockett and very proud of it." I was devastated. Although I had never personally done anything to hurt Charles, I never did anything to stop it, either. Forty years later, I am still ashamed.

And now, I know how Charles felt. Jonathan Langford, in his book "No Going Back," has basically recreated the experience I had at Idaho Falls High School. The setting has been modernized to western Oregon in 2003, but the conflict is the same — a gay teenager attempting to walk the narrow conduit between his sexuality and his religious desires.

Paul Ficklin, the main character, is well liked at school, plays soccer and video games, enjoys camping with the Boy Scouts and is active in his ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At fifteen-years old, the age of sexual awakening, Paul has a secret he fears to tell anyone — he's gay. Eventually, Paul works up the courage to tell his best friend, Chad Mortenson. At first repelled by Paul's revelation, Chad realizes his friend is the same person he has always been. Paul also finds support with his mother and the bishop of his ward, Chad's father.

Without revealing himself as homosexual, Paul becomes involved at school with a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) group, where he finds friends and acceptance. But all that changes when an anti-gay-marriage amendment is proposed for the state's constitution and Paul finds himself torn between his sexual identity and his religion. When asked by GSA members to fight against the amendment, Paul declines, revealing that he supports his church, that he feels homosexuality is wrong, and that he intends to live his life not acting on his sexual feelings.

Accidently outed by a vindictive acquaintance, Paul's world becomes unbearable as friends suddenly become enemies, and his name becomes associated with the word "faggot." He nearly suffers a mental collapse when an award, long worked for and desired, is denied because of his homosexuality.

The characters in this book are very real, with human frailties and characteristics — some good, some bad. Not all the members of the ward are supportive. As a matter of fact, while some of the ward youth are understanding, others become his worst tormenters. Chad Mortenson, Paul's best friend, is my hero. I wish I had his kind of courage when I was 16 years old.

If there is a flaw in this book, it's Langford's use of given names from a generation older than the one he is writing about. Paul, Chad, Dale and Janice went to school with me in the 1960s, not with my son in 2003. The book would have been better had he used more modern names like Matt, Michael, Heather and Melissa.

"No Going Back" is an important story. The conflict between Paul's sexuality and his religious desires cannot easily be solved. Chances are he will not be able to cross the bridge successfully between the secular and religious worlds. Will he fall, or jump off the slippery slopes into the deep dark water of despair, as have so many gay LDS men and women?

I highly recommend this book.


Finally, on his own blog, Jonathan questions "What Keeps Readers Away." Here's the link to an interesting, frank author expression about the struggles of reaching an audience:

More info about NO GOING BACK:


Karen Jones Gowen said...

Thanks for posting this AML review, it was very good. They Davy Crockett story made my heart ache. This is why I did what I could and will continue to do whatever I can to help promote Jonathan's book. I think it is timely and essential for the LDS community to have access to a novel like this. I appreciate the courage it took for him to write it and for Zarahemla to publish it. I hope it gets the attention and success it deserves.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

P.S. I have nominated it for a Whitney, and I hope it gets somewhere there. If it doesn't, I will be very disappointed in the process.