~by Joe Babcock
Although originally self published by the author, The Tragedy of Miss Geneva Flowers is now available from Carroll & Graf. I've seen it mentioned in several places that Joe Babcock won a Lambda Literary Award for Best Self-Published Novel, but try as I might, I've not been able confirm that. He did, however, win the Writers Digest International contest for the same category.
It is the coming of age, and coming out, story of Erick Taylor, a teen growing up in Minneapolis in the 1990s. Attending a Catholic high school and living with an overtly religious mother and having a psychiatrist for a father is not particularly easy for a closeted gay kid. As he struggles to find acceptance and understanding, he discovers a "sister" and a friend in Chloe, a grandiloquent drag queen. But no amount of acceptance from others will mean anything until he can learn to accept himself. While much of the novel is indeed tragic, it ultimately ends with a sense of hope.
Part One of the novel is a little bumpy; it's not always clear chronologically where the story is. However, Part Two and Part Three are much clearer about what is going on sequentially. We follow Erick through all his troubles and bad decisions (and there are quite a few). He definitely comes across as a realistically portrayed teenager, complete with angst and know-it-all attitude. He's not always a sympathetic character, certainly. Despite some of its flaws, this debut novel shines.