Tuesday, September 9, 2014

“First Exposure” by Alan Chin— A New Job, A New Look at Life

Tuesdays are the days I showcase my work on this blog. Today I'd like to share Amos Lassen's 5-star review of my latest novel, First Exposure. 
A New Job, A New Look at Life
Amos Lassen
Alan Chin is a writer who never disappoints. His plots are always carefully thought out, his characters smartly and creatively drawn and his prose is always beautiful. In his book he takes on several important issues including homophobia.
Skyler Thompson is a married Petty Officer Second Class who takes a job creating flower arrangements at a florist shop owned by a gay man. His wife and his Navy buddies find this strange and taunt him but Skyler does not give in to pressure and refuses to listen to them. He dreams of opening a florist shop once he leaves the Navy.
We also meet Ezra Dumphy who is very heavy and is a gay sailor who enjoys dressing in drag. His shipmates both abhor and shun him and he leads a lonely life that forces him into drug usage in order to deal with being alone. More than anything else he wants to find someone to share his life and love.
Granted this theme is not new and in fact many would say it is “tired”. However, let a good author take hold of an old theme and breathe life into it and we get a wonderful, sensitive novel. Alan Chin writes about emotion so well that we actually feel what his characters feel. There is a distant connection between Skyler and Ezra and Chin uses the way they each deal with their situations and suddenly their feelings of loneliness become unimportant as they find the way to deal with them.
All of us have dealt with this issue in some way and once we overcame it, we shoved it to the back of minds. This book will bring it forward and remind us that not everyone is fortunate in knowing how to deal with life. Loneliness is terrible on its own but it also leads to other emotions that are difficult to deal with.
Obviously this is a topic that is not easy to write about and it takes a very special vocabulary to be able to express the feelings that these characters have to deal with. Chin has that vocabulary and knows how to use it. This could have very easily been a very depressing story but it isn’t at all. His characters also are responsible for getting that vocabulary into the story since they are the ones who use it. Chin chooses to celebrate his characters’ feelings of loneliness and in doing so shows us something about the art of juxtaposition and that it can be used to work in situations like this. I had a feeling upon first meeting Ezra that I was not going to like him very much and that if he really wanted to find what he felt he needed, he would have to be willing to change himself. Instead, I grew to love him and I rooted for him all the way through.
Skyler became heroic and in him, Chin has really created a character that we so badly need in gay literature. He is a patron of beauty and this adds beauty to his personality. Too often we succumb to peer pressure instead of standing up for what we believe in. Skyler is a man who is determined to be himself regardless of cost.
Chin also takes a serious look at the nature of relationships. He looks at all types of relationships and I was reminded of a poem written by Zelda, a Hebrew poet who wrote that everyone has a name that is given to him by God, that is given to him by his parents, by his friends, by his coworkers, by his landlord and so on. Each of us has many different names depending on differing situations. I look at this and compare it to the coming-out process. We come out everyday and every time someone new enters our lives we weigh the decision as to whether to come out or stay hidden.
There is a lot to read here and I have only skimmed the surface. I have barely said much about the plot. Let it be enough that I say that is a book that cries out to be read and reading it is an experience that you do not want to miss. It is an “upclose and personal” look at how we live as gay men and how we relate to those around us.

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