Sunday, January 1, 2012

Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff

It's tricky to write about Kid and Scout, teens living on the streets one summer in contemporary Brooklyn, because author Steve Brezenoff carefully never identifies the gender of either of them. Kid addresses the tale directly to Scout, jumping backwards and forwards in time to explain the situation.

Gender fluidity is unacceptable to Kid's father and it's the reason his fifteen-year-old is not welcome at home: "I've got the only kid I know who doesn't know whether to be straight or gay or a girl or a boy or what."

Kid is an artist and musician who had fallen hard for Felix, a junkie. Felix has been gone for nine months but Kid is still grieving when Scout turns up in response to an old poster calling for potential band members. The attraction is immediate, but tentative, as they guard their hearts and find a chosen family at a bar -- not the easiest place for a couple of teens to find safe harbour. There is also the accusation of arson at an abandoned warehouse where Kid and Felix used to sleep.

It's a tender story in a gritty setting. Kid is someone who can see beauty in the weeds coming through cracks in the pavement. I am happy to report that Brooklyn, Burning ends on a realistically positive note.

Readlikes: Almost Home (by Jessica Blank) for another book about queer homeless teens; Written on the Body (by Jeanette Winterson) for another novel narrated by a person of unknown gender.

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