Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.
Have you ever seen strange parallels between a fictional story and your real life? Like, the story’s author somehow took parts of your life and put them in a book? This has happened to me before. The most recent time it happened was when I read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. The first time I saw major parallels between my life and fiction was when I read What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci.
What Happened to Lani Garver – Carol Plum-Ucci
The close-knit residents of Hackett Island have never seen anyone quite like Lani Garver. Everything about this new kid is a mystery: Where does Lani come from? How old is Lani? And most disturbing of all, is Lani a boy or a girl?
Claire McKenzie isn't up to tormenting Lani with the rest of the high school elite. Instead, she befriends the intriguing outcast. But within days of Lani's arrival, tragedy strikes and Claire must deal with shattered friendships and personal demons—and the possibility that angels may exist on earth.
This book was first published in 2002. I was in high school when I read it. By today’s standards, it’s probably dated and problematic, but at the time, it made me think about the world in a slightly different way. I’d never read a book about a character who didn’t identify as male or female. I knew that transgender people existed, but at that point in my life, I’d never given much thought to gender. All the people I knew were either boys or girls. Reading this book forced teenage-me to think seriously about gender issues. What happens if someone isn’t a boy or a girl?
As a teen, I was sheltered. If I had to put a label on the town where I grew up, I’d probably label it “Guns and God.” People went to church on Sundays and spent weekends hunting or off-roading in their trucks. There's nothing wrong with those activities, but there wasn’t much diversity in the town. Almost everyone was white, conservative, semi-rural, Christian, and middle class.
|The edge of a neighborhood in the town where I grew up.|
Shortly after I finished the Lani Garver book, my best friend decided to tell everyone that he’s gay. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised when he told me. We’d been friends for so long that I'd pretty much figured it out on my own. Like with gender issues, I hadn’t given much thought to sexuality issues. I was straight; my friend was gay. That’s just how life was. We could talk about dudes together. Our sexualities didn’t bother me, so I didn’t think about them.
Unfortunately, my friend’s sexuality bothered other people. Some of our mutual friends were surprised when he told them. Kids who’d always been nice suddenly turned vicious and said that being gay was “against their beliefs.” I don’t want to go into detail about the bullying my friend endured because I don’t talk about my friends’ personal lives on the Internet. (Also, this blog is all about me, remember?) I’ll just say that the bullying got scary. I was legitimately worried that someone would use Christianity as an excuse to physically harm my friend.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the Lani Garver book during this part of my life. In the book, the fictional bullies are annoying at first, but then their behavior slowly escalates until it becomes potentially deadly. I was watching the same thing happen in my real life. It was terrifying.
Luckily, no one hurt my friend like Lani was hurt in the book. We graduated, moved on to college, and everything was mostly fine. Our story had a much happier ending than the story in the novel.
Still, the parallels between What Happened to Lani Garver and my real life were unnerving. I guess fiction can be a little too real sometimes.
Have you ever read a story that was eerily similar to your real life?