Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post is the coming of age, and coming out, story of a young teenage girl living in Minnesota in the early 1990s. I read a Vulture article recently lamenting the recent lack of coming out memoirs. I realized that for all of the books I read, there’s a serious lack of homosexual main characters in them. I’d imagine it’s because we’re drawn to stories that reflect ourselves in someway – whether it’s sexuality, socio economic status, situation in life, race, education, etc. But there are common elements to everyone’s experience, and I’m really glad I branched out because this book was great.
The plot of the book is simple: Cameron struggles with her budding sexuality, connects with a more experienced lesbian who helps her branch out, and has her heart broken by her first love. After the heartbreak, Cameron is sent to a religious camp/school designed to “supress” homosexual impulses. Every page I read about the camp/school filled me with an indescribable fury. I found it incredibly painful to read about the 24/7 attempts to change something that Cameron simply couldn’t control. The moments Cameron weakened, and thought it might be easier to spend her life pretending, made me wish I could jump into the pages and just be there for her. To tell her that eventually, it will get better, and she can live her life embracing her true feelings. Throughout the whole book, I just wanted to be her friend, because the people who truly cared about her were too far away to help her. And she was afraid to ask for help.
Cameron’s story really resonates because it’s so incredibly universal. It was like a flashback to high school. When Cameron struggles with how to handle the advances of her best guy friend, Jamie, it reminded me of that time in my life where it seemed impossible to distinguish between an interest in friendship and romance. When her crush leads her on, shattering her heart into a million pieces, it reminded me of the time a so-called “popular guy” secretly hooked up with my friend for months, only to publicly humiliate her if anyone asked him about her. Figuring out friendships and romance in high school is messy, regardless of your sexuality.
Cameron’s story is the story of so many high schoolers: you feel everything so intensely that you feel a little bit out of control, you love someone too much, your friends spend months trying to warn you not to do the destructive thing you’re going to do, and you do it anyway. And you suffer, and then it gets better. Worth a read if you want to remember what it’s like to be 16 and utterly lost again.