If You Knew Then What I Know Now

Ryan Van Meter. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-1-932511-94-9
In this moving debut, a collection of 14 linked essays, Van Meter charts the repercussions of growing up in Missouri with a secret. He delicately charts episodes from his youth, such as baseball practice with his increasingly frustrated father, who couldn't hide his disappointment in his son's disinterest in sports, despite the promise of a new TV. "Every time, I'm the small kid who slouches at the quiet corners of the action, stands still and tries not to be noticed." A season of practice culminating in a painful injury allows a new perspective to emerge: "This summer, we've been trying to be certain kinds of men we probably weren't ever meant to be." Van Meter recalls, with sensitivity, finally coming out of the closet and the strain it put on his relationship with his best college friend. "Before finally speaking those words, I had known I was gay but wasn't ready to admit it...before that, for almost all of my teenage years, I thought I might be gay and was afraid so I prayed every night for it to be taken away. And before that, I didn't know I was gay, but I knew I was different, and I didn't want to be that either." Thanks to Van Meter's honesty, essays on his own childhood, identity, and love have a profoundly universal appeal. (Apr. 1)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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