How I Learned to Hate in Ohio

David Stuart MacLean. Overlook, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4719-9
MacLean’s laborious debut novel (after the memoir The Answer to the Riddle Is Me) explores the insidious effects of racism, homophobia, and toxic masculinity via the coming-of-age tale of a bullied high school freshman. It’s 1985 in an Ohio college and factory town, and lonely protagonist Barry Nadler, nicknamed “Yo-yo Fag” for refusing to share his yo-yo, has just started his freshman year. Just as Barry is resigned to another year of harassment, the new kid in school, a Sikh boy named Gurbaksh Singh, befriends him. Soon, Barry is drawn into the orbit of Gurbaksh, who stands up to the bullies who taunt him with racist slurs and beat him up. But when Gary discovers his mother and Gurbaksh’s father are having an affair, his social and familial worlds begin to crumble. Rife with collapsing marriages and lost friendships, the novel is intent on exposing how quotidian situations can lead to outbursts of destructive racial violence. Unfortunately, MacLean’s occasionally sharp prose does little to ameliorate disjointed pacing and wooden turns of phrase (“Hate is safe. Hate is urgent. Hate is unkind”). In the end, the novel is glaringly message-driven, without much else to show for itself. Agent: Stephanie Rostan, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 11/12/2020
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-7135-5205-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-7135-5204-8
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-4197-4720-5
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