From a how-to for teens to a memoir to make a believer out of you
Yay! You’re Gay! Now What? A Gay Boy’s Guide to Life by Riyadh Khalaf (Frances Lincoln 2019) $14.99; 223 pp.
For a while — months, maybe years — you’ve been “feeling different.” You think you might be gay, which, as we are told, is OK, it’s normal and it’s not something you need to change. Or you may be bi or pan or non-binary, and it may have everything or nothing to do with the anatomy you got at birth. The thing to remember is that “You cannot change who you are.”
This may cause a lot of worry, for yourself and for people you love. Recognize that anxiety before it goes wild, and know how to break the cycle. Being gay, says Riyadh Khalaf, is actually a gift.
That’s a gift you can share or not, says Khalaf, because “you can come out whenever and however you want,” it’s your call. Yes, family members might freak out at first and your friends might retreat but you’ll find advice on how to cope with that, and a reminder that “almost every relationship is salvageable.”
So let’s say you’re out, comfortable with it, and you’re ready to find your first true love. It’s okay to go online and look but Khalaf says to be wary: you know how easy it is to pretend you’re someone you’re not when you’re on a computer, so be safe. Also be safe when you go to clubs or parties, and remember that protecting your heart is important, too. Relationships can be different, your first kiss can be amazing, and your body may respond in embarrassing ways to all of the above. And on that note, remember that consent is the new hot…
Here’s the very first thing you’ll need to know about Yay! You’re Gay! Now What?: Absolutely anyone can read it — including parents and allies — but it’s really geared toward gay teen boys and young men. Indeed, Khalaf includes pages expressly for those allies and parents, but later parts of the book are filled with valid information that may be more graphic than they’ll want.
Still, that info will speak directly to the heart and the health of young men just coming out, in a way that’s not stuffy or clinical, but that’s more lightheartedly factual. Khalaf is gay and he uses his own personal anecdotes as tools to teach, but he’s not pious or pushy. Instead, there’s a whole lot of care and camaraderie in these pages, and the words “you are not alone” are not just written, but they leap from each page.
That could make this book a lifesaver for a boy with a dawning understanding but a short support system. Yay! You’re Gay! Now What is serious but fun to read, and may help to shed some light.
The Ghost Photographer by Julie Rieger (Enliven/Atria Books 2018) $25; 243 pp.
Growing up in Oklahoma, Julie Rieger figured she’d someday marry her childhood sweetheart, have kids and work at some local hangout, living “a normal and peaceful life.” Instead, she came out at 23, officially gave up on organized religion, moved to California, married Suzanne and became a powerful Hollywood moviemaker. Life was good, until her mother died of Alzheimer’s.
The loss of her mother almost destroyed Rieger’s world, but there was one comforting moment: a friend who had “a gift” called Rieger as her mother lay dying, offering support in shared grief. When that friend died not long after, she visited Rieger in a dream and later, in a psychic reading. It opened a window to something Rieger had only scoffed at before.
She began “not only paying attention” but was “on a mission to learn everything I possibly could,” becoming an acolyte of a psychic-turned-mentor, and immersing herself into a community that further supported her foray into what was on “the Other Side.” She started collecting crystals and stones meant to protect, energize and promote healing. She learned about the “clairs” and how dangerous it is to open a portal to the other side without remembering to close it, too. She had a terrifying altercation with a “deep dark Debbie Downer.” In short, she became “an evangelical spirit junkie.”
“Spirits are all over the place,” she says adamantly. “Our guides are by our side, ready to give us information if we only pay attention.”
The Ghost Photographer is a very interesting book but only partially for what it says. What it doesn’t say is interesting, too.
Rieger is head of media at 20th Century Fox, but readers won’t find much about Hollywood in this book. Refreshingly, there’s no gossip and very little name-dropping. Instead, what you’ll find is the story of a journey from soft skeptic to firm believer, told in tales that are sometimes super-creepy and will sometimes make you roll your eyes. Rieger joshingly recalls such disbelief in herself.
For that reason, it’s hard to ignore or dismiss as coincidence the stories she tells in this memoir. Rieger shares those tales with humor reminiscent of a high-school Class Clown, which tones them down some, but the sentiment remains: the spirit world is interesting, complicated, and real, but if you’re inexperienced, don’t mess with it.
This book is an entertaining read in itself and informative if you’re just dipping your toe into the paranormal. It’s also possible that The Ghost Photographer could make a scoffer into a believer. Yeah, it’s a book to snap up.
— Terri Schlichenmeyer