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Band Fags! by Frank Anthony Polito
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This is a really sweet story of a kid growing up and the conflicts encountered while discovering who he is as a person. He struggles to determine if he is gay, and if he is can he live as a gay person or does he want to be closeted. The story starts in 1982 while he is in 7th grade, and winds up in 1988 as he ventures off to college. In between are the relationships with his friends, most of whom are with him in his schools' bands throughout the years.
~Stephanie ( )
  BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
Band Fags! (and actually being a Band Fag doesn’t mean you are gay, it means you are one of those kids who tags along with all the other kids in the high school band, and usually they are not exactly the most popular kids in the school…) is probably the first “real” coming of age novel I have read; it’s centred around Brad and Jack, band fags and best friends all though-out high school, and even if the external reader can easily see that both of them are gay, they don’t know, or at least Jack doesn’t know or better doesn’t want to know.

The novel is a long run along with Brad and Jack in the middle of the ’80, with all the icons of that time, soap-operas, movies, music and glossy magazines. It was somewhat a fake world, but to the eyes of young Jack that was the real thing. Jack who is in love with a soap-opera soubrette, an imaginary girlfriend he considers real and for this reason tries to replace in his real life with similar look-alikes. Jack who always played girl games, who has always preferred to tag along his girl best friends and who, when Brad comes into the picture, finds finally the perfect best friend: Brad likes soap-operas and fashion, and Brad understands Jack perfectly.

But while Jack growing up is trying to find the perfect girlfriend, all the time trying also to hide his secret fantasies for various young and hot same age boys, Brad never once shows any real interest for girls; again there is an obvious reason, and again it’s not that Brad is trying to hide it, by Jack doesn’t want to know, doesn’t want to see. When finally Brad finds the courage to “come out” (i.e. to force Jack to see the plain truth), the tragedy fall down upon them, a tragedy that is as big as few are their years; again to an external reader everything is simple, why Jack cannot admit he is gay? Why is he being so mean to Brad, his best friend, the only guy who has always understood him and more than once helped him? The reason is as the same simple: they are teenagers, they are not “little men” with a adult mind, and they are behaving like kids, as they should.

What I want to highlight is that, even if Jack is gay, he is also “in-the-making”: he is still trying to understand himself, to put together all the pieces of his existence, and no adult, or best friend, can rush this process; they can encourage him, support him, like Brad and also Jack’s mother do, but he has to arrive to the final solution of the puzzle of his youth alone, and conscious of his evolution. Maybe Jack is a little slower than other teenagers, than Brad, maybe the reader will think “but how you cannot understand yourself, when we have understood everything already?”, but this is Jack’s life, not ours, not Brad; even if Brad is an important part of that life.

  elisa.rolle | Feb 26, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0758222653, Paperback)

"Ever since I first heard that Lionel Richie and Diana Ross song, 'Endless Love,' all I've wanted is to find The One. Someone to love. Who will love me back."

September, 1982. John Cougar's "Jack and Diane" is on endless radio rotation, and Dallas and Dynasty rule the ratings. Jack Paterno is a straight-A student living in the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park, with his own Atari 5200, a Beta VCR, and everything a seventh-grader could ask for. The only thing he has in common with foul-mouthed Brad Dayton, who lives on the gritty south side near 8 Mile, is that both are in Varsity Band. Or maybe that's not the only thing. Because Jack is discovering that while hanging around with girls in elementary school was perfectly acceptable, having lots of girl friends (as opposed to girlfriends) now is getting him and Brad labeled as Band Fags. And Jack is no fag. Is he?

As Jack and Brad make their way through junior high and then through Hazel Park High School, their friendship grows deeper and more complicated. From stealing furtive glances at Playgirl to discussing which celebrities might be like that, from navigating school cliques to dealing with crushes on girls and guys alike, Jack is trying to figure out who and what he is. He wants to find real, endless love, but he also wants to be popular and "normal." But, as Brad points out, this is real life--not a John Hughes movie. And sooner or later, Jack will have to choose.

Filled with biting wit and pitch-perfect observations, Band Fags is an exhilarating novel about lust and love, about the friendships that define and sometimes confine us, and about coming of age and coming to terms with the end of innocence and the beginning of something terrifying, thrilling, and completely unpredictable.

Advance praise for Band Fags!

"For those of us who came of age in the 80s, reading Frank Anthony Polito's novel is like being teleported back to high school. Filled with pop culture references that will have you saying, 'I remember that!,' this is a love letter to a time when happiness was a pair of Calvin Klein jeans, and every heartbreak could be fixed by listening to your Bonnie Tyler or REO Speedwagon albums. Most important, though, it is a portrait of a friendship between two boys struggling to find themselves without losing each other."--Michael Thomas Ford, author of Last Summer

"With the Motor City running on empty in Reagan's America, Frank Anthony Polito's characters dance their mystery dance of teenage longing as if Motown never left for California. Sexy, funny, and wiser than it wants to be, Band Fags! pulses with a ragged beauty and bounces to its beat. I give it a 98.6." --Thorn Kief Hillsbery, author of What We Do Is Secret

"More than just a novel, Band Fags! is a virtual time machine that transports you smack dab into the cheesy heart of the 80's. It's like a queer Wonder Years as it follows Brad and Jack's memorable journey through high school hell. Screamingly funny, surprisingly charming and, ultimately, truly moving, it's a fresh take on the importance of friendship during the worst/best years of your life." --Brian Sloan, A Really Nice Prom Mess and Tale of Two Summers

"A consistently hilarious story of the best-friendship we all seem to have had, set in a time we can never seem to forget -- the totally awesome '80s -- Band Fags! never misses a beat in its affectionate, moment-by-moment chronicling of the complicated journey we take from cradle to closet to what lies beyond." --Matthew Rettenmund, author of Boy Culture

"Band Fags! is like the gay teen flick John Hughes never got around to making. Let's face it, there's a Band Fag in all of us and Frank Anthony Polito has his on speed dial. This book is a sweet, funny, deeply felt valentine to the wonder/horror of coming of age in the 1980's. You might just pee your parachute pants." --Den

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:18 -0400)

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