AfterEllen’s Summer of Love: “Her Name in the Sky” by Kelly Quindlen

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Every Friday through September, we’ll be posting a review of a lesbian/bi-themed romance novel as part of our Summer of Love. If you’ve missed any, you can read them here.

Kelly Quindlen‘s Her Name in the Sky is a coming of age tale so raw and honest, it could have been ripped from the diary of any young, witty, brave little lesbian grappling with her identity in a conservative part of the world. Hannah, a 17-year-old Catholic school girl who is dripping with dry wit (off to a great start, right?) and Baker, another 17-year-old Catholic school girl and class president, are best friends who rule their very conservative high school with a loving hand. Their quaint Louisiana town is colorful in the way your typical proud, Southern towns are: Pep rallies, football games, collegiate dreams, and a whole lot of “Lesbeaux” drama.

OK, maybe that last part is not so typical.

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A storm is brewing between Hannah and Baker though, and nobody knows what to make of it—especially Hannah and Baker, who have been raised to believe that homosexuality is high on the list of things to feel deep shame about. However, their love cannot be tamed, and we follow the two girls on a journey through their senior year of high school that is as gut-wrenching as is it hopeful. 

Her Name in the Sky has some overly dreamy, idyllic moments that almost took me out of it, but I was always brought back in by Hannah’s brazen courage in the face of adversity and hate. This story beautifully and honestly details the anguish that takes over as you realize that you aren’t what you expected to be. It summons those old familiar feelings of being called by something deep within yourself to face the tribulations that lie before you with divine strength. I wish that this book would have been available to me when I was just beginning to understand my own sexuality. Hannah’s courage and determination are admirable and potentially didactic for anyone who allows shame to convince them that what they truly need is wrong.

There is a strong presence of Catholic rigidity, bordering on fire and brimstone. The book, which remains very modern throughout, cites Obama’s support of gay marriage and we get to see how the school’s religious leaders combat this, and how damaging the anti-gay theology can be. Quindlen does a great job of offering insight on how to remain aligned with your faith and be true to yourself at the same time.

Her Name in the Sky was more of a fun read than I could have expected. The moments of wit are matched with moments of depth in a way that is engaging and very real. I grew up as a little Catholic lesbian in the South, so the tale of Hannah and Baker struck a lot of nerves for me. This book is a fun and relatable read that will launch you down memory lane, to those early tumultuous days with your first love.  

You can buy Her Name in the Sky now.

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