The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. dansforth ISBN: 9780062020567
Plot Summary: On the same day that Cameron kisses her best friend, Irene, Cameron’s parents die in a car crash. She isn’t sure if it’s her fault, but she realizes that at least now, they’ll never find out what she did. Cameron’s evangelical aunt moves in with her and her grandmother and all happily coexist for several years while Cameron explores her sexuality quietly. She is discovered after getting involved with her friend Coley, and her aunt sends her to a conversion therapy school, designed to turn her straight. The book takes place in rural Montana in the 1990s, and follows Cameron as she explores who she is, and where she is going.
Critical Evaluation: This book is somewhat slow moving. Even the cover gives some indication of that. It is not exciting, or fast paced, though there are some emotionally charged moments, like how she feels after the death of her parents. Instead, it takes its time over 470 pages and several years to build to Cameron’s turning point. Along the way are several important moments that bring her closer to her turning point. I suppose you could call this the narrative structure of the story. I felt like there was a lot of setup that led to the conflict for me; that being when she is sent to the conversion camp. Even so, I really enjoyed the build up to that place, because it explains how she got there and really gives us a very clear picture of who she is. The resolution is not so much of a resolution in my eyes, but it does mirror life in that way. We are left with Cameron’s decision, which is perhaps the most important piece to get out of the book.
After thinking about that, I can’t help but bring up the characters of the book. This is my old standby, but it turns out to be rather applicable most times. What the 470 pages really do is bring us closer to understanding Cameron and her world. Reading about how her grief over her parents’ death led to an obsession with decorating an old dollhouse was fascinating. Or what she and her friends did for fun on the weekends in the middle of the country. Cameron is given plenty of time to reflect, but her unexplained actions can tell us just as much about her and what she is feeling as when she comes out and says it.
Reader’s Annotation: When do we become the person we will be for the rest of our lives? Cameron has been pretty certain that she is a lesbian since she was 12, but her aunt and the conversion camp she’s been sent to would like her to think different.
Information about the author: This was e.m. danforth’s first novel. The book was very well received, as have been her short stories and nonfiction. She was born in Miles City, Montana, which she says in her biography, is “a town best known for its Bucking Horse Sale-which was once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for hosting the most intoxicated people, per capita, of any US event.”
She received a MFA in Fiction from the University of Montana and a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. She now teaches English and Creative Writing classes at Rhode Island College. She is also on the publishing and editing staff of “The Cupboard,” a quarterly prose chapbook.
Genre: Realistic Fiction, LGBTQ
Curriculum ties, if any: I’m at a bit of a loss for how to relate this to a classroom. It is very well written, and would certainly invite an interesting discussion, so maybe that’s enough.
Booktalking Ideas: It might be interesting to talk about all the things that adults tell Cameron in this book. The “lessons” that she learns from her parents, from her aunt, from the pastor, from the new adults she encounters and teachers, in contrast with those she learns from her peers. I imagine a lot of teens could also identify with Cameron’s boredom and weird obsessions in this book, and that these would be a good way to introduce the book.
Reading Level/Interest Age: The book starts when Cameron is only 12, but she ages quickly to be an older high school student that engages in sexual activities and occasional drug use. As such, I think it would work better for older teens. Publishers Weekly recommends this book for ages 14 and up; School Library Journal for grades 10-12.
- sexual situations
- drug use
- First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
- Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
- Bibliographic Citation of the book.
- A description of who the book is best suited for.
- A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
- My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
- Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
- ALA Library Bill of Rights
- Good and bad reviews of the book
- Alternative works a student could read
- Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
- When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
- If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.
This novel represents some people’s very real experiences, and is important to represent, while also making it available to those who have not experienced this, but could benefit from being exposed to the idea. I could see the topic of conversion camps and schools as being a rather contentious one, with some people potentially getting offended by the implications of this book. But again, this is one perspective on that experience and people have a right to access it.
Why did you include this book? : It was recommended to me, and it also helps to provide another perspective to the LGBTQ books on my blog.
Dansforth, e.m. (2013). Bio. Emily m. danforth website. Retrieved from http://www.emdanforth.com/sbio.php