My friend Camille Griep recommended Emily Danforth‘s book, The Miseducation of Cameron Post to me recently. I really had very little idea what it was going to be about, other than something about a teenager. In Montana.
Miseducation is ostensibly a story about a young teen exploring her sexuality in a conservative, evangelical community where homosexuality is viewed as a sin – and in the aftermath of her parents’ death. And that story is definitely in there. What I was not prepared for was the love letter to Montana. The language is beautiful and lyrical and I felt that landscape in a way I don’t think I ever have in a book. Here’s a taste from the first page:
Miles City had been cooking in the high nineties for days, and it was only the end of June, hot even for eastern Montana. It was the kind of heat where a breeze feels like someone’s venting a dryer out over the town, whipping dust and making the cottonseeds from the big cottonwoods float across a wide blue sky and collect in soft tufts on neighborhood lawns. Irene and I called it summer snow, and sometimes we’d squint into the dry glare and try to catch cotton on our tongues.
I am fascinated by the intersection of sexuality and religion, so it will come as no surprise that I ate up the portion of the book where Cameron gets sent off to a residential ex-gay program. I loved how she described the effect of the program, like dust and lint that just sticks to a gummy hand over time and how hard it is to wash it off.
The longer I stayed at Promise, the more all the stuff they were throwing at me, at us, started to stick, just like to those sticky hands, in little bits, at first, random pieces, no big deal. For instance, maybe I’d be in bed during lights out and I’d start to think about Coley and kissing Coley, and doing more with Coley, or Lindsey, or whomever, Michelle Pfeiffer. But then I might hear Lydia’s voice saying, “You have to fight these sinful impulses: fight, it’s not supposed to be easy to fight sin,” and I might totally ignore it, or even laugh to myself about what an idiot she was, but there it would be in her voice, in my head, where it hadn’t been before. And it was other stuff too, these bits and pieces of doctrine, of scripture, of life lessons here and there, until more and more of them were coated on, along for the ride, and I didn’t consistently question where they had come from, or why they were there, but I did start to feel kind of weighed down by them.
I hope you will be as taken with the landscape of Montana and the map that Cameron draws in her explorations as I was.
Jill Seidenstein is a queer femme writer, yogini, swimmer and traveler. You can’t read her scribblings yet, but you can get a taste of what she’s thinking about at www.slowbloom.com/blog.