Books by State: Kansas

Under the Rainbow by Celia Laskey

“Big Burr, Kansas, is the kind of place where everyone seems to know everyone, and everyone shares the same values—or keeps their opinions to themselves. But when a national nonprofit labels Big Burr “the most homophobic town in the US” and sends in a task force of queer volunteers as an experiment—they’ll live and work in the community for two years in an attempt to broaden hearts and minds—no one is truly prepared for what will ensue.

Furious at being uprooted from her life in Los Angeles and desperate to fit in at her new high school, Avery fears that it’s only a matter of time before her “gay crusader” mom outs her. Still grieving the death of her son, Linda welcomes the arrivals, who know mercifully little about her past. And for Christine, the newcomers are not only a threat to the comforting rhythms of Big Burr life, but a call to action. As tensions roil the town, cratering relationships and forcing closely guarded secrets into the light, everyone must consider what it really means to belong. Told with warmth and wit, Under the Rainbow is a poignant, hopeful articulation of our complicated humanity that reminds us we are more alike than we’d like to admit.” — Amazon’s summary.

Celia Laskey is an honest writer. This story and all the characters involved in it felt strikingly real. The pain along with the joys that these characters faced are ones that we have faced, or at least heard of, many times in our lives. Laskey seems to be one of those authors who creates mirrors out of fiction. She shows us our weaknesses as well as our strengths through her characters. This honesty can be a bit harsh as it doesn’t hesitate to make the dark parts of people front and center, so there were moments that I found it hard to read. However, I feel the same way about Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is an extremely important classic that has helped people process their trauma or simply feel less alone in their pain for many years. I feel like Under the Rainbow could achieve that same status. It is such an important work that brings forth a painful issue that society likes to avert their eyes from, same as Speak. I’m glad there are authors out there who continue to incorporate serious, pressing issues in their works. Even if it doesn’t spark immediate change, it helps people suffering from those issues feel seen and connected to people again – and really, isn’t that the whole point of literature?

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