Meet Haskell Hodge. At sixteen he’s already garnered some fame as a former child actor and star of a popular cereal commercial. But that doesn’t do much for him when he’s dumped at his aunt’s house in the suburbs of Los Angeles to face an assortment of neighborhood bullies.
He thinks he might be gay. In fact, he could be the only gay person in the valley, maybe on the entire planet. Even if he does manage to find a boyfriend, their relationship would have to be secret and invisible.
After all it’s 1966. And though Time Magazine claims the sexual revolution is in full swing, the freedoms straight people are enjoying don’t seem to apply to everyone. And as much as Haskell attempts to hide his true self, carefully navigating the tricky and risky terrain of being queer, he’s still taunted and teased relentlessly.
Rather than give in to the irrationality of this hate, Haskell fights back, eventually finding an unlikely outlet to vent his frustration and angst—playing a bully in a screen test for a major motion picture. If he plays his cards right, it could catapult him into Hollywood stardom.
Of course, like most things in life, it comes with a heavy price Haskell’s not certain he’s willing to pay.
Haskell Himself doesn’t just draw you in, it grabs you and throws you deep within it. This novel captures the misery and frustration of being a person who doesn’t fit the mold.
Haskel Himself is based in the 1960s in Los Angeles, and even though I know nothing about that time, I was able to feel like I was truly there, feeling the rhythm and cultural issues of the time. This coming to age novel is tells the story of Haskell and his journey to find who he truly is. He is up against issues that are still relevant in this decade, such as bullying, searching for acceptance and being true to himself.
It’s true to life without being either exploitative or too graphic. Great book to read with your teenager for family discussion.
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About the Author
Gary Seigel was raised in Encino, California where his debut novel, Haskell Himself, takes place. After completing a PhD in English at Rutgers University, Gary taught at several colleges and universities, but his most memorable experience was a brief 12 week stint at the same high school he (and Haskell) graduated from, teaching side by side with some of the same teachers he once endured.
Currently, Gary gives grammar and proofreading classes to business professionals eager to write error-free emails. He also has spent the past two decades helping employees control their inner jerk when texting or holding conversations with an impossible boss.
His book The Mouth Trap: Strategies, Tips and Secrets for Keeping Your Feet out of Your Mouth, published in 2008, has been translated into over a dozen languages. He is the father of three sons and currently lives in South Pasadena with his partner.
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