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  • Nina Day Gerard

A Word About Anguish

The thing about anguish is that it runs deep. Second cousin to despair and depression, it's not the loudest at the party of crushing emotions, but it grabs you at your core and sometimes doesn't let go. And that's why author JJ Ellis titles her YA teen romance with the word. But her story isn't just another rehashed, warmed up leftover of an angst ridden story. It's about something very specific, and invites us into a world that we've been closed off to for too long. As my husband and I sat watching the new show "Queer Eye" (which is a renovated version of the original "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" in the early 2000s), we laughed, and also loved what the Fab Five was doing with their guy's (straight and gay, as it turns out) hair, home, wardrobe, and kitchen each episode. But something was different with this new iteration of the show. In the first episode, they mentioned that the mission of the original show had been tolerance, and now their mission was to cultivate acceptance. I didn't really understand until, one by one, through the thread of each episode, each of the guys revealed his personal struggle with being accepted. One tried to live up to his father's ideal as a businessman; another tried to reconcile the religious beliefs he'd grown up with to his truth as a gay man; another, a black man who had grown up gay in the deep south, faced a guest on the show and his friend, who were police officers, and opened up a discussion of both sides of the police violence issue. And so on it went. Each of the show's hosts has overcome societal obstacles to be happy and successful. Thank God. But how much easier it might have been, if they'd had supportive family or friends on whom they could lean? What if they had been able gain courage by reading a novel like JJ Ellis's Anguish, and seeing themselves in main characters like Ben and JC? Thankfully our young people in the LGBT+ community are. And just as so many of them still struggle, Anguish mirrors that in a story of heartbreak, but one that is not without hope. Kudos to Ellis for writing that story.

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