THE DEATH OF DONNA-MAY DEAN by Joey Manley

THE DEATH OF DONNA-MAY DEAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A promising first novel that chronicles homosexual life in small-town Alabama--in particular, the coming of age of Jamie, who rejects the camp-riddled life of his storytelling mentor for realism. Jamie grows up among ``rednecks in training,'' and, though he discovers his orientation early, suffers from self-hatred (``Killing faggots. I did it all the time. It was my favorite fantasy''). At 16, he still lives with his mother but is on the lookout for greener pastures. Then, in the local park, he meets Keller, who runs ``The Home for Tired and Wayward Faggots.'' Jamie leaves his homophobic mother to live with Keller and Thomas. Keller, we're told, ``lived and died in the seventies, when faggotry flourished and attitude, thank you, abounded.'' Hence, the title: Keller (``We must always appear to be victims, you see'') intends for Jamie ``to become something else altogether,'' and convinces him to go into training to become the mythical Donna-May- -dress, lipstick, the works. AIDS is known and feared but not very common, except among drifters who occasionally pass through. Keller believes such ``sluts'' have brought illness upon themselves (``You don't just up and get it''), but Jamie, living in Keller's ``Wonderland,'' begins to see Keller as someone hiding from the world. He finally tires of Keller's scene, and Keller eventually dies. Introduced to tragedy, now in love, Jamie comes to the only possible conclusion: ``We do not have real names, we must learn to speak them as often as possible.'' Though sometimes slick--and though Keller's stories are not nearly the hoot Manley seems to think they are--this is an honest portrayal of not only small-town homosexuality but also of generational conflict.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1991
ISBN: 0-312-05852-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991