Monday, August 12, 2013
Just like our incoming class of 2017, this summer I took some time to read this year’s First Year Reading Initiative selection Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. The IC Library has compiled an outstanding, comprehensive guide to the book and its author, be sure to check that out even – especially! - if you are returning student.
Themes that run throughout the book include the many ideas of “home,” individuality, finding oneself, exile, community, culture, friendship, family, and connection. The main characters confront ways people and relationships can be layered, unexpected, and intertwined, and methods with which people deal with and address discomfort in themselves and others. The characters’ paths lead them toward leaving the familiar, striking out in new places with new situations and relationships until they become the new “normal,” and then returning once again to old places and at first experiencing shock and dissonance but then finding how quickly one can acclimate and become accustomed to the old familiar once again.
Without giving away too many of the plot twists and turns, Eilis, the main character, at one point struggles with keeping a rather significant secret from her mother, and struggles with what to say, and whether to say it. And she also believes if she does tell this secret, her mother may, instead of listening and communicating openly, somehow act as if she had never heard this news at all. A bit later, Eilis also wonders if she tells this secret to her friends, if they might just not believe her or end up completely confused because the details of her secret are something she believes are entirely outside of their understanding and experience.
Students interested in LGBT themes may find common, shared ground in many of the book’s metaphors and ideas. Those with interests in LGBT literature and the work of out LGBT authors may also find interviews with the author, and his other works, illuminating as well. This interview with Colm Toibin, including his thoughts on the closet, and being gay, focuses specially on these and other themes, while this review discusses another book. And, be sure to view him speak in his own words about being a gay writer.