In my August 23 post, I promised you a glimpse at the cover of my new book, Throwing Stones. And here it is:
Throwing Stones release date is in November, on Friday the 13th—very appropriate for the subject matter! You can pre-order your e-copy now.
In case you need a refresher for what it's about, the synopsis is in my last post. The story hangs on the differences between people and what choices we make in responding to those differences.
Jesse Bryce and his family live in a fictional town in southeastern Oklahoma. It's a small town, with one high school, attended by townie kids and also by teens from "the village," a community of Pagans who live just south of the town.
For years, the attitude of most towns folks toward the village has been one of antagonism and even hatred. Jesse sees this play out in a number of ways, and finally he realizes what's at the heart of it: fear. Townies misunderstand Paganism, mistaking it for something it's not, for something they're afraid of. And their fear causes them to blame the village for everything from putting curses on townies to stealing babies and children and pets to directing tornadoes toward the town.
Jesse identifies with the village in many ways. He's gay. And he knows gay people are blamed for everything from the attacks on September 11 to the war in Iraq to Hurricane Katrina. And by getting to know his Pagan neighbors, Jesse figures out that it's fear making his own family respond badly to the fact that he's gay. Pagans, like gay teenagers, are just people, and if there's any reason to fear it has nothing to do with these labels. Anyone who's gay knows this. Anyone who's against gay people needs to know it.
In my essay, The Case for Acceptance, I talk about the source of this fear. Summarized, it goes something like this. (Don't worry; Jesse doesn't go through all this analysis while telling his story.)
Of the three major divisions in the human brain, the most primitive (and the one also found in reptiles) is the R25, or reptilian brain, a.k.a. the lizard brain. It's the seat of instinct, which is not a thought process. It's responsible for your survival and the survival of your genes (that is, sex). To your lizard brain, you are the center of the universe, and what's right or wrong for you is right or wrong for everyone forever-and-ever-have-a-nice-day-amen. Because survival is—like—everything, the more paranoid the lizard brain is, the better it's doing its job. And the more paranoid, the more violent a reaction it causes to the different, the other, the not-like-us. And when that difference has to do with sex? You get the picture.
Your lizard brain doesn't think or reason or consider. It reacts. It reacts too quickly for thought. It reacts to something unfamiliar that's different from you, or something that appears before you too suddenly to identify, by shooting adrenaline through your system. And this is the point at which you feel fear.
We don't always recognize it as fear, and in fact the typical masculine response is a return in kind—that is, threatening, or striking. Often a homophobic man won't recognize his reaction to gays as fear. But that's what it is.
Without going through all this analysis, Jesse figures out that if the fear were gone, people would have a chance to get along much better. After all, he gets along just fine with his Pagan boyfriend.