Autostraddle Book Club: Emily Answers Your “Cameron Post” Questions And We Throw A Feelings-Fest

Hello! Welcome to BOOK CLUB DAY! By now you’ve all completed, I hope, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Maybe you cried in line at the grocery store with one hand gripping your kindle and maybe you cried in your bed on a Saturday morning and maybe you didn’t cry at all while reading it but maybe you laughed a few times, or maybe both. Definitely if you read the same book I read, you closed it wishing it wasn’t over. You closed it wishing for a sequel or even more of the same.

I think the experiences in Cameron Post are familiar to so many queer women — the rural isolation from lesbian culture, the crush on the straight best friend, the religious relatives with prehistoric ideas about homosexuality — and already so many of you have told me how much you relate to Cameron and how her story connects with yours. That’s how I felt reading the book too, except backwards — it was you I thought of when I read this book, not me. If I was in this book, I wouldn’t be Cameron, I’d be Lindsey Lloyd (although that would’ve required substantially more confidence and self-awareness than I actually possessed as a teenager). I can relate to the tragic and sudden death of a parent, but outside of that I was looking at Cameron from the outside, maybe somewhere near where Lindsey or Margot were looking from.

I fell in love with Cameron and with this book pretty early on, just as I would’ve if I’d known her in real life. Because she has so many feelings and she’s trying so hard to figure everything out and isn’t afraid to dig and dig and dig until she gets it. I think that’s part of what makes queer women so awesome, eventually, is that we’re forced by design to develop a really strong relationship with ourselves. We’ve never just “fit right in,” and that experience of being slightly apart makes a person really develop into a brilliant, complicated thing.

So it is with great lovely excitement that I present to you this fantastic and totally epic Cameron Post Post, which contains answers to your questions. Everybody who sent a question for Emily was entered in our drawing to win a Lindsey Lloyd care package and on the last page of this Q&A we’ll tell you who got drawn via Carrie’s Magical Random Number Generator.

Emily Danforth answered 38 questions for you, so I recommend getting some tea, coffee or whiskey, maybe sitting on your couch, sharpening your fingertips, wiping off your eyeballs, and sitting down to read one of my favorite things we’ve ever put together for you here on this website. There’s lots to talk about, and we hope that you will — Emily’s got some questions for you in here and I have a lot in my head, like “what was your favorite part?” and “who broke your heart the most?” but those aren’t as interesting and complicated as what we’re about to get into.

So, without further ado, Emily pontificates on the coming-of-age-novel, the writing process, the book acceptance and publication process, word processing programs, queer politics in literature, lesbian pop culture, Dorothy Allison, Taco John’s… and the possibility of another book that picks up somewhere after Cameron Post left off. (!!!!!) Basically it’s the best treatment ever to Novel Withdrawal.


I loved the balance of the authenticity of the dialog and interaction between the protagonist and her peers, and the heady, often heart-wrenching introspection from Cameron. How did you approach writing for an adolescent narrator without coming off as precocious?

Thanks very much for saying so, glad that all worked for you. For me it comes down to understanding how characterization works, in-scene, and then complementing/complicating that with strategic usage of POV in the passages of narration. Cam as storyteller is a bit older, and a bit wiser, a person, one with a more developed sense of perspective on the things she’s telling you about, than is Cam as character in scene, and I was always trying to remind myself of that and use it as a potential place for tension-building in the novel.

I see Cam, the person telling you, the reader, this story, as maybe a twenty or twenty-one year old, so she’s put some of this behind her, or worked it out, I suppose, in order to be able to now tell the story to you. But, I think her narration also reveals some of the ways in which she hasn’t yet processed all of these experiences as fully as she might pretend to, and, in fact, telling the story is helping her to do some of this processing. This is her “reflective distance” from her own past, and utilizing that distance, that slightly older, introspective voice, throughout the novel, was all pretty strategic.

“Sometimes when people ask me why I write, I tell them that it’s because I grew up gay (very gay) way out in the middle of cowboy country in the windswept and dusty badlands of eastern Montana.”

However, sometimes I had to mute that reflective voice when Cam was remembering a specific moment that would become a scene in the novel—or at least turn the volume way down on it—to better help you, as a reader, just be there in those moments with her. It’s a tricky negotiation and it doesn’t work the same for every scene in the book. Sometimes she’s doing quite a lot of narrative “interpreting” as she’s showing you this scene, other times she’s just painting the picture for you. Mostly it’s just honoring your characters, in this case, my main character, and trying to present her as wholly as possible, not to pander to a certain ideal of type, or to use her as a puppet serving my plot, but to attempt to honor Cam’s humanity on the page. That sounds sort of silly, maybe, but it’s as accurate a piece of my process as I can explain it.

 


Where do you live now? How do your Montana roots impact your queer identity?

I live in Providence, Rhode Island—a city I love. We’ve only been here for a year and a half but both my wife and I are completely in love with Providence. It’s such a great, small, coastal city. I’ve always been really drawn to New England, for whatever reason (too many John Updike/John Irving novels…) and if we don’t live here forever, for always, it will likely still be somewhere coastal (the Pacific Northwest is very nice, too.) But, despite that, I think I’ll always consider myself a Montanan. All of my most formative years were spent there, and the whole of my immediate family still lives there—which means I’m back in MT at least once a year, often more than that. And I long for it, I do, when I’m away for too long—that landscapes works itself into your very being, I’m telling you, it haunts you until you return and get your fix. I wrote a little about this awhile ago, at least how growing up in Miles City affected me as a queer writer. Here’s how I put it then:

Sometimes when people ask me why I write, I tell them that it’s because I grew up gay (very gay) way out in the middle of cowboy country in the windswept and dusty badlands of eastern Montana. I don’t know that this answer is very satisfying to anyone. Sometimes people chuckle, uncertain. Sometimes they cock their heads, ask me to elaborate. Sometimes they just nod knowingly (you know how some people do that). What I think I mean by that answer, though, is that falling in love and in crush with other girls in Miles City, Mont. in the 1990s felt so fraught and, frankly, dangerous that from the ages of 8 to 18, closeted-me inhabited a very active and wholly imagined fantasy world in which a braver, not-closeted-me, was, well, braver and not closeted. All this time spent imagining other worlds, and other versions of me in those worlds, was eventually good fuel for fiction writing. But more than that, growing up this way — which is to say, growing up in the closet — kept me on the periphery of so many of the crucial rites of American adolescent passage: first dates and kisses and dances, those formative individual events, most of them small, to be sure, but you add them all up and there’s real weight there for those of us who missed out on all of them.

So, you know, there you go. All of that experience was formative for me, as a writer, as a queer, as a queer writer.

emily danforth


How much of the book was based on research? Could you talk about any research that you did? What, if anything, was the book based on and what inspired it?

How did you go about researching the “conversion” school Cameron is sent to?

Much of the “treatment” focused on in the God’s Promise section comes from actual research I did. That research took many shapes and forms. I read all kinds of books from various practitioners of these therapies (and ordered materials directly from Exodus International, an organization that’s really changed its rhetoric in recent months, but that remains in its function as a referral network for many ex-gay ministries—despite that even they have now mostly parted ways with that term); I also spent hours and hours combing the websites and blogs of these ministries and practitioners, and also folks who themselves claim to be “ex-gay” or who have just spent time on the receiving end of conversion/reparative therapy, (And I had one on one conversations with many of these people, in chat-rooms or via email.)

I even got access to the offical application materials and “residence manual” for a live-in reparative facility for adults in Kansas. (The dorm manual in the middle of the novel is based on those materials.) I watched several documentaries on the topic, too, including the excellent One Nation Under God (1993—directed by Teodoro Maniaci, Francine Rzeznik and not to be confused with the 2009 film of the same name, also a documentary.) It was a particularly useful film, not only because it’s a documentary, but because it’s from roughly the same time period as the novel. Exodus International was just Exodus back then, or Exodus Ministries (no International component), and it has changed significantly, as well, between the time period covered in the novel and today, so only using recent resources just didn’t make sense given that Cam’s world is one from twenty years ago.

However, the facility itself, as built in the novel—God’s Promise–is an invention, it’s fiction—there is not specific school or facility that it’s based on. The practices that happen there, yes, but the place is my own, one born of my research.

As for inspiration, shoot, that’s impossible to answer, really. It’s inspired by so, so many things, from novels I’d read to music I love (or once loved) to films, my own memories, the landscape of Montana, growing up in the closet, being horrified by conversion therapy and its practitioners. I can’t pin any of that down to one satisfying answer. It was my first novel and it had been bubbling away inside me for a very long time, its points of inspiration are many.


Did you have someone like Lindsey Lloyd in your formative years? Or have you been that person to someone?  

I didn’t have a Lindsey Lloyd type figure in my life until college, sad to say, and by then I was old enough, had experienced enough, that she didn’t have quite the same effect on me as she did on Cam—or as she would have on me had I met her at 12 or 13, or even 14 or 15. But, still—there were a couple of friends who I met early on in college who introduced me to some aspects of dyke culture that I was unfamiliar with, absolutely. My best “fairy gay,” though, was/is my friend Ben. We also met in college. I was already out and he’s no lesbian, but we did proclaim ourselves the school’s “favorite gays,” and then worked really hard to live up to that self-bestowed title, mostly by throwing lots of parties. If it sounds like gross behavior it might have been, I’m afraid, but we simply did not care. (Mostly because we were drunk.)

I would have LOVED to have had a Lindsey Lloyd in my life in high school, despite some of her (delightful) flaws. A Lindsey in high school would have saved me some heartache, I’m sure. I don’t know that I’ve specifically been a lesbian fairy godmother to anyone, the “keeper of the light of dyke knowledge,” I mean, but I did spend a chunk of my early twenties as a kind of Lindsey Lloyd. I see a lot of my 19, 20, 21 year-old self in that character. That’s not an entirely good thing, maybe, but it’s true.


As a queer writer, do you consider your work necessarily political? Would you ever write a book that didn’t focus on queer issues, or do you feel as though part of your mission/responsibility/identity as a writer is wrapped up in being queer?

Certainly I’m used to my sexuality as being understood, by many, as political—that’s just part of any out queer’s current experience. (It’s not, frankly, fundamentally understood by me that way, but I live in a culture and at a time wherein any non- heteronormative desire or embodiment is necessarily political. The very recent election and the great successes for marriage equality (and queer representation in congress) indicate a real kind of progress in terms of shifting political views, nationally, on issues that pertain to lesbians and gays, but it’s also one that’s easy to problematize given all that’s bound up, politically, in the institution of marriage, no matter the gender of those getting married—but it’s social progress nonetheless and I appreciate it as such.)

All of this is to say that heteronormativity makes any exploration of queer desire in a work of fiction political for some readers, while at the same time some explorations/representations feel not nearly political or politicized enough for other readers (often, unsurprisingly, queer readers.) One of the things I’m most interested in exploring when I write fiction is desire—romantic, sexual, even aesthetic. Desire is so often messy and complicated, even fraught—it’s good material for fiction. And what I know best is queer desire, so I’ll always, always be writing about that. Guaranteed.

I wanted it to be a great big coming of GAYge novel, one that both represented the literary traditions/tropes of the American coming-of-age novel and also one that queered some of those traditions, or answered back to them, subverted them.

I wanted Miseducation to be a great big coming-of-GAYge novel, one that both represented the literary traditions/tropes of the American coming-of-age novel/novel of development, and also one that queered some of those traditions, or answered back to them, subverted them. As such, it necessarily explores the formation of queer identity(ies) in a fairly microscopic and chronologic way. I’ve now written this novel, though, and I’ll never write it again. (Unless, I suppose, I ever write Cam’s continuing adventures, which would be its own novel, but would tread in similar territory.) What I mean is: I won’t again write a novel that’s structured as a coming-of-age novel, a novel that explores queerness in quite this way. It’s always been important to me that each successive novel I write take a new approach in terms of structure, in terms of construction (and of course in terms of plot and content), though undoubtedly some themes I’ll return to again and again. However, I’m writer that deals in specifics.

audre lorde

Like Dorothy Allison, I want my fiction to “break down small categories,” to feel authentic and powerful in the specificity of its rendering. Allison also said “some things must be felt to be understood, that despair, for example, can never be adequately analyzed; it must be lived…”

She’s talking, of course, about the power of literature to transport readers not only to different times and places, but to different selves, to emotional landscapes that cannot be effectively discussed in, say, academic speak—and that’s a power that I seek to utilize in my own fiction. Audre Lorde famously wrote, “There’s always someone asking you to underline one piece of yourself – whether it’s Black, woman, mother, dyke, teacher, etc. – because that’s the piece that they need to key in to. They want to dismiss everything else.” I believe that one of the powerful things character-driven fiction can do is offer narratives that refuse those kinds of dismissals, that kind of essentialism.


In the novel, many characters are presented sympathetically and multi-dimensionally, including those who are using religion as an excuse for intolerance. Was it difficult to create those characters who were prejudiced?

This was something that was pretty crucial to me as I wrote—getting these characters to feel multidimensional on the page. Aunt Ruth, for instance, was a character who went through substantial revision as the drafts piled up, and I’m still not sure she’s as complicated/compelling as I’d ultimately like for her to be. I absolutely did not want the evangelical Christian characters in this novel—even those running God’s Promise—to be merely zealot-puppets that I could manipulate in scene to reveal my own views and agenda.

However, some readers of early drafts called me out for writing caricatures and not characters, and I think those criticisms were pretty fair. No surprise that it’s challenging to authentically and fairly treat characters (on the page) who espouse viewpoints and live ideologies that you so vehemently disagree with. I revised several scenes because I kept making those characters, in my novel, too one- dimensional and cartoonish. (The problem being that it’s hard for me not to experience most zealots, in life, as cartoons, even as I see them in front of me on TV or on the street—my way of looking at and experiencing the world is just so removed from any of that—so it was a personal challenge to try and move beyond that kind of portrayal in my novel.)

screenshot via “the miseducation of cameron post” trailer


How did you develop your prose style?  Were there any writers who were particularly influential of your style? 

I developed it by reading a whole lot and writing a whole lot, and, importantly, thinking pretty critically about craft, but then also purposefully not thinking much about it, frankly, when I sit down to do early drafting. I can think more strategically about technique when I’m revising, but in its early stages my fiction doesn’t come from craft, it comes from ideas or memories, from small moments of this or that—the nostalgic potential of a particular smell, a bit of conversation I’ve overheard, some grievance or terror or piece of a tragedy—that I want to “get at” in fiction. I studied fiction, as a craft, in a couple of graduate programs and unquestionably all of that careful attention paid to fiction—and the workshopping process—helped me to refine my style. (Though if I look at pieces of my writing from my late teens, early twenties, that style—some of my preferred usages of technique, that is, my stylistic tics, are already emerging.)

There are many, many writers who have influenced me, though I don’t know that it would be correct to say that they’ve influenced my style, in specific. In particular I’m drawn to Steinbeck’s ability to render place; to Sarah Waters’ colorful treatment of history and her always delicious plots; to Nabakov’s sentences; to Roald Dahl’s wit and villains; to Flannery O’Connor’s southern Gothicism and penchant for (grotesque) violence—particularly in her short fiction.

Before writing Miseducation… I really steeped myself in (mostly late-twentieth century) coming-of-age novels, and Janet Fitch’s White OleanderWally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone; Jeffrey EugenidesMiddlesex; and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep were all equally influential. (As were books from much earlier in the century, or even before, including Catcher in the Rye, Rubyfruit Jungle, and Susan Warner’s sentimental “classic” novel of instruction, The Wide, Wide World.) If I could pick one novel, though, that I wish I’d written, that I wish I could claim, it would absolutely be Michael Cunnigham’s The Hours. I think it’s pretty much a perfect novel.

 


 

If Cameron was losing it for Coley in 2012, what movie-of-seduction would she bring to the apartment that fateful afternoon? Still The Hunger, or has the cinema of the last twenty years made a new offering?

“the hunger”

Ha!–fun question. Unquestionably there are now more (and better) films with some sort of Sapphic bent for Cam to choose from than there were in 1991. And TV shows and webisodes too, for that matter. It’s all a question of perspective and intent, I think. The Hunger works well for Cam in her particular situation because she has it on hand, for one, and saves time skipping a stop at the video store before heading to Coley’s, but also because while of course she knows there’s going to be some ladies making out in it, she can present it to Coley as just a “wacky vampire story.” And then she gets to enjoy the moments in between, once she’s pressed play, while Coley figures out the other layer to this film—the one that Cam hasn’t mentioned. (Also, it was historically appropriate for my needs as a novelist.)

All of this would necessarily play out quite differently today, given how much more visible (and accessible) are various kinds of LGBTQ representations in our current popular culture—as problematic as some of those representations might be for some of us. I belabor this because Cam’s choice is in some ways made easier—there’s more material to choose from—and also more difficult, for that very same reason. Would she want to pick something that she still thinks Coley wouldn’t be familiar with? So maybe an indie movie? And does she go for a true romance between women, or is just a sex scene between women enough? I mean, if she wanted to hit the nail squarely on the head then it’s, what, an episode of The L Word? (Or now The Real L Word.) That just seems too on the nose to me. She’d probably go for something wherein a seemingly straight woman falls for another woman, but also something that doesn’t feel too complicated or demanding of its viewers, and features youngish protagonists. Maybe D.E.B.S. or Kissing Jessica Stein (but skipping the awful last five minutes of that film, just ending it early, when they’re a happy, functioning couple dancing around to music) or Saving Face. But I’m a Cheerleader or Imagine Me and You might work, too.

Or Bound. When in doubt there’s always Bound, right? It might be perfect for Cam’s intentions, actually, because there’s this complicated crime plot to latch on to, so she could easily present it to Coley “just” as a mob film. Or she could always cherry pick a couple of the Willow/Tara episodes of Buffy. Or just pull up one of the 900 clip reels of lesbian moments in film on youtube (though where’s the fun in that?) One of my very, very favorite films exploring young, fraught, imperfect romance between teenage girls is Lukas Moodysson’s quiet Swedish film Fucking Åmål (which was released in the states as Show Me Love.) That might, in fact, be the absolute perfect choice (though they’d have to contend with the subtitles, which could make following the narrative tricky if they’re simultaneously trying to make out. I’m sure Coley and Cam could figure it out, though.)

So, final answer: Fucking Åmål. If you haven’t seen it you should, it’s incredibly tenderhearted and touching and honest.

Fucking Åmål

This is somewhat embarrassing to admit (and I’m sure you weren’t expecting this follow up when you asked the question), but on one of my very first official dates with the woman who would become my wife—I say official because we’d been friends who had not dated for several years prior—we watched “The Puppy Episode” of Ellen. Anyway, get this, a friend of mine had taped this episode for us—off of the Lifetime network, of all places—because I didn’t have a TV (let alone a VCR) in my dorm room. I was a closeted high school kid when the series was on the air, and so had not tuned in, nor had my wife (though I’d seen “The Puppy Episode” by the time we watched it together on this date), but this very good friend made me two VHS tapes of the final two seasons as a kind of “welcome to your gay life” present, I guess. I still have those tapes, actually. (Despite that I have no longer have a VCR on which to play them.) Anyway, I love the image of the two of us on our first date, sitting on this twin mattress in somebody’s dorm room watching Ellen come out: it’s such a cliché. You’d think we’d have headed to an Indigo Girls concert immediately afterward. (We did not.) I don’t think, however, that I intended it as a potential tool of seduction. I just thought it was funny and that we’d like it (and we did.) I think we might have held hands while watching it. That’s how sweet we once were.


NEXT: On Religion-by-VHS, writing software, the autobiographical elements of the book, Coley Taylor’s sexuality and more!

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Avatar of Riese

Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1721 articles for us.

69 Comments

  1. Thumb up 2

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    So, so much love for this book. The only thing I wish was different was that it had been around in 2007 when I was sixteen. And as a YA novel it could really make a difference to some little bookish, Christian kid’s life, the kind of kid who wouldn’t pick up Ruby Fruit Jungle, but would pick up Cameron Post just to see how other people live, and might find it hitting a little close to home (i.e. me at sixteen.) Thanks, Emily, for the time you spent answering all these questions. You should definitely, if you feel led to at all, write a sequel. You have me really curious as to what the hell a job making maternity mannequins has to do with anything. XP

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      Thanks to you for sending those questions in–or one of them, I would suppose–and I appreciate the goodwill toward a second book. I, too, wonder what the hell working in a maternity mannequin factory has to do with anything, tell you what. (But I promise there’s some weird, sexy stuff going on in that factory. And, Cam continues her dollhouse-diorama building in the mannequin bellies. In secret. Shhh: don’t tell anyone.)

  2. Thumb up 8

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    Dorothy Allison! Audre Lorde! Fannie Flagg! Rita Mae! So many of my favorite things are mentioned in these questions; I’m dying a little. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. It’s a really great supplement to the book I just finished reading like an hour ago.

    I found it interesting that Riese initially said this book “felt like home” to her, because I felt something similar. I even visited my mom–someone who probs would’ve sent me to God’s Promise in a previous decade–with the book in tow, and she noticed the cover and said, “Funny, I thought that was here for a minute.” Here being rural Georgia. She had no idea what the novel was about. Just that it looked like home. I feel like people relate to the setting just as much as they do to the story, if not more.

    VIKING FUCKING ERIN. Out of all the secondary characters in the book, she was the one with whom I was the most fascinated. That nuanced little heathen. I feel like she was the antithesis of Coley in so many ways, but still plagued by the same demons.

    I’ve had more Margots than Lindseys, I think. (Maybe Lindseys grow into Margots?)

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      i know as i was putting in this interview i was like THIS SHIT IS SO FAR UP FONSECA’S ALLEY IT’S PRACTICALLY IN HER BACKYARD

      my favorite part of Viking Erin was that obviously she was a Highly Skilled Top — when Cam noted Erin’s bedroom manner I was like OH DUH FOUR FOR YOU VIKING ERIN

    • Thumb up 3

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      The Viking Fucking Erin, indeed. (Nuanced little heathen is fantastic: I might make myself a T-shirt with that across the front. I really might.)

      I’m not sure if Lindseys grow up to be Margots, though. I like the idea of that, very much, but I feel like this particular Lindsey–Lindsey Lloyd, that is–she’s got a little too much punk rock in her for it to be so fully eclipsed by corporate dykehood. (Someday, maybe, once she finishes not making a very good living touring around with her band, The Molly Bolts.)

  3. Thumb up 6

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    So we read this book this month for our queer book group (BOSTON LADIES, y’all up in here? I feel like I sent out five million reminder emails about the Autostraddle Q&A), and this ranks up there on my list of favorite books ever. It was actually the second time I read it, and I sort of devoured it just as breathlessly as I did the first time around. It’s the queer YA book I always wanted when I was a teenager, but I can’t say that I regret it emerging in 2012.

    I think mostly what we talked about at our meeting was just how many intense feelings this book evoked in us, and how true it was for all of us, even those of us who didn’t grow up in rural towns where you had to be closeted. We kept talking about how this book got into our heads and we couldn’t stop thinking about how visceral and raw it was, how it wedged its way in. That whole section when she’s at Coley’s apartment, I remember not being able to BREATHE because of how tension-filled it is (way to go, Emily, I think you really accomplished “getting the tension right”).

    I really love hearing about the speculation on Coley’s future. I think I wrote a whole fanfiction in my head about how she’s so committed to not being gay, but still feeling so guilty, and “kissing her boyfriend and pretending to like it” (like Irene Klausen), and then going off to college and having a lesbian experience. And eventually tracking Cameron down through Jamie or Ruth or someone and being able to say sorry (years and years later). But I definitely also see the rancher’s wife, SUV-driving future too (that makes me sad; I’d like her to be happy!). I would be all over a short story about her. Or one about Irene Klausen (maybe she ends up having a torrid affair, like the one that trophy wife in Best in Show does with Jane Lynch the dog trainer). Or one about Aunt Ruth (goddddd, knowing that Ruth gets sicker and sicker makes me depressed).

    Lastly, now that I’ve written an essay, I’m so glad to know that Cameron makes it away from Quake Lake. That was probably our biggest complaint in our meeting — that we didn’t find out if they made it to civilization okay. I hope 2012 Cameron Post has a wonderful partner that she loves and a few cats, listens to the Indigo Girls and Chris Pureka, and still loves movies. THANK YOU, EMILY DANFORTH, for this amazing book that I can’t stop thinking about, and for answering these questions. Thank you so much.

    PS. We’re all on the same page that Margot was in love with Cam’s mom, right?

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      I’m on board with the Margot and Mom theory! I mean, her suave metro style, cool cocktails at steak dinner, cute bff pictures, CAMPFIRE GIRLS?? Forgive me if I so choose to read deep and far btwn these lines. It makes me happy.

      also +1 for sequel.

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      yes to margot and cam’s mom!! i totally got that vibe as well.

      also i am intrigued by the idea of cameron post fan-fiction. personally i think i’m more curious about a cam/irene reunion than a cam/coley reunion.

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        I said it before, I’ll say it again. Damn Coley. I never thought I’d be so satisfied with a total non-encounter as I was when they never said another word to each other ever again.

        I hope Emily Danforth DOES write from Coley’s measly and sniveling perspective one day! Trapped in her hetero life, where no one would dote on her the way Cam had. Yowza, was she hot for that ultimately unrefined cowgirl.

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      Your post made me realize something: That, out of allllll the lesbian films and novels which have been made, we still don’t have a “the one who got away years ago and then came back!” story.

      I’d like one of those, I think.

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      Thank you, Alex, for this most excellent rundown of your Boston queer book club’s take on CAM (we’re practically neighbors, you know, me here in PVD: holla New England). And thanks, too, for saying that I got the tension right in the Coley apartment scene. That’s very, very nice to hear from a reader who felt, well, tense whilst reading it. Consider me here, waiting, for you to take that Coley Taylor fanfiction out of your head and onto online, my friend–I’m ready to read it. For the record: 2012 Cam is doing very well for herself (and yeah, she probably has some playlists with Chris Pureka on them.)

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        Um, yeah, my friend who I co-run the book group with and I realized today over Facebook that maybe we could’ve emailed you or something…….oops. BUT HERE YOU ARE, answering all the questions we could have hoped for! (If you’re ever feeling like you want to pop up to Boston, our queer book group would be very interested in having tea! Or brunch! Is that a weird invitation? I don’t know. I’m just going to PUT IT OUT THERE.)

        My reaction to that whole section about the Coley + Cam Summer of LUV was saying “ALL THE FEELINGS!!!!!” to my friend over Gmail, so… I guess that writing was effective or something.

        HAHA, yeah, maybe that Coley fanfiction will come to fruition. I see that people are discussing all sorts of fanfiction for baby!dyke Irene Klausen.

        (2012 Cam should also listen to something happier once in a while, because Chris Pureka is mostly good for when you’re sad and drunk.)

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    thank you, emily, for answering all of these questions! i loved reading the book itself, and really enjoyed reading about your writing process and thoughts on the characters here.

    and riese, your words made me realize that autostraddle – so, you (and everyone else here) – have absolutely been my lindsey lloyd. i never had a person like that in my life before.

    i really did wonder about what happened to coley taylor. i found myself nodding my head in agreement when i read your (emily) wife’s description about being a rancher’s wife. it seemed to fit, which made me sad for coley.

    in short: thank you for writing this book. i’m so glad it exists, and wish i’d been able to read it about 10 years ago.

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    Thank you so much for doing this, Autostraddle and emily danforth! This will go down as one of my favorite posts on AS. I loved this book and Cam’s character, and it’s so rare to get a chance to really pick an author’s brain about their work.

    I had a pretty numbing day, full of boards studying, and I was consistently refreshing this site, dying to see the post appear. I was so amazed by the thoughtfulness of all the questions and the answers. Thanks for answering my question about Adam and tokenization (I kind of love that the moderators took the time to retype the questions out, resulting in totally endearing things like tonkenization, which I will now use forever and ever). I enjoyed the book so much, along with the bonus web content. ALSO ALSO so excited for a mix tape, seeing that my car does not have a CD player. You have no clue how freaking happy I am to finally have something to listen to on long drives instead of, say, the bible/Jesus-heavy radio of the Fresno/Bakersfield area.

    AUTOSTRADDLE: WHERE ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE. Thanks!

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      I’m so glad to hear that your car still has a cassette player: it was meant to be that you win, I think. You’ll now get to make use of Linds’ mix just like Cam might have back in the day–if she’d had her own car, that is. (I mean, Grandma’s Bel Air did not have a tape player.) (And tonkenization is pretty fantastic. I probably should have just answered the question assuming some awesome new definition for that word and going from there. Next time.)

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    I think I cried for a solid hour after I finished the book, but I laughed a few times too and felt like a teenager again. I have Perks of Being a Wallflower feelings for this book because I guess it is the first time other than camp where I felt connected to something because it spoke to similar places and events in my life that while I am not totally okay with now, I am trying to process and believe for myself.It is like everyday I wonder if I’m really the brave lesbian I have been working to become or are the NARTH workbooks correct and it is Same Sex Attraction Perversion and I need to just get through it? Cameron gave me something to hold on to on the harder days when my isolation created these kinds of doubts with my faith versus what I really want from my life.

    Thanks for writing this wonderful book, thanks for doing this amazing interview, just thanks.

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      I have the most ridiculous urge to make a wholly inappropriate–and really completely passe–that’s what she said joke, here. (I mean, when else am I gonna get a comment so perfect for doing so, asks lesbian Michael Scott?) But, you know, now I’ve just written this comment telling you about the potential for that comment instead of actually making it: best of both worlds.

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    This post is amazing. I love how critically the author thinks about her characters and the story and the setting. I think it made the book what it is, which is great. I loved it.

    I can’t wait to read more from her. And hopefully more about Cameron Post.

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    I read “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” all in a heady four or five hours on a Monday afternoon, haven been given the day off after driving home all night from a work trip. I had sensibly planned to structure my day around sleeping and eating peanut butter toast, but I literally could not bring myself to stop reading. Instead, I wandered from bed to sofa to floor to patio to floor to bed, and I would set it down from time to time, thinking some moment was just “too much right now,” on this day when I was exhausted and lonely with my heart lodged firmly in the base of my throat. But I would immediately pick it back up, and go through whatever it was that felt like “too much,” and sob and laugh and be so glad I didn’t leave those feelings for another day.

    And this interview! It was like getting a visit from someone you think about often but aren’t sure if you should call. emily, thank you so much for the time and care that you took with answering these questions. It was incredibly enlightening and satisfying, and (not for the first time with AS) I almost wished it had been in print just so I could circle certain things with a pencil and write “YES!” in the margins. I’m sure I’ll have more comments when I reread the post, but what a great way to wake up. I can’t wait for more from emily, Cameron Post or no!

  9. Pingback: November Book Club: The Miseducation of Cameron Post | Epic Reads

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    and was it just me or was there an entire chapter missing on Irene Klauson’s baby dyke opportunities at her all-girls school??

    Or just more fan-fiction? I’m envisioning tube socks and cardigans, Either way, point me to it.

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    Emily, I was a little anxious to read this post– over the course of the book Cameron had become *mine*, but she was also yours, and what if I didn’t like how you treated her? I’m relieved and delighted that you feel for her the respect and care and affection that she deserves.

    Thank you, also, for putting so much time and effort into answering these questions– it absolutely shows.

    While I enjoy hearing these details of what happened to Cameron next (and please do write that sequel or short story!) I appreciate the novel ending where it did. Having the conclusion be Cameron coming to terms with her parents’ death drove home the point that this was a coming of queer age story, not a coming out novel, and that Cameron’s identity and journey are influenced by but not limited to her being gay (not that there’s anything wrong with coming out novels, there’s just a lot of them already, and I’m a little too old to enjoy them as much anymore). Also, what a powerful, intense scene. I was shocked that it was over and wanted to hear more, but since narrator-Cameron clearly made it out of the wilderness and into an ok emotional space, I was able to calm down and stop worrying and appreciate all of the possibilities for what happened next.

    I’m not one of the readers whose experience was much like Cameron’s– it took me a while to realize I was gay, but I never felt bad or guilty about it once I did, and so many people were indifferent or supportive that cutting the few homophobic people I knew out of my life was not a hard decision. Some of my friends have had very different experiences, though, and I’m hoping that reading this book, with it’s nuanced and compassionate portrayal of Aunt Ruth and Grandma and all of these people who love Cameron to the best of their ability, but still treat her in such a horrible way, will help me to be more supportive of my friends who are facing similar quandaries.

    In summary– thank you, Emily, for writing this incredible story and for putting so much effort into telling us more about it.

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      I’m very glad to hear that my answers alleviated your anxiety, and I’m touched that you were prepared to stick up for “your” character : that’s pretty fantastic. Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts about the final scene at Quake Lake–much appreciated.

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    thank you SO MUCH for not killing off her grandmother. i kept waiting for it to happen, and i was ready — i mean i was coming to terms with how terrible it was going to be and how her life would spiral down pretty quickly and we’d have to hold our breath down there with her at the bottom while she clawed her way back up — but i was really, really hoping we could avoid it and then WE DID. just thank you. you have no idea how glad i was that we didn’t have to bury grandma.

    i found myself really hating irene klauson without meaning to, or even understanding why. like she just irritated me to my core and i felt almost embarrassed for her, and embarrassed that we (cam and me via cam) had even associated with her at all. and then i realized: i was irene. i was the girl who did really gay things with another (fairly dykey) girl when we were 12, and then freaked out, did a full 180 re: the way i carried myself, who i hung out with, etc (though without the piles of fossil money or an all-girls’ school). and i definitely stopped hanging out with the other girl, and i stopped thinking about being with the other girl and i started looking for boys to make me a person and i did, in fact, kiss most of them while wishing i could be kissing a girl.

    so what i’m saying is, maybe irene got married to a man, had a baby or two, was miserable, realized she was in love with her best friend, got a divorce then started working at a big queer website with a bunch of other queer women and now she has two dogs and a girlfriend.

    maybe.

    this interview is SO SATISFYING. definitely one of the best things we’ve ever published. i would give so many monies to read the rest of cam’s story.

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      Oh for sure, no worries: it was never in my plans, ever, to kill-off Grandma Post (or Ruth, for that matter.) Cam has already been burdened with enough tragedy, right? And thanks, too, for sharing the story of your personal connection to Irene. (Two dogs, huh? I like it, I like it. We’re also a two dog household.)

      Save those monies for a few years, please, and don’t forget about Cam.

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    This book meant A LOT to me because I grew up gay in the mid 90′s in Southwest Wyoming so I’ve consumed massive amounts of Taco John’s and Potato Ole’s and I felt a lot like Cameron Post sometimes. Thanks to Autostraddle for introducing me to the book and thanks to Emily for answering all of these questions and posting here. I love everything about this.

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    This is just to say thanks again to everyone who commented here, or who sent in a question, or who maybe did neither of those things but read the book just the same. I’ve felt very lucky/honored recently to have had CAM POST picked for few a other book clubs, online or otherwise, and they’ve all gone very well and have been a lot of fun for me to participate in. But, truth is, this one will always be special to me because y’all are my people, you know? So thank you for reading and logging in and saying hi, thanks for sharing your funny and smart observations about the book–that all means a helluva lot coming from this audience, and I wanted you to know that.

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    I just wanted to share something about how I felt about this book. It gave me a chunk of my childhood back. Growing up in a repressed, religious, rural clan, as a safety mechanism, I locked down my true self. After many years I have been able to recognize and take action on my true heart’s desires. Reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post was healing for me because through Cam’s experiences I was able to have many experiences that I thought I’d never have. Thank you so much for writing this book, it is beautiful and magic. This is totally great this whole post. Thanks.

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    Aww, I wasn’t able to have my AS fix at all this last week, and was pleasantly surprised to see this Q and A today. I bought “Miseducation” after Riese’s (I think? Books I Read?) recommendation and devoured it within hours. Autostraddle publicity really works! It’s so nice to see some insight into the writing process on here.

    Loved the novel, which is a seminal “coming of GAYge” indeed (Bulldykesroman? Stop me now lol). I especially love THE HUMOUR in it, which hasn’t been touched on extensively yet. Really you guys, parts of it were so hysterical I nearly peed. Emily D has a way with comedic phrasing and detail that is very special indeed.

    I’m glad the interview touched on characterization. While reading, I was constantly imagining what I would personally have done with “baddies” like Ruth and the Promise people. The line between stereotyping and being too lenient in portrayal is a fine one. Aunt Ruth was especially begging for some kind of religious wack-job evil stepmother trope, wasn’t she? But this runs the risk of dehumanization and I am GLAD that Emily was aware of those pitfalls. I also think that editorial differences of opinion about “how bad” to make the evangelicals could very well stem from regional and personal experiences. If you have seen “the worst of the worst”, you will be more likely to accept that as an accurate characterization. I would have been very tempted to make Ruth significantly more villainous, but I can see why that wouldn’t have appealed to a more moderate audience.

    The death of the parents at the onset suggested a fairy-tale scenario to me very strongly, with Margot as a sort of fairy godmother come to rescue Cam. I saw subtle lacing of this throughout which made the folklorist in me quite happy :) Incidentally, I wonder why Jane Fonda had a wooden leg? Was that some kind of interesting symbolism? lol.

    I LOVE that there was a Lakota winkte character!!! Especially with the setting in Montana, referencing the (real, longer) history of the land and people, whose attitude toward non-binary genders was so positive, seemed very at home in the story, and was a nice contrast to the senseless Christian pseudoscience of the camp.

    Must stop writing now or will go on forever… Wonderful job Ms Danforth!!

    PS “Virginia Woolf” by Indigo Girls IS awesome and apt, and not even their best song by far. They’ve grown immensely as songwriters in the last decade or so- see anything Emily’s written from “All That We Let In” onwards for evidence. Pure unadulterated genius, swear to god(s).

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    as a queer teen who lives in NC, this book was amazing to see circulating the local library’s teen book club. I’m impressed by such an honest portrayal of a younger lesbian. most books that we read, aimed for teen audiences are utterly awful. and almost never gay. but anyways, Emily, if you read this, know that this book is being passed around between a bunch of closeted baby gays in the south. this is something that quite a few of my friends really needed, I think. so thank you.

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    I just downloaded this book on my Kindle and I paid for it. I never do that! I’m excited to read it. I had not heard of it before this article so I look forward to reading it and then reading this article. I haven’t read the interview yet because I don’t want any spoilers! I also haven’t read the comments. I better get to reading!

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    so happy she answered bunch of questions i had in my mind and so did some ppl. this novel is amazing, i loved it, and read it many times. i love Cameron Post as a character. brilliant ….

    i did have a Lindsey, a girl who teached me many stuff, including kissing and beyond… a Coley who rocked my world in high school, a straight girl who fell in love with me.

    im a big fan of this book

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    i’m a bit late to the party BUT i finally read this book – in two staying-up-till-4-am sessions – and now i am sad it has ended, i want there to be more pages (although i liked that it ended where it did, coming full circle). i don’t usually read YA, but this book club post and a certain friend’s insistent recommendations made me change my mind, and i have to admit, it was indeed really incredible

    also, it was greatly satisfying to re-read this post after finishing the book

    i totally had an irene klauson as my best friend when i was 12. i was completely infatuated with her and then she ditched me and i never understood why. nothing really ever transpired between us, other than some hand-holding and excessive letter-writing, and it took another full decade for me to realize i was, in fact, really gay, but there was all this tension between us and i was so oblivious. i really needed this book back then, is what i’m saying.

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    I just finished reading the book and I thought I’d do a search to see if AS had any articles on it – thrilled to discover not only is there one, but it’s basically the greatest thing ever published.

    I can’t get over how brilliant the book is.

  22. Pingback: The Miseducation of Smalltown USA | Libreview YA

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