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

There are a lot of pop culture references in the book; did you have to much research, or were you mainly drawing from your own experience or some combination of the two?

I talked a bit about some of this when I answered the autobiography questions, but no, not really research (beyond making sure that my memory of when a particular song or movie was released lined up with Cam’s world— which it didn’t always) so much as considering my many options for those pop cultural touchstones of time and place. For Cam, many of these serve as reflections of her queer self—something she’s so desperate for. Some of the choices—of songs, books—are maybe more obvious and expected than others, but that’s what I was hoping for, a combination of the expected and the unexpected. So much of my adolescent experience was consumed with any and all popular culture available to me, so I wanted to get some of that consumption on the page, in the novel’s texture.

screenshot via “the miseducation of cameron post” trailer

What freedoms and/or limitations did you find writing a YA novel? Did you have a specific audience in mind?

Knowing your target audience, how did you choose which media to incorporate with Cameron’s character development?

This is a question that I get asked a lot, so I’m just gonna plagiarize myself here (I hope you’re cool with that): I would get absolutely zero writing done if I attempted to do any of it with an audience peering over my shoulder. The only audience I’m writing for—for the first couple of drafts, really—is me. I write the fiction I want to read. Really, my “target audience” is an audience of one—emily m. danforth, reader. That sounds a bit vain, for some reason, as I look at those words here on my screen, but it’s absolutely the case.

Certainly I’m open to feedback and criticism and suggestion, critique, a bit later on in the process, but nothing about the choices I made in shaping Cam’s voice or the novel’s situation(s) was dictated by me hoping to eventually reach as broad an audience as possible—or even one specific audience, for that matter. I just never thought like that. Despite the specificity of Cam’s situation—a recent orphan who is just discovering her attraction to girls while being raised by an evangelical aunt in eastern Montana (in the 1990s)—a lot of her experiences are pretty universal to adolescence (or adolescents, if you prefer): first crushes, first loves, first sexual experiences, rebelliousness, ennui, premature nostalgia. I mean, this is the stuff of one’s teen years, right? Some of Cam’s experiences are given more significant weight and importance in the novel because of the cultural, political, and religious climates operating in her small world (and because everything is colored anew for her since her parents’ death), but those experiences do ultimately have universal qualities.

I think Cam’s appeal might come from her near-obsession with sorting through her life, searching for small connections, puzzling things out, asking questions, making sense.

I also think Cam’s appeal might come from her near-obsession with sorting through her life, searching for small connections, puzzling things out, asking questions, making sense. It can be appealing to read from the POV of someone so curious about the world. She’s built of contradictions—overly romantic sometimes, world-weary others—but she’s ultimately, I think, generous and compassionate; she wants to find the good, the redeemable, in those around her, and when she does she recognizes it, even if that recognition doesn’t always last for very long or ultimately hold much sway.

Since the style in which I wrote this novel was, essentially, one of representational realism, I was much more concerned with the believability and accuracy of characters, scenes, and moments—wanting my readers to fall through the page and into the world of the novel—than I was with worrying too much about the relative comfort levels of potential readers (or their parents) in relation to the novel’s content. That sounds a bit more glib than maybe it should, but there were many moments (and fears and longings) from adolescence (my own and others) that I wanted to explore as fully and authentically as possible on the page, and I just couldn’t do that if I was also trying to censor or “leave out” those experiences because I worried about potential reactions to that material.

The book is pretty frank but not—I don’t think, anyway—in an exploitative way. I never “inserted” a scene of drug use or sexuality to be provocative or “risky” or really to do anything other than I want any scene in the novel to do, which is to honestly portray this character’s experiences with as much nuance and depth as possible.

[Do you answer extra-textual questions? If so, then:] When Ruth tells Cameron that Cam’s grandmother said she doesn’t want to see her, is Ruth being honest?

Sure, I’ll answer this (but now, of course, I want to know your thoughts, too). You’re talking about page 250, right, when Ruth and Pastor Crawford are confronting Cam with their news and her “sentencing” to God’s Promise? My answer is: yes, in that moment, Ruth is not lying to Cam—Grandma Post actually said (in some previous scene that isn’t in the book but that you can all imagine—one that takes place before Cam gets home from the lake that day), that she didn’t want to talk to Cameron (or presumably anyone) about this Coley revelation right then.

But, that’s the thing— it’s right then. The grandmother is of a much older generation, and she’s just heard this upsetting, to her, news about her granddaughter, and she needs to go deal with it on her own for a little while. She doesn’t want to think about sexuality in relationship to her granddaughter at all, and certainly not a kind of sexuality that she sees as perverse and strange, bad. It’s upset her, the news, as has her inability to make sense of it, to know what to “do” with it, and while she might not like Ruth’s methods, she doesn’t feel like she has any better ones of her own. So she goes down to her little apartment in the basement for awhile to just drown herself in TV shows about detectives and packages of sugar free wafers and to try not to think about what she’s just learned about her granddaughter.

Lots of people I know who are several generations older than I am—than Cam would have been—wonder why so many of us in younger generations “have to” talk about everything. These people often lived their lives believing that you just didn’t discuss some subjects, ever, not outside the home, but not even in it. Many of us now recognize the damage and implicit shaming this kind of silence can cause, but it makes sense to me that Cam’s grandmother’s reaction, one that would have felt safest to her, would have been just to try to forget it, to “hush up” about it, and certainly not to have confronted all of her unpleasant feelings with a discussion. However, when Ruth says (shouts) “She’s just sick about this, she’s sick about it!” Well, that’s Ruth’s term—sick, I mean. She may well be right, Grandma Post might have used that word herself, had she been there in that scene, but Ruth’s the one who’s putting it that way in that moment, who’s choosing to use that word.

How would Cameron’s parents have reacted to the news of Cameron’s sexuality had they been alive?

Well, I didn’t write that novel, so I haven’t explored all of that enough to give you a very satisfying answer. I don’t even really know how they’d “behave” as characters in a scene, since I strategically allowed for so little of their presence, as characters in this novel. Even when Cam is remembering them, it’s always in fairly brief chunks, not extended scenes. It’s the presence of their absence that I wanted readers to feel— so they aren’t even very vivid in her memories of them.

All of this is to say that I don’t feel like I “know them” as people (characters) well enough to answer this question with much nuance. They wouldn’t have sent her to conversion therapy, of that I’m quite certain. But they wouldn’t have thrown her a pride parade and started a local chapter of P-FLAG, either. Somewhere in the middle, I suppose. It would have taken them a period of adjustment, certainly, possibly a lengthy one, but they would have come around eventually.

Photo from the book about Quake Lake—”The Night the Mountain Fell,” via

If you could write another book from Coley’s perspective, would you? I’m curious about what her future would be like!

I tell you what, you and my wife should write that book together: she asked me the exact same thing not so long ago, but what’s funny is that she’d actually given much more specific thought to where, she thinks, Coley would be “today,” than I have—or than I had, at the point of our discussion, anyway.

She saw her as a well-to-do rancher’s wife living in Billings, MT—couple of kids, SUVs in the driveway, a comfortable “lifestyle”—but a woman who’s discontent, ultimately, and who often finds herself daydreaming about Cam, about those moments from high school, and also experiences these desires for other women in her current life, but hasn’t acted on them. Anyway, that was her (my wife’s) take.

It would be interesting to write from Coley’s perspective, certainly, but I don’t know if I’d want to do a whole book from it. I mean, it would be a fascinating exercise, for me, to just have her tell her story of this novel — but her version, which would be quite different, undoubtedly, from Cam’s.  Every scene would change to reflect her own prejudices and memories and sense of the world. Maybe I would/could someday write a short story from Coley’s POV— the Coley of the future, that is, the grownup version — be she some rancher’s wife or not. No plans, as of right now, for that, but, but: you never know.

screenshot via “the miseducation of cameron post” trailer

What did you read growing up? What novels/poems/essays were influential in your development as a queer young adult?

As a pre-teen reader (and early teen reader) it was a lot of Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and dozens and dozens of those plot-driven paperback slasher/ thriller books by writers like Christopher Pike and Richie Tankersley Cusick— you know, The Lifeguard or Trick or Treat or Teacher’s Pet (that one was about a writer’s retreat, actually, and I completely loved it. Well, murders and a maniac at a writer’s retreat, of course.) I don’t know if any of those books specifically spoke to any queerness in me—though I suppose they must have, in ways I don’t know how to name—but I read them voraciously, and lots and lots of other books, too—I was reading always and with little discrimination, honestly.

Eventually, though, by sophomore year of high school, anyway, I became a bit more discerning a reader, and eventually sought out any lesbian fiction I could locate (secretly). A particular favorite for a long time was Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt. I still think that’s an excellent novel. And I was influenced, early, as well, by Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle. I recorded a little thing about my relationship to that book for NPR’s program All Things Considered. If you’re interested, you can find it here.

screenshot via “the miseducation of cameron post” trailer

Most writers are often advised to write what they know, and yet, so many writers who identify with the queer community still shy away from publishing works that can be labeled as queer or prominently feature a queer protagonist. Your novel deals heavily with queer identity as Cameron searches for reassurance that she is okay being who she is. How much did bringing more positive exposure to the queer community play into your decisions in writing this novel?

I don’t think that I was necessarily motivated to positively reflect one character’s process of queer desire, or, as you say, to bring “positive exposure to the queer community,” so much as I wanted to offer an honest and complete picture of Cam’s experiences, to fully render all of these significant moments from her adolescence, not just choose one or another to get at in the novel. Its power, if it has any, as a narrative, I think, comes from the specificity of its rendering and just how much of Cam’s life is there on the page. I didn’t want the novel to be reducible to one single element or plotline, as many “problem” novels are. It needed to be a much fuller exploration, one that seems to be, to readers, the whole landscape of these years, even though a novel —even a big one, which Miseducation is—can only cover so much ground. Cam is likable, I think, and I hope that she’s compelling, but I wanted, more than anything else, for her characterization to feel real to readers—to feel authentic, like she’s a living, breathing person and not just a heroic character that all queers can get behind. Cam is no spokesperson for all queers, of course, or all lesbians—and certainly neither am I. Neither of us want to carry the flag, that’s an impossible position.

But I agree with Dorothy Allison that the truest way to change someone is to get them to “inhabit the soul of another person who is different from them.” And fiction allows us to do just that. But not didactic fiction, which is necessarily one-dimensional, it has to be fiction that seeks to represent the world more completely, more accurately and fully, than does fiction that leads with its message and uses its characters as props for the message.

NEXT: On Cameron Post’s tumblr, how different things were when Cameron was growing up even though it wasn’t that long ago, what happens after the book ends, Taco John’s, Adam, NARTH vs. Music and more!

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, 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! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3152 articles for us.



    Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all the questions, Emily!

  2. This whole piece is now one of my top five favorite Autostraddle articles, oh my goodness.

    Thank you AS & emily for making this happen!

  3. 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

    • 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.)

  4. 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?)

    • 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

    • 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.)

  5. 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.)

      • 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.)

  6. 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.

  7. 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.


    • 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.)

  8. So, you know that old Indigo Girls song about reading Virginia Wolf that goes, ‘I know it’s alright, cause I just got a letter to my soul’? Autostraddle and Cameron Post and awesome features like this are totally that to me.

  9. 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.

    • Lanie, thank you for posting this (and for reading CAM, of course that, too.) I’ve no doubt that you’re every bit as brave as you need to be. (NARTH workbooks, by the by, make excellent, excellent kindling and or cat box liners.)

    • 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.

  10. 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.

    • Glad to hear you’ll read more (hang tight until Winter 2014, yeah?) And maybe Cam Post again someday, too: definitely potential for that.

  11. 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!

    • You, my friend, are the definition of a power-reader, and I salute you. (And I’m very glad that you kept picking the book back up after all those times you put it down for awhile.) Thanks very much for your very kind comments.

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

  13. 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.

    • You point ME to it, please. I’m also now waiting for the tube sock laden fanfiction set at Irene’s boarding school. (Tube socks, huh? Tube socks? Okay–works for me.)

  14. 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.

    • 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.

  15. 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.


    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.

    • 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.

  16. I HAVE to read this book. I have to. I’m going to buy it today and probably forget the world exists this weekend so I can finish it and come back to reading this article all over again.

  17. 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.

    • So yours was the Wilcoxin’s/Potato Oles question, then? Nice. Thanks for reading the book and commenting here and think of me the next time you’re eating an apple grande, yeah? (Do they still have those. Or a churro. The churro, yes, the TJ’s churro.)

  18. 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.

  19. How have I not heard the term “Coming of GAYge” before? What was my life before now?!

    Also I kind of want Emily Danforth’s hair and in a really serious way.

  20. 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.

  21. 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).

  22. Oh this is wonderful. And now I want to read all about Cameron’s life post-Quake Lake. I want to read the book again and then I want to read more. More Cameron, more Margot, more growing up.

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

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

  29. I finally (3 years later, yikes!) read this, and it is my favorite book I’ve read in years, no doubt. Thank you so much for recommending it! And thanks for this amazing interview too!

  30. My theory has always been that Cam’s mom was queer and her and Margot were totally together and then broke up and then Cam’s mom got with her dad and Margot and Cams mom became best friends with a side of tension.

    Just putting it out there.

  31. I (finally!) just finished reading this book and DESPERATELY want to hack that hard drive and get another few thousand pages of Cameron Post’s life. Great interview! Even if I did find her Coley answer frustrating because I also want a Coley-centered sequal. Sigh.

  32. Oh, I just finished this and it’s going to haunt me.

    It kind of makes me wonder what it would have been like to realize things earlier, all the things Cam knows and feels and does as a teenager instead of trickling into them in my twenties. But I’m also so, so grateful for a softer and gentler coming out and coming into.

    I didn’t cry while I was reading it but I’m crying now and I don’t particularly know why, but thank you and also to echo Katie O above, thank you autostraddle for being my lindsey.

  33. Pingback: Review: ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ (Book) by Emily M. Danforth – The Fairy Dust Book Blog

  34. I cried reading this book, sad tears and angry tears. Then I cried reading this Q&A.

    I am two years younger than Cameron, but I didn’t have these coming of age experiences, because I didn’t kiss (and the rest) a girl until I was nearly 21. I think I am drawn to LGBT coming of age stories because I missed out, obviously I’m glad I didn’t have the God’s Promise experience, but I wish I’d kissed and fallen in love for the first time much younger, I feel like heteronormative/homophobic society kind of stole that from me.

  35. Pingback: let's talk lgbtqia+ entertainment, again - queer voices

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