Sunday, November 26, 2017
"Roads Not Taken"
Chicoan Emily Gallo is exploring the lives of a group of unlikely friends who frequent the famous Venice Beach boardwalk in Southern California.
Her first novel, "Venice Beach," introduces writer Finn McGee who comes to stay with his daughter, Kate, and who befriends the mysterious Jedidiah Gibbons, an escapee from the Jonestown massacre; in San Francisco Jed becomes caretaker of the Columbarium (the title of the second book).
"Kate And Ruby" takes up the story of McGee's daughter whose marriage to Martin breaks up when he comes out to her. Ruby, Martin's mother, resents the interracial couple and then "practically disowned Martin for being gay." Unexpectedly, Kate becomes Ruby's caregiver, and life's dailyness changes them both.
The theme of sexual identity is foregrounded in Gallo's newest story, "Roads Not Taken" ($12.95 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle; an Audible.com audio version is narrated by the author).
Kate had taught a young man named Malcolm Washington in high school. Malcolm now waits tables at Café Gratitude in Venice but everything changes when he applies for a second job at Marie Moss Senior Housing.
Savali, a Samoan, is on staff, and Malcolm is smitten. Though the novel intertwines the stories of the residents, the focus is on Malcolm's coming to terms with Savali's "non-binary" gender identification. Savali is Fa'afafine, a third gender in Samoan society.
Malcolm is straight and prefers to call Savali "she." Savali was born male, telling him that "I realized that I was, in fact, comfortable in my body and my mind in both genders. I also realized that I could wake up on any given day and prefer to dress or behave in one or the other. In other words, I identify as both and I identify as neither."
What does it mean for Malcolm to love Savali, and how does one navigate the "gender spectrum" and the desires that may be incompatible with being a couple? Though not explicit, the story delves deeply and respectfully into what is for Malcolm a new world of sexuality.
Gallo (emilygallo.blogspot.com) is scheduled to be interviewed by Nancy Wiegman on Nancy's Bookshelf, Friday, December 1 on mynspr.org (KCHO 91.7 FM) at 10:00 a.m.