Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: January 19th 2020
Genres: Historical, LGBTQ+, Young Adult
Meet Haskell Hodge. At sixteen he’s already garnered some fame as a former child actor and star of a popular cereal commercial. But that doesn’t do much for him when he’s dumped at his aunt’s house in the suburbs of Los Angeles to face an assortment of neighborhood bullies.
He thinks he might be gay. In fact, he could be the only gay person in the valley, maybe on the entire planet. Even if he does manage to find a boyfriend, their relationship would have to be secret and invisible.
After all it’s 1966. And though Time Magazine claims the sexual revolution is in full swing, the freedoms straight people are enjoying don’t seem to apply to everyone. And as much as Haskell attempts to hide his true self, carefully navigating the tricky and risky terrain of being queer, he’s still taunted and teased relentlessly.
Rather than give in to the irrationality of this hate, Haskell fights back, eventually finding an unlikely outlet to vent his frustration and angst—playing a bully in a screen test for a major motion picture. If he plays his cards right, it could catapult him into Hollywood stardom.
Of course, like most things in life, it comes with a heavy price Haskell’s not certain he’s willing to pay.
Haskell Hodge is a sixteen year old from New York who is focused on school and his acting career. It's 1966 and Haskell is on his own a lot since his mother is a busy realtor who often works late into the night, he is also a loner without many friends. Heading into his senior year, Haskell's mom drops a bomb, she is going overseas with her boyfriend and Haskell will be moving to L.A. with his aunt and uncle. Haskell absolutely does not want to uproot his life; however, after a strange going away party where Haskell kissed a boy and liked it, he decides it might be best to run away from the embarrassment. Haskell finds it difficult to adjust to life with a family, but eventually makes it work. In L.A. he also finds some friends, but he is still worried that he might be gay and the implications of what that might mean for his future.
Haskell Himself is a unique view into the defining year for a young man in the 1960's. Haskell's character is complex and he is at a time in his life where he is changing and growing as well as living in a decade that is redefining lifestyle and freedom. The writing truly made me feel for Haskell as he went on an emotional roller coaster. The descriptions of the inner turmoil Haskell faced within his head were wonderfully done and I was amazed as Haskell went from confusion to denial and acceptance. Along with his sexuality, Haskell also figures out how to be a friend and family member. I thought these transitions were just as thoughtful. I enjoyed seeing 1960's L.A. through Haskell's eyes, especially since he was involved with acting. I would have loved to see how Haskell actually dealt with being on set for his movie and how he dealt with the possible fame it brought. Overall, an important and insightful historical coming of age story.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Gary Seigel was raised in Encino, California where his debut novel, Haskell Himself, takes place. After completing a PhD in English at Rutgers University, Gary taught at several colleges and universities, but his most memorable experience was a brief 12 week stint at the same high school he (and Haskell) graduated from, teaching side by side with some of the same teachers he once endured. Currently, Gary gives grammar and proofreading classes to business professionals eager to write error-free emails. He also has spent the past two decades helping employees control their inner jerk when texting or holding conversations with an impossible boss. His book The Mouth Trap: Strategies, Tips and Secrets for Keeping Your Feet out of Your Mouth, published in 2008, has been translated into over a dozen languages. He is the father of three sons and currently lives in South Pasadena with his partner.
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