Skyscraping - Cordelia Jensen
Mira is just beginning her senior year of high school when she discovers her father with his male lover. Her world–and everything she thought she knew about her family–is shattered instantly. Unable to comprehend the lies, betrayal, and secrets that–unbeknownst to Mira–have come to define and keep intact her family’s existence, Mira distances herself from her sister and closest friends as a means of coping. But her father’s sexual orientation isn’t all he's kept hidden. A shocking health scare brings to light his battle with HIV. As Mira struggles to make sense of the many fractures in her family's fabric and redefine her wavering sense of self, she must find a way to reconnect with her dad–while there is still time.
Right away I have to admit I was skeptical of this book at first. Part of this has to do with the fact that I read a LOT of books with queer content from the 1980s and 90s for school, and the AIDS stories (important as they are) became rather stereotypical over time. So when I saw this novel's synopsis and started reading it, I was not initially impressed. BUT, that has all changed!
That night Mom, still in her suit,
asks if she can come in,
sits on my bed.
I shrug. Turn a bit in my windowseat.
She says she wants to tell me something:
She didn't go to Italy for work,
she left because Dad fell so hard for James,
she didn't know how to exist
on the periphery of their love.
I've become a HUGE fan of novels in verse over the years as I've become used to the form and also become a fan of the sparse storytelling style that still contains such incredible emotional impact. Skyscraping tells the powerful, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting tale of Mira and her newly broken family. When Mira discovers that her parents are in an open relationship and her father is perhaps more partial to the company of male lovers, she finds herself rebellious, confused, and entirely unprepared for how to deal with the repercussions of her parents' secrets.
I was also impressed with the ways in which this novel touches on aspects of sexuality while also drawing on important historical moments, like the rise of ACT UP and other activist groups working to combat the terrifying consequences of neglect regarding HIV/AIDS on the part of the American medical system. There are also wonderfully nuanced portrayals of love and dedication between Mira's parents even in the midst of all the heartbreak and fallout from her father's diagnosis.
Jensen's prose are beautifully spare, bringing readers closer to Mira's family with each page. I found myself caring greatly for Mira's father and his love for James, as well as feeling a sort of sad admiration for Mira's mother and her response to her husband's fluid sexuality. This is a book that has a lot of heart and also a lot of depth. It moves beyond stereotype and allows for a reading experience that is both heartbreaking and joyously hopeful.