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FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. A young poet recounts his boyhood, the failure of his parents' marriage, his realization of his own homosexuality, the various stages of love, and other events in his life in a series of poems.
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At 22, Billy Merrell is the youngest author to date published by the Push Imprint of Scholastic Inc. Merrell, who grew up in Jacksonville Florida, began writing poetry around eighth grade. He had a better grasp of rhyme and meter than the other students in his classes, and as a result, the teacher began giving him more challenging poetry assignments rather than less expressive work. It wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that Merrell began to write about his own feelings, and recognized writing poetry as a liberating activity.
Merrell is recent graduate of the University of Florida with a B.A. in English. During the summer, earlier in his college career, Merrell was hired as the first PUSH Writing Intern. During this summer internship, Merrell came to New York City and began work on his first book. The culmination of his work with PUSH is talking in the dark, a memoir composed of poetry that documents a story of growing up, coming out and exploring love. As a gay man himself, Merrell sought to write a book that he felt could have been of use to him as a teenage boy coming out. It is an affecting memoir told in verse, this work launches a promising young poet .[Merrell’s] sophisticated verse and compelling story will capture attention as it stirs compassion.” School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up-An affecting memoir told in verse, this work launches a promising young poet. It is more than the recollection of faltering family life; it also deals with Merrell's acceptance of his homosexuality. It is about sons and brothers, friends and lovers. The individual poems enhance one another yet stand alone. The language is measured, doled out carefully, artfully. He writes about his mother: "She's known, she'll say, since I was five/and I'll want to ask why/she didn't tell me sooner, but instead ask/if she's okay." Memories of when he and his father almost speak of his closet homosexuality, and when the moment passes are related in poignant phrases. The poems reveal the author's journey through childhood through the worrisome pit of teen sexuality, made all the more harrowing when a lover dies of AIDS. He silently carries around his fear for ages. He writes, "Admitting/the danger is a danger in itself." This memoir is as difficult as it is beautiful. Merrell writes, "Years later I'll wonder how I didn't know I was lonely when everyone around me did." His sophisticated verse and compelling story will capture attention as it stirs compassion.
Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY
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