Sonora Reyes delivers a clear, compelling, and hilarious narrative of protagonist Yamilet’s (Yami) high school experience as a mostly-closeted queer brown outsider in their debut novel, The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School. During an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Reyes says, “In writing [my book], I wanted to explore what a happy ending could look like in Catholic school.”
Be prepared to get sucked into Yami’s perspective. With an opening line of “Seven years of bad luck can slurp my ass,” how could you not? Yami’s voice feels wry and charming, and with chapter titles like “Thou Shalt Not Trust a Two-Faced Bitch,” and “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Capitalism,” I found myself smiling and laughing often.
Yami reads as relatable; she’s strong and funny, and always worried about everyone else.
Yami has a lot going on. As the oldest child of Mexican immigrant parents, she’s taken a lot onto her shoulders: looking out for her younger brother Cesar, helping her mother with her side business, and working to pay for her expensive private school tuition—all as a closeted lesbian. The novel opens just before she starts at her new high school, the exclusive Slayton Catholic. Yami’s running from her old public high school, Rover, where her ex-best friend Bianca has outed her. Okay, she’s mostly running from Bianca. Yami’s mother believes she’s only attending Slayton to look out for Cesar, who was bullied nonstop at Rover. At Slayton, Yami stands out as one of the few students of color and is faced with her classmates’ classism and racism. Yami reads as relatable; she’s strong and funny, and always worried about everyone else. Though the reader first meets Yami as a self-perceived outsider, she finds her sense of belonging throughout the novel with friends that value her for who she is. She also comes to terms with her closeted sexuality, her family’s expectations and struggles, and an unexpected temptation in the form of the only out queer girl at Slayton: Bo.
The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School kept my attention for all 385 pages. It was comforting and tender, the kind of book I wish had existed during my days as an awkward, queer, brown high school student. I appreciated that Reyes wrote Yami with positive self esteem; Yami felt cute and knew it! Likewise, it was wonderful to see a YA book that didn’t shy away from addressing issues of classism, racism, and white supremacy. Reyes modeled ways to interrupt those behaviors in Yami’s reactions to her racist classmates. My only gripe is that the ending felt a little hasty, but maybe I just wanted to read more about Yami’s life. Hopefully Reyes has another book in the works!
It was comforting and tender, the kind of book I wish had existed during my days as an awkward, queer, brown high school student.
With this book, Sonora Reyes pens a fresh and authentic addition to the high school coming-of-age genre with complex and captivating characters. It’s the kind of story I hope any young queer or questioning person reads. If you loved Sara Farizan’s Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, you’ll love this novel. For me, this one earned its 5/5 stars with ease; it was utterly engaging with a fantastic message for “the youths” without getting preachy.
*Note for queer writers of color: Reyes created and currently hosts the monthly one-hour community Twitter chat, #QPOCChat.
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