Jacqueline Woodson, 1995. Melanin Sun has been keeping a diary since he was little, and collecting stamps too, despite his friends’ taunts of “faggot” when he pursues these activities. Mel has it all figured out, though: “I knew it was faggy to collect stamps but I didn’t care. It was something I liked and as long as I didn’t start wanting to kiss on Ralphael and Sean, I was okay. A long time ago, I figured out there was two kids of ‘faggy.’ There’s the kind that I guess if I thought real hard, I kind of was. That’s the ‘faggy’ that really isn’t super macho and has notebooks to write stuff down in….The other kind of ‘faggy’ was the really messed-up kind. That kind actually wanted to be with other guys the way I get to feeling when Angie comes around. That kind made me want to puke every time I thought about it – which wasn’t a lot.”
Soon, however, Mel is forced to think harder about gayness when he’s confronted with his mother’s lesbianism. Not only is his mom gay, but she’s in love with a white woman. Kristin is the first white person to ever enter their Brooklyn apartment, and her skin makes her that much more noticeable to the neighborhood busybodies. Mel has to deal with his own prejudices, the feeling that he’s losing his mother (because how can she love a white woman as well as him, a black boy?), and his friends’ gay-bashing. The slim volume is a classic problem novel done beautifully; no clichés here. Mel’s reactions feel real, and the conclusion doesn’t wrap up all the problems. Highly recommended, with bonus points for the Audre Lorde shout-out.