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Online protesters target gay author over ‘vulgar’ content

National Post columnist Barbara Kay calls Raziel Reid’s novel ‘values-void’

Raziel Reid, who won the Governor General’s Literary Award for his novel When Everything Feels Like the Movies, has been the target of an online protest over the "vulgar" content of his novel. Credit: Arsenal Pulp Press

Today in pearl-clutching news, Canadian conservatives are angry that a novel about a flamboyant gay teenager won a Governor General’s Literary Award.

When Everything Feels Like the Movies, a young-adult novel by author Raziel Reid, recently caught the attention of National Post columnist Barbara Kay — who last year also denied the existence of rape culture — two months after the book won the award on Nov 18.

“I’ve read the novel. What were they thinking? No, seriously, what were their criteria?” she wrote in her piece, expressing outrage that taxpayer dollars could go toward funding an award for a book that she describes as “values-void.”

“The message I draw — and think young people will, too — is that the ‘authentic’ narcissism of queer/transgender identity exempts one from the obligation to mature.” 

Kay’s column comes on the heels of an online petition posted Jan 11 asking the Canada Council for the Arts to revoke the Governor General’s Literary Award and give it to one of the other short-listed authors. On the petition’s website, a passage from When Everything Feels Like the Movies is described as “vulgar.”

“We feel that this book damages the high standards we have come to expect of the Governor General’s Award,” it reads. “It is not what we as parents, grandparents, educators and fellow authors consider good literature for teens.”

Reid was not immediately available for comment to Xtra, but he told the Ottawa Citizen that he’s depicting a culture, rather than promoting one.

As part of his win under the English-language children’s literary category, Reid was awarded $25,000. The novel is also currently part of the popular CBC Canada Reads contest, where Elaine “Lainey” Lui, the blogger behind Lainey Gossip, will be defending the book.

And despite the more than 1,600 signatures on the petition so far, it seems Reid is winning hearts on social media, where people are showing support for him and his novel.

*** Updated Jan 24, 11:45 am ***

Reid doesn’t deny his book is vulgar — far from it. “My book is vulgar,” he writes in an email to Xtra. “So is Generation Y. That’s the point.”
 

While he believes Kay is entitled to her opinions, Reid clarifies some of the misconceptions spread in her article. For one, his lead character is not transgender: “Just because a boy wears lipstick and loves Louboutins does not make him transgender,” he says. He also notes that Kay described another character as special needs, which was news to him.