My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It begins with a simple vote inside a church to determine if a local Boy Scout troop, in the wake of the Boy Scouts of America's decision to no longer ban youths based on sexual orientation. When the church agrees to ban the Scouts from using their building in the name of good, old fashioned, religiously sanctioned discrimination, Dennis is reminded of a horrifying incident from his childhood in the summer of 1989. Then, at the Black Mountain Camp for Boys, Dennis and his friend Wesley were confronted with an all-too human evil and gut-wrenching violence.
Odd Man Out is a wickedly powerful novella, and author James Newman does a masterful job of slowly developing his story, building toward a deeply unsettling finale. Throughout, readers are asked to consider why we hate and to understand how pathetically easy it is for us to be manipulated and bullied into doing evil. Late in the story, Newman writes:
Hate doesn’t always start out as hate. It is often born of ignorance. We discriminate against those who are different from us, under the guise of upholding tradition or protecting one group while denying rights to others. We build walls to keep us separate, and when those walls eventually crumble and fall we blame the other for chipping away at the foundations. We point fingers right up until the moment we are crushed beneath the weight of our own intolerance. Everyone loses.
To say that this book is timely is probably the understatement of the century. As I was reading this book, our president-elect was busy insulting China on Twitter, apparently taking a break from stocking his cabinet with more anti-LGBTQ advocates and white supremacists, but I'll be damned if Newman's words didn't loudly echo the current state of affairs writ large all over the USA. To say that people are uneasy about what is ahead of us for the next four years is a gross understatement, and half the country is wondering how in the hell we got into the predicament now facing us. Odd Man Out is all the more powerful given our recent election, and the platform of unadulterated hate and nationalism our president-elect ran on, and the continual assault upon equal rights through BS double-speak legislation like the Religious Freedom bills seeking to make discrimination the law of the land.
You want to know how hate wins? Well, sometimes it begins with a simple vote. After that, all we can do is resist and fight to beat back the hate.
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