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‘L.A. Review of Books’ on ‘The Prettiest Star’

Queer Homecoming: On Carter Sickels’s “The Prettiest Star”

By Zach Schultz

Growing up queer in Appalachia, home has never been a simple matter. Even after living in New York for nearly a decade, I still bristle when a stranger innocently asks, “Where are you from?” knowing the answer will be met with assumptions ranging from the ignorant yet benign to the more viciously stereotypical: “But where’s your accent?” “You’re so articulate!” “Did you wear shoes growing up?”

As much as I’m sometimes tempted to lie about where I’m from, I’m also aware that the truth about where my home is will always be partial. Yes, I was born in a place I can pinpoint on a map: a town of about 7,000 residents in rural Kentucky. And yes, I can zoom in on Google Earth to acres of farmland surrounding the house I was raised in. From there, I can trace a winding road that snakes into the parking lot of an evangelical church where I spent most of my childhood. But for obvious reasons, I never felt I belonged, never felt at home there — or anywhere, really. Though I’ve learned to hide it well, the acute sting of otherness follows me wherever I go.

Perhaps this is why I was drawn to Carter Sickels’s sophomore novel, The Prettiest Star. Set in Chester, Ohio, a town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the story centers on Brian Jackson, a 24-year-old gay man who has just returned home after six years living in New York. It’s 1986, and Rock Hudson’s death from AIDS-related illness has forced a national conversation about an unspeakable plague into living rooms all across the United States. Read the full review at The Los Angeles Review of Books.

We’re so excited about our Ask the Author event with Carter Sickels on October 8. For more information and to reserve your spot, visit the event page.

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