YOUNG DIG BY SWANK by Owen Keehnan
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Poor Digby started out on the wrong foot by being an unwanted pregnancy of a woman who had all the kids she wanted, thank you very much. When he proceeds to show every indication of being aan oddball, he is seemingly doomed. He will never fit in. For one thing even as a baby his usual facial expression was a smirk. He loves show tunes, Judy Garland, and to dress up in girly clothes and act out beauty pageant fantasies. His mother's solution to all problems is snack cakes and ice cream, so he has to deal with chubbiness too. All his family seems to care about is how things will look to the neighbors. Raised Catholic Digby puzzles through why God made him the way he is. At his parochial elementary school he is constantly being punished for just being himself. He doesn't feel like he's a bad kid. In fact, he doesn't see the problem with his own behavior. No surprise then that he begins to question the reasoning involved, if any, in religion.
Digby's redemption occurs through the appearance of anther boy who does not fit in, whether Doug, whose parents are ultra born-agains, or during his brief stint in public school the "Noel Coward" of the school, when he finds another who also does not fit in. The reader watches him slowly realize that his little town, Running Falls, is not the sole arbiter of what is right and proper.
This novel was a joy to read, clever, funny -- especially in its observations of Catholicism -- and intelligent. I laughed out loud every time I picked it up to read. I am sure there were some in-jokes I did not get, but that just means the book is funnier than I even thought. It is poignant too, with the reader inevitably witness to a childhood squandered by parents, siblings, teachers, peers and others. It unerringly puts the spotlight on how convention stifles growth, creativity, and, saddest of all, one's self esteem.
As I was reading I wondered if Digby was transgender. Apparently his dress-up was not a desire so much to be a girl but just not to have to pretend to be the sort of boy he really is, as well as showing Digby's colorful dramatic flare in a monotone world.
Even before I finished reading this delightful book I was on Faqcebook telling everyone, "If you haven't read this book, you must, especially if you are Catholic." The same goes now that I have finished the book.