Review: Jonny Appleseed

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can see why Joshua Whitehead has had the success he's had as a published poet - he has a beautiful way with words. This story, of a Canadian First Nation two-spirited boy and his life journey so far - up to the point of the death of his step-father, is in parts humorous, touching, beautiful and explicit.

Johnny Appleseed discovers his queerness early on, and finds that his grandma (his Kokum) and his mother are already well aware of his two-spiritedness and deal with it matter of factly. His stepfather and many of the others on the "rez" are not so accepting. Johnny develops a relationship with another boy, Tias, who he remains close to throughout the book. Tias has his own story that also comes out in the book as he reveals himself to Johnny. Eventually Johnny moves away from the reservation into the city and begins working as a cybersex worker. He returns home as the book ends to take part in his step-father's funeral. The story is told as several smaller stories, not strung together chronologically but more or less thematically.

The book is frank in its depiction of sex, which may be a turn-off for some, but the way Joshua writes, even about the sex, is fantastic. It's as if your close friend is sitting you down and honestly telling you all about themself and how they got where they are today. You really do feel that you've come to know Johnny that well by the time the book ends.

This book was suggested to me through the Libby app as a Librarian's Choice for Pride Month.

I listened to the audiobook, read by the author. He did a great job narrating too.