Thank you to Balzer + Bray / Edelweiss for a copy of The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School in exchange for an honest review. 

Content warnings for book and review: deportation, racism, queerphobia, suicidal ideation and hospitalization, trauma related to transracial adoption. 

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Yamilet Flores prefers to be known for her killer eyeliner, not for being one of the only Mexican kids at her new, mostly white, very rich Catholic school. But at least here no one knows she’s gay, and Yami intends to keep it that way. 

After being outed by her crush and ex-best friend before transferring to Slayton Catholic, Yami has new priorities: Keep her brother out of trouble, make her mom proud, and most importantly, don’t fall in love. Granted, she’s never been great at any of those things, but that’s a problem for Future Yami. 

The thing is, it’s hard to fake being straight when Bo, the only openly queer girl at school, is so annoyingly perfect. And smart and talented. A and cute. So cute.

Either way, Yami isn’t going to make the same mistake again. If word got back to her mom, she could face a lot worse than rejection. So she’ll have to start asking, WWSGD: What would a straight girl do? (- from the publisher)

La Poesía  

In The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School, Sonora Reyes creates a world that feels so darn real. They hit on so many important things, but Reyes never lets it feel forced. Part of that is because Yami is an extremely well-drawn character. 

I love Yami’s self-confidence and her knowledge that “it’s not me, it’s you,” even if confrontation is still brutal for her. Even if I didn’t always agree with her decisions, I understood them. 

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I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Yami and her classmate Bo, mainly when they talked about what it’s like to feel so disconnected from your culture.   

This book manages to stay hopeful and sweet and funny through the darkness (and it gets dark), which is probably the only way I got through it because… 

#ItMe

Honestly, this book hit me almost too close to the gut. I’m not Mexican-American, nor am I Catholic or a lesbian, so it’s not me-me, but holy crap, did I relate. I spent my freshman year of high school at a single-sex private Catholic school.

 Like Yami, I took refuge in the school art room. I befriended the other non-Catholics of the school, felt uncomfortable and sometimes bullied in mass. My “friends” othered me for my sexuality (though almost all of them later came out as queer). Like Bo, I even had rainbow shoelaces! 

Like Yami and her brother, Cesar, it often felt like me and my brother against the world, and as the eldest, I felt a responsibility I shouldn’t have. Without getting into it, reading about family members being hospitalized and explicitly hospitalized for mental health was a lot. 

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The family dynamics of Yami being the scapegoat and Cesar, the golden child … there were times I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room. Or call my therapist. 

All that to say, though no art can be judged objectively, I really couldn’t remove a modicum of my subjectivity from my reaction to The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School. 

The things I reacted negatively to may be influenced by my personal life. For instance, I wasn’t sure about Reyes’s choice for how and why Mrs. Flores turned around and became the mother of the year.

Then, I realized it is almost precisely what happened between my dad and me four years ago. So, what am I really mad about?

Should you read it?

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School is a fantastic book, and I sincerely hope it gets the recognition it deserves. That said, if you’ve experienced any of the traumas in the content warnings, I will caution you to make sure you’re in a good place before picking the book up. I’m in a good place, but it was still hard to read at times.

I look forward to reading more of Reyes’s work and can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School comes out May 17. Pick up a copy and your local indie bookstore or library. 📚

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