Rummanah Aasi
  I would like to welcome Cam from Emilly Denforth's provocative and poignant debut, coming of age novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, on the blog today. Last month I reviewed the book, but if you missed it you can read it here.

Welcome to the blog, Cameron. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure. I usually go by Cam, but Cameron’s fine too: whatever works for you mostly works for me. I’m a swimmer and a lifeguard. I’m way into movies—pretty much all movies. I’ll watch just about anything. I’m from this little cowboy town in eastern Montana that you’ve probably never heard of called Miles City. I chew more Bubblicious than I realize, I think. Is that enough? It’s
weird to introduce yourself like this.

You've heard about the Promise group while on a religious retreat. Did you have any interest in it before you were forced to go there after your secret was discovered?

Um, well, I was interested, I guess you’d say, in what a treatment center specializing in conversion therapy would actually be like. You know, what it would look like, what we, the “disciples,” would be asked to do there. I wouldn’t say that I was at all interested in being sent there, or that I believed that I “needed” to be sent there, or that a place like that would have anything to offer me. But it’s natural curiosity, isn’t it, to wonder about an operation like Promise—just what kind of “tricks” they have up their sleeves. And if I’m being honest, I suppose I wondered about the teens who would be sent to such a place. I was curious about them, their stories. I wanted to know if they’d be “like” me, whatever that means. It sounds sort of stupid when I say it aloud, but it’s true.

You seemed to have a quite strange experience at Promise. What do you remember most about your stay there?

So many things, really. I remember the sound of the mountain wind, which could be really intense. And the smell of the pine and cedar. I remember getting so tired of giant, mushy casseroles for dinner four nights a week. I remember the sound of the Viking Erin’s whistling snores, even though I guess she usually fell asleep before me. I remember hanging out in the hayloft with Jane and Adam, the prickle of the hay and the dampness up there. I remember that well. I remember Reverend Rick playing his guitar and making us all sing with him. Of course I remember that horrible day in group session with Mark, but I don’t want to talk about that now.

Looking back on your life now, is there anything that you would have changed? I don’t really believe in that, so much, looking back with regret or too much longing or even just wishing for second chances. I tried to process a lot of the junk I had built up, stuff from right after my parents’ died that I never dealt with, while I was at Promise, actually, and I think I mostly did. I mean, there are some things, sure, like wishing that I’d gotten to know my parents as people--and not just as parents—before they died. And I think I could have been a bit more generous to Aunt Ruth, sometimes. But you know what—that was me then, those were my choices, and this is who I am now because of them. I wouldn’t change things with Coley, if that’s what you mean. I wouldn’t change any of that. I would have brought my swimming suit to Quake Lake with me, maybe. But, I mean, even that: it worked out, didn’t it? It worked out.

Have you kept in touch with Lindsey, Adam, or Jane? What are they up to now?
   First Lindsey was part of the Riot grrrl music scene. She was lead singer in a band called Molly Bolt. Then that band broke up and she was the lead singer in a different band, this one called Well I’m Not Lonely, Radcliffe Hall. Then that band broke up and she was the lead singer in a different band, this one just called The Radcliffe Halls. They’re still around today, working the Portland indie music scene. Oh yeah, I guess I should add that she lives in Portland, Oregon and she’s in a “monogamISH” relationship with a woman named Nel. You’d have to ask her the details of that particular arrangement. There’s no way I could fully explain them to you.
   Jane’s a super famous photographer, her stuff is everywhere, now. She does print; she does gallery shows; she’s got work hanging in the Tate Modern: she’s a big deal. As far as I know she’s single, but Jane can be quiet when it comes to “affairs of the heart.” (That’s how she’d put it, I think.) She has this amazing cabin in Montana, actually not all that far from Quake Lake, and I think she’d like to stay there more than she can right now because she travels so much for work. It’s a beautiful place, though. She cooked me dinner there not so long ago. I think, if she had enough land, she’d run a commune there, just start one up. She never really got commune living out of her blood.
   I haven’t heard from Adam for a long time. Last I knew he was bumming around LA, surfing—both literally and on people’s couches—occasionally modeling, just kind of getting by. I don’t know if all of that is still true or not. He was dating another model, a woman: she was gorgeous and had the endless legs and strut of someone who’s well acquainted with the catwalk, but that was awhile ago, now. He just sort of drops off the planet for a spell and then resurfaces. I hope he does that again soon. I miss him.

What would advice would you give to teens who are struggling with their sexuality?

Well, I think we’ve come a long way in the twenty years between the time my story takes place and today in terms of human rights legislation, yes, but just as importantly, in terms of visibility. The work is not near complete, don’t get me wrong, but something as “small” as seeing Ellen DeGeneres—an out lesbian--host her talk show every afternoon on network TV, often mentioning her wife, or knowing that your local library or bookstore likely carries one of the many David Levithan novels with powerful and interesting gay characters, and if they don’t, that you can get those books online, gives me hope. The internet alone, with its many horrors, can also be an amazing place to build community, ask questions, and find a support system. But, I’ll say this too, for what it’s worth: know that everyone—gay, straight, bi, trans, curious, questioning, sexually active or sexually reluctant or sexually horrified-“struggles” with their sexuality. Struggling with one’s sexuality—in all the complicated ways we might think about it, from desire to attraction to actual physical acts--is not limited to only the non-straight identifying folks around you. Nor, I should add, is it limited to being a teenager. Desire and attraction can be tricky things-fluid and fleeting, surprising and sometimes overwhelming in the most unexpected of ways. All of this is normal for everyone. Know that you don’t have to figure everything out tomorrow or the next day. Certainly you should seek out friends you can talk to about these things, particularly if they’re worrying you. But sex and sexual attraction and sexual identity are all complicated and nuanced and often confusing subjects. Just know that it’s perfectly fine to be confused.

I couldn't have said it better, Cam. Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today! 

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief she’ll never have to tell them that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
   But that relief soon turns to heartbreak, as Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and not making waves, and Cam becomes an expert at this—especially at avoiding any questions about her sexuality.
   Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. To Cam’s surprise, she and Coley become best friends—while Cam secretly dreams of something more. Just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, her secret is exposed. Ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure who that is.
   The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.
(Cover and summary from Goodreads)
4 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Such an amazing interview Rummanah and Cam! If I were in Cam's shoes, I definitely would not have wanted to be sent to the Promise group, but I would have been very curious as well, especially about the stories of the other people spending time there. Love her answer about struggling with her sexuality:)

  2. This sounds like a great book, It certainly tackles a still sensitive issue. Great review. I will look for this book!

  3. I agree. The small movements make a big difference, and can provide lots a encouragement and empowerment.

    Great interview. Thanks for sharing bits of your personal story.

  4. What a great interview. Addressing sexuality in teens is a hard issue even today. It's hard for adults as well. I like Cam. Loved her perspective in the last question!

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