Queer Books with Julie: Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler
Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. BLASTOFF!
Aaron Hartzler is six-years-old. He is leading his mom’s Good News Club in a favorite song…”Countdown!”
At “Blastoff!” Aaron leaps in the air, flying toward the “bumpy popcorn” ceiling. “In this moment…the excitement swells in my chest. I love this song so much—not only because we get to jump at the end but also because it explains the way my family lives.”
The Hatrzler family believes that they will be Raptured. They live their lives in accordance with what Jesus would want them to do. Because they know that He will literally appear in the sky at any moment, and the believers will “float up in to the air to meet him.”
Rapture Practice: My One-Way Ticket to Salvation is Hartzler’s coming-of-age memoir. Aaron’s family life is disciplined. In order to guarantee living happily-ever-after with Jesus, there are rules to follow. No movies, no dancing, no drinking, and obeying your parents. When Hartzler puts on a pair of Top-Siders without socks, a battle of wills erupts. His father, a preacher, insists he wear socks to church, Aaron insists that Top-Siders with socks is uncool. We know who wins the battle.
Aaron is forced to wear the Top-Siders with socks, as his father lectures, “Aaron, God gave me the responsibility of training you…when I ask you to do something and you disobey and talk back, you’re being rebellious. You’re being like Satan.” And when Aaron’s mother discovers he’s been listening to pop music on the radio, she prays fervently for his soul. “My precious son, who are your feet running after?” For Aaron, “the answer is simple: Peter Cetera.” For his mother, his feet must “run after righteousness.”
Aaron Hartzler is a writer, and actor, whose autobiographical performances have been seen in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. He is the recipient of a GLAAD Media Award nomination for Outstanding Off-Off Broadway Performance.
The reader isn’t surprised when Aaron starts rebelling by sneaking into his first movie, going out on dates, drinking alcohol…and questioning his faith.
If listening to Christian Singer Amy Grant is wrong because she’s gone secular, and if movies are Satan’s playground, you can imagine the views that Aaron’s parents hold on masturbation, let alone homosexuality.
Yet it is in this atmosphere that Aaron has to find himself. As he tests the waters of his faith, and of his own sexuality, Aaron has to reconcile the desire to be pleasing to Jesus with the desire to simply be himself. We applaud Aaron when he’s finally able to be honest about these minor rebellions. He learns that underneath all the rules his parents just want him to be a good person, to be happy.
I just wish the book hadn’t ended before **SPOILER ALERT** he comes out to his parents. They loved him despite his disobedience, but did that hold true after he completely revealed himself? I hope for Aaron’s sake they were accepting. This is a case where not knowing how things end left me dissatisfied.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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