Just Say Yes

The GLBTRT has been reviewing books and movies in its newsletter since the early 1990s. Trace the evolution of queer publishing through these historic reviews. This review was originally published in Vol. 3, No 3, Fall 1991. 

Cover of Just Say YesJust Say Yes. By Judith McDaniel. Firebrand, 1991. Library Binding – Adult. $18.95. (ISBN 0-932379-97-4) Paper. $8.95. (ISBN 0-932379-96-6)

This novel about a summer in Provincetown (P-town) takes place on a number of levels. On one level, it is a Bildungsroman, as Lindsey attempts to come to terms with whether to continue graduate school, what is true love, and what is true lesbian literature. Part of the book is political and social commentary. On another level, it is a romantic novel.

Lindsey comes to spend a summer as a waitress in P-town, living in a “dyke house” near the main street. Basically comfortable with herself as a lesbian, she is nonetheless searching for herself as a person. She is also looking for love, romance, excitement, committment and answers to her almost endless internal questions. While she is looking, there is a murder of an unidentified young gay man, a march to memorialize his passing, a Feminist Writers Conference (some of the most biting wit is woven through this part of the plot), another murder, a major drug bust, and possible true love for her. Quite a summer.

The novel tries to be more than a quick summer read and succeeds on some levels. The integration of women of color into the story is among the best I’ve ever read. Lindsey’s initial confusion and eventual growth are shown convincingly. The humor is sometimes in the words and sometimes in the situation, and the erotic passages are powerfully realized. Most of the people are well drawn: Carol, struggling with the decision to leave the convent or not; Rachel, the Unitarian minister who is unsure of ·some of her own answers; most especially, Lindsey herself, with all her hang-ups, innocence, indignation, and amazing capacity for erotic response.

The point of view changes almost every chapter (and sometimes in the middle of the chapter), from Lindsey’s to the author’s, although the author is quite visible most of the time. The difficulty for me was the author’s “preaching”, even when I agreed strongly with her message. I found it disconcerting to have social commentary mixed in with the story’s exposition in a rather didactic fashion.

While the book aims to entertain, and succeeds, it is surprisingly honest in portraying a part of the contemporary lesbian scene. This may not be verismo, but is far beyond a simple romantic tale. Just Say Yes is suitable for collections of  contemporary gay /lesbian life.

Reviewed by Susan Lee Sills
University of California
Irvine, California

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