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Under the Rainbow

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,538 ratings  ·  259 reviews
When a group of social activists arrive in a small town, the lives and beliefs of residents and outsiders alike are upended, in this wry, embracing novel.

Big Burr, Kansas, is the kind of place where everyone seems to know everyone, and everyone shares the same values-or keeps their opinions to themselves. But when a national nonprofit labels Big Burr "the most homophobic t
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 3rd 2020 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,538 ratings  ·  259 reviews

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Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
I felt similarly about this as I did about Red, White, and Royal Blue which for most people would be a compliment but for me sadly it is not. I was not expecting for this to be a YA book, but given the tone and the coming-of-age nature, I think it's best to describe it that way. This book seems more interested in posturing than actually telling a compelling story - complete with a definition of "hetero-shaming" on the first page. As a gay man who was bullied for being myself in high school, even ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
When Big Burr, Kansas is named the most homophobic place in America, a group of activists moves in to try to make a difference. The novel starts from the perspective of one of their children, and moves from there to others in the town and in the group. Laskey captures the pressures of small town life and the destructive nature of homophobia, but also the beauty of embracing your true self or learning to accept your neighbor. My only slight quibble was as a reader, connecting with a narrator and ...more
Tinichix (nicole)
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
In this novel a non-profit program named Acceptance Across America (AAA) goes to the supposed most homophobic town with a task force that provides undercover dedicated time to fight homophobia and issues within the community. I did this as an audio book and the numerous narrators were incredible and perfectly fit each character.

The novel has a large number of main characters with chapters dedicated to their POV. I liked the amount of time given to each character chapter wise. I think it helps y
Feb 25, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2020
Under the Rainbow imagines a clash between urban and rural America. An LGBT nonprofit’s named a small Kansas town the most homophobic in America, and a task force made up mostly of white gentrifiers is ordered to move there to conduct community outreach and education; chapters alternate between the perspectives of residents and nonprofit workers, to the point that no one voice or plot line is fully developed. There’s a lot to dislike about the novel—the premise is patronizing, the characterizati ...more
Larry H
Mar 20, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

Celia Laskey's Under the Rainbow is a collection of poignant, thought-provoking, interconnected stories about an interesting social experiment of sorts.

Big Burr, Kansas has been determined to be the most homophobic town in the U.S. by a nonprofit group. The group decides to send an LGBTQ task force to live and work in Big Burr, and see what inroads can be made in a two-year period.

As task force members try to adjust their lives—which weren’t necessarily all that well-adjusted where
Oct 16, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit ambivalent about this one - it was an interesting idea, and the writing is fairly competent - but I had some quibbles. First off, it is a series of interconnected short stories, probably one of my LEAST favorite formats, and though it's sometimes fun re-encountering characters from previous stories popping up later on, I think only E. Strout REALLY excels at doing that. I was also fearful some of the strands would be left open-ended, but dang if they aren't all tied up on the penultimate p ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5*: I think I was expecting a pointed satire and what I got was a fairytale veering between didactic and cheesy. Not for me.
Jordan (Jordy’s Book Club)
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
QUICK TAKE: I’m not sure about the rest of you, but the world is a scary place right now, and I’ve really been turning to books to get away from the daily news and rigmarole, and UNDER THE RAINBOW is the perfect antidote to today’s anxiety, especially with its message of community and coming togetherness…told in the form of interconnected short stories, UTR follows a group of LGBTQ activists who move to a small town labeled “the most homophobic town in the US” with the hope of changing the minds ...more
Mar 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Lovely debut novel that follows a task force of LGBTQ people sent to "The Most Homophobic Town" in America, Big Burr, Kansas. I liked this book - the writing is solid, and Laskey did a great job of setting us in scenes. This book jumps from character to character, and I felt a loss that we didn't get to know certain characters like Avery, Zach, even Karen, deeper. It felt like we got too short of a time with each character. Some of this could have been because I'd just read Girl, Woman, Other, w ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer, netgalley, fiction
This book is about a group of LGBTQ rights activists who move to the so-called 'Most Homophobic Town in America' for two years in an effort to change hearts and minds. There are multiple narrators (some residents, some activists), which I'm sometimes wary of because it's a trope that's been done poorly more times than it's been done well. A book can get messy with all those characters voicing their opinions and wielding their omniscience all over the place. As soon as I saw that Under the Rainbo ...more
Christine (Queen of Books)
Big thanks to Riverhead Books for a free copy.

I so enjoyed Under the Rainbow - it's a wry, sharp novel. The premise: After Big Burr, Kansas is determined to be the most homophobic town in tbe U.S., a team from Acceptance Across America moves in for a short time to conduct advocacy work.

Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different person - a gamble that I think really pays off and yielded a rich narrative. This is the story of queer individuals moving to a conservative town, but it's
I really enjoyed Celia Laskey's Under the Rainbow ! This book is a collection of stories by residences of small town Big Burr, Kansas. When an activist group arrives in Big Burr, a town deemed as the most homophobic town in the nation, a series of reactions grows immensely. Polarizing and jaw dropping, this book is definitely one that will stay with me for awhile. I did take one star off as there wasn't much closure for the many characters in this novel (besides my favorite character). I can' ...more
Hannah // Book Nerd Native
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Is it too early to call my favorite book of 2021? Yes. But, I have a feeling this will be at the tippy top of my favorites for this year. So hopeful and inspiring, I loved every minute of this charming story. It balances hard hitting and cozy really well. Brilliant!

CW: Homophobia, Transphobia, Infidelity, Bullying, and Animal death
Liz Hein
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Under The Rainbow is the story of a non profit called Acceptance Across America. AAA sends LGBTQ folx to a small town in Kansas that appears to be filled with bigots to see if they can be transformed into reasonable people.

I LOVED this book. Each chapter is from a different perspective of someone living in town either through AAA or because it’s home. AAA is met with a lot of resistance. Residents are depicted as “under the rainbow” as they have yet to evolve into the rainbow filled l
Jessica Klahr
Apr 16, 2020 rated it liked it
I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it was, as they say, compulsively readable and I finished the audiobook is just under two days. But then, when I got to the end, I couldn’t help but be troubled by both the structuring and wondering whether the driving force of the book, the existence of this committee that convened to educate people in the “most homophobic city in America” over a two year period, really accomplished anything at all. First, the structure is set up so we hear ...more
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
While I appreciate what this book was trying to do, it didn't feel that realistic or true to form of what homophobia is like in small towns. The characters felt like stereotypes of who they were supposed to be; the homophobic white lady who is god-fearing but also hates her life and husband, etc. I guess it was nice to have a HEA ending, but it also felt unrealistic.
This book did make me tear up and at certain parts it was hard to read because of the homophobia/transphobia, but at other parts I
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reads
A delightful read!

I really enjoyed this story. I love that the author selected to tell the story through the eyes of all of the characters. I was thoroughly intrigued and engaged with all of the characters. This was a beautiful debut novel.
Mar 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
hoping someone writes a serious critique of this book.
(but on a non-serious note, lesbians IN THE YEAR 2020 rewatching QUEER AS FOLK for the TENTH TIME ....... what the fuck)
LAPL Reads
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
In a recent survey, the small town of Big Burr, Kansas has earned the title of “most homophobic town in the U.S.” The non-profit that conducted the survey, Acceptance Across America (AAA), determines that the appropriate response to their findings is to send a task force to Big Burr. They will move to Big Burr, set up an office and live in the town for two years. AAA hopes that the task force can, and will, become a part of the community. They are also hopeful that eventually they will be able t ...more
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Has anyone else had trouble sleeping lately? I woke up at 3am last night and grabbed this library book off the shelf. Wrong choice: I got sucked in and read until dawn! This afternoon, I tucked it in my backpack and took it on my equinox hike, then finished it in my backyard at sunset. A single-day read: maybe that means it was the right choice after all?

Under the Rainbow is set in the fictional Big Burr, Kansas, dubbed “the most homophobic town in the U.S.” The novel is narrated through the POV
Brett Benner
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it

I loved this book. It was exactly what I needed to distract myself from everything going on right now, and I hope @celia.laskey has a big fat hit on her hands. When I first heard about this book set in rural Big Burr Kansas, which is named the most homophobic in the country, and the task force sent to imbed in the community for two years, I couldn’t help sight unseen to compare it to Broadway’s, “The Prom”. However they couldn’t be more different and what a welcome surprise. Where ‘The Prom’ foc
Casey the Reader
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, lgbtq
Thanks to Riverhead Books for the free advance copy of this book.

Big Burr, Kansas, is a small town proud of their family values. But when a national LGBT nonprofit pinpoints them as the most homophobic town in America and sends a task force to begin changing hearts and minds, no one is quite ready for what happens next.

UNDER THE RAINBOW is sharp, funny, and heartfelt. I worried that this premise might mean a book full of character stereotypes, and while some minor characters certainly are, Las
Bill Silva
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
I'm at 2.5 stars on this one. It's not a novel, despite what the book cover says--the stories are casually linked, with some recurring characters and a common setting, but there is no narrative arc here and little effort to construct a consistent, unified whole. I couldn't generate much enthusiasm for anyone or their problems...the characters were flat, and the situations cliched. There's nothing distinctive in the writing, either. The book is full of good intentions and a positive message--but ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diversity
I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway and I am sooo thankful that I did!

I absolutely loved Under the Rainbow. This book features a non-profit called Acceptance Across America that sends a task force to Big Burr, Kansas (named the most homophobic city in the US). Over several years, we get the perspectives of different characters, each narrating a chapter.

Though each character only gets one chapter, this is handled surprisingly well. I still felt very invested in each of the characters and h
Geonn Cannon
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really good, really interesting format in that the lead of one chapter is a supporting character in the others, so you get a bigger picture of how people see themselves and each other. Some really awful homophobic shit in this one (not surprising) but worth noting for triggering purposes.
J. Brendan
Dec 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Fun readable linked stories about a small Kansas town and the LGBT task force that moves there to try an experiment in tolerance and acceptance. The stories are all first-person narratives ranging from conflicted teens to closeted middle-aged men to dissatisfied Christian housewives. Laskey's style is zippy and engaging in a way that made me read fast and initially feel like this was lightweight. I am not sure that every story always works completely but there's more emotional resonance that I e ...more
Emily Tyndorf
Jul 18, 2020 rated it liked it
3 ✨ I genuinely enjoyed reading this book, I just don’t see the point of it??

The premise is that a task force of queer volunteers gets sent to Big Burr, Kansas, otherwise voted the most homophobic city in America. Each chapter is from a different person in the towns point of view over the course of two years.

Normally I love books like this because I love when an author takes a bunch of different characters in intertwines their stories. However the author did not do this. She more wrote about a
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I agree with what's been said - this book was very readable.and compelling enough that I finished it, but also I kind of hated it and don't really like these people?

I found the entire premise to be reductive and condescending and I was really hoping the task force members would learn that by the end.

Just when I was getting into any particular story, it would end and we never heard from that character again. There were several moments that were truly devastating, but the healing process was left
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
This felt like a queer ya book for straight people to read and learn to empathize with queer people for the first time. The narrative structure is messy and there’s very little closure on any plot lines that you actually care about. The ending seems like the author just got sick of writing and gave up.
Will Skrip
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
There is so much humanity in Laskey’s quiet debut, ‘Under the Rainbow,’ wherein each chapter welcomes in a unique narrator who contributes to the tapestry of Big Burr, Kansas. Each individual perspective is refreshingly unique as the narrators grow, flourish, change (or not) while queerness seeps into the small town’s DNA. I appreciate that Laskey writes a slightly older demographic, especially because their experiences here come with extraordinarily high stakes.

There is some particular magic, t
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Celia Laskey’s debut novel Under the Rainbow is out now with Riverhead Books. Her other work has appeared in Guernica, The Minnesota Review, Day One, and elsewhere. She was also a finalist in Glimmer Train‘s Short Story Award for New Writers. She has an MFA from the University of New Mexico and currently lives in Los Angeles with her wife and their dog Whiskey.

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