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Throwing Stones
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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments Our Fiction read chosen by Robin for the end of this year, and the beginning of next.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron -- I'm really looking forward to your take on the story, especially given your affiliation with the Heathens, Pagans and Witches group.


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I'm looking forward to reading it too Robin. I haven't managed to get a hold of it yet. But I'm quite excited. I'm still trying to figure out how my kindle works.


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Sarah (heysarahpro) this book was absolutely amazing! !


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Sarah wrote: "this book was absolutely amazing! !"
Sarah, thank you so much! I'm delighted you enjoyed the story. I hope I represented Paganism in as good a light as it deserves, which is very bright indeed.


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I've just ordered the book Robin. I'll post as I read.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "I've just ordered the book Robin. I'll post as I read."
I love that idea. I had a reader DM me on Facebook as he read his way through Educating Simon, and I think we both enjoyed the exchange.


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments It took ages to reach me, so I've selfishly rolled over the fiction read for another two months. I think I'm not bumping anything anyway.

It took me a bit of getting into at first as I couldn't quite connect with the style of narrative in the first section before the flashback. One has to remember it's a teenager in first person voice.

As soon as we got into the flashback section of the story, I started loving it. and feeling really present in the story.

I like the way it starts out as a sort of gay coming of age story, and then the pagan undercurrent slowly builds.

"'no-one on board' that's the kind of sign I want." I loved this.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "'no-one on board' that's the kind of sign I want." I loved this...."

Aaron, I actually had that sign many years ago, after having the same reaction Jesse does in Throwing Stones to the "Baby On Board" signs!

Have you finished reading, or are you still working your way through?


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I'm on page 83 and I actually had to reign myself in last night so that I could write as I read a bit, because I could easily have stayed up all night reading it happily, but wanted to slow down a bit and post some reaction to you as I went.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "I'm on page 83 and I actually had to reign myself in last night so that I could write as I read a bit, because I could easily have stayed up all night reading it happily, but wanted to slow down a ..."

I'm really looking forward to your take on the Pagan grove. Still, I'm glad you're taking your time. Thanks!


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments Okay I have to ask you something. Is any of this based on true events? Like are there communities of wiccans or pagans living together in a village type arrangement like this in the states?

I noticed the characters seem to be the subject of more prejudice from being pagan than being gay. Was this your intent, and do you think it's true?


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "Okay I have to ask you something. Is any of this based on true events? Like are there communities of wiccans or pagans living together in a village type arrangement like this in the states?"
The story is purely fictional. I'm not personally aware of groves that exist in this centralized way, though it could of course be the case that they exist. You probably haven't yet come to the place in the story where Jesse learns the full reason this particular grove exists as it does, where it does.

In terms of Pagan vs. gay, the intensity of prejudice, and the ways in which it manifests, will vary hugely depending on the source and the situation. Any time a group of people do anything that makes them easier to identify, it becomes easier to persecute them. One example is the persecution on Jews by the Nazis; there are aspects of Judasim that make Jews conspicuous and easy to isolate and target. And in Throwing Stones, living separately in the village made it easy to identify and persecute the Pagans, whom the local townsfolk would equate with Satan (the personification of all that is evil).

Rural Oklahoma is one of the areas in the U.S. where the majority of residents are heavy-duty Christians, especially Evangelical and fundamentalist sects (if you're following the U.S. presidential primary race, consider that the rabid fundamentalist Ted Cruz won the state of Oklahoma's Republican race, even in the face of Trump's meteoric rise in most other places). People in areas like this one often don't encounter people who are different from them when it comes to religion, and the types of Christianity that are predominant are fairly rigid and very fearful of anything different (like Islam, for example). Further, the more extreme the (Christian) belief system, the more likely the followers are to equate LGBT individuals with all sorts of "evils" with which LGBT has nothing in common. LGBT people are blamed for everything from hurricanes to the war in Iraq to the rise of Islam. Homosexuality and Paganism both frighten the willies out of many of these followers, and Pagans living together in a grove (LGBT or not) would create a kind of vortex of fear.

In terms of my own intent, I wanted Jesse to see the parallels between persecution of gays and persecution of Paganism so he could see the pattern that arises when we examine causality; it's always fear arising from misunderstanding and narrow-mindedness.

Throwing Stones is my seventh novel, and all of them are about gay teens. I frequently hear from readers outside the U.S. who have trouble believing the extreme nature of the Christian fundamentalist reaction to anything that can be seen as "other." This applies to gays, and it applies to religions.

I hope that helps clarify.


message 14: by Toviel (last edited Mar 06, 2016 05:21AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Toviel (exagge) | 65 comments As a gay pagan myself (albeit a lesbian, unlike the main character) the premise of this book intrigues me-- looks like I'll be joining on the book read, too. :)

I already have a lot of thoughts concerning the above post, but I'll wait until I see how the book itself handles the subject before making any serious comments.

But it is true that coming out of the broom closet vs. coming out of the rainbow closet garners very different reactions depending on the circumstances. Just within my own family, some (if not most) of my close relatives are completely cool with the gay thing, but aren't okay with the pagan thing. For others, the reaction is the exact opposite. It's not a universal experience.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Lysistrata wrote: "As a gay pagan myself (albeit a lesbian, unlike the main character) the premise of this book intrigues me-- looks like I'll be joining on the book read, too. :) "

I would be so honored to have you read the book, and I'd love to know your thoughts about it. Thank you!


message 16: by Aaron, Moderator (last edited Mar 06, 2016 08:19AM) (new) - added it

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I'm glad to have you joining the discussion Lysistrata!

It does surprise me people's reactions to religion. From childhood I always had a feeling my sexuality could be controversial. It was just this growing feeling of dread about it starting from age five. But it never occurred to me that people might take exception to my beliefs, which is funny when you consider that religion is more of a choice than sexuality.

I had way more animosity directed towards my vegetarianism than anything else in grade school.

Lysistrata, did you find that the reactions were polarized? Were all the people in your family who were okay with you being gay, then not okay with you being pagan and vs-versa? Or was there no particular pattern to it? Just curious.

Still loving the book. Um, I don't want to post any spoilers, but I like the turns things are taking. I feel Jesse may be performing magic without realising it?

Robin I'm sorry to hear it's not based on a real place. I was considering it as an alternative if I ever have to leave India. :)


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "Robin I'm sorry to hear it's not based on a real place. I was considering it as an alternative if I ever have to leave India. :) ..."

Yeah, I'd kind of like to live there, too! And you're reading Jesse accurately. Wait till you see where things go. :D


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I'm possibly influenced by Ursala Le Guinn and Ann Rice, but "Ivy" always struck me as quite a pagan name.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "I'm possibly influenced by Ursala Le Guinn and Ann Rice, but "Ivy" always struck me as quite a pagan name."

LOL! I feel the same, which is why I chose it. Not that I expected anyone else to notice, or to feel the same. Ah, Ursula... So much wonder in her writing. Thanks for reminding me of her work.


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I'm enjoying this read immensely. I love the way you've written the magic into the book, quite subtle but palpable.

I kind of want to feel the people of the grove as a bit more mature and enlightened than they're coming across at the moment. I haven't finished the book, and I do feel the elder of the grove's power, but somehow I want there to be more contrast in the characters from the grove to the one's of the town in more than just bahaviour. It's possible I expect too much from them, because they're living in a kind of spiritual community, and I think I do this in life as well, but there were a couple of instances where people of the grove were sulky and surly where I expected them to be different.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "I'm enjoying this read immensely. I love the way you've written the magic into the book, quite subtle but palpable. I kind of want to feel the people of the grove as a bit more mature and enlightened than they're coming across at the moment...."

Ah, you can read my mind. I wanted that, too. But when I write, my characters tell me who they are, not the other way around. And every time I tried to render the Pagans as somehow more noble or more (as you say) enlightened, things got really weird, and the story bogged down. The lesson I took from it was this: Every one of us is a human being. Christians are not better than Muslims who are not better than Jews who are not better than Pagans who are not better than Hindus who are not better than atheists who are not better than Buddhists... You get the picture. One thing that helped make this real was some of the animosity I saw in an online forum between Pagans who argued viciously about what was or wasn't true, or was or wasn't the way to do something or to acknowledge a particular god or -- fill in the blank. I do hope, though, that by the end of the book, all the characters will have won you over. :-)


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments Yes, and I sometimes have this same feeling in my own community. Where I expect certain behaviour from people, and forget that people are people and the lesson is really for me to act according to the ideal I feel so strongly.

The mum is wicked cool, and I actually knew someone very like her.

I do notice the animosity you talk about. It's kind of a fine line. We want all the freedom and eclecticness of greater paganism, but, I notice all the different branches of Wicca alone are not terribly complimentary about each other. I'd like to get more into that in another thread.

I think I always have the wish that there would be a spiritual practice which would automatically turn people into these amazing divine beings, but as you say, it depends on how each individual takes on their spiritual practice, no matter their religion.


message 23: by Toviel (last edited Mar 09, 2016 04:54AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Toviel (exagge) | 65 comments Aaron wrote: "Lysistrata, did you find that the reactions were polarized? Were all the people in your family who were okay with you being gay, then not okay with you being pagan and vs-versa? Or was there no particular pattern to it? Just curious. "

Since the opening of the book is all about coming out, I don't mind answering these questions.

Generally speaking, the non-religious persons in my family weren't polarized in an way. Special props to my dad, who sometimes even goes out of his way to find gay/pagan stuff he thinks I'll like (books, local events, etc.) A little support goes a long way.

Meanwhile the religious and older members of my family tended to be very polarized. The thought process seems to be either "it's okay to be gay, but only if you're a Christian so that God'll forgive you" or "it's okay to be a part of another religion, but homosexuality is unnatural." Surprisingly, no one railed against both the gay or pagan thing to my face. The only backlash I've ever gotten was about not wanting to celebrate certain holidays with the family anymore.

But then again, there are a few people I haven't even bothered officially coming out to because it's not worth the time or inevitable fallout. Most of the time I didn't do the traditional "announcing to family that I am gay and/or pagan" thing-- and FAR more importantly, when I did "officially" come out of the closet(s), I was in college and had enough resources to skip town if things got ugly.

There are many, many factors that determine how people react to family members coming out of the closet, and I couldn't hope to describe them all here.
=================================================
WHICH LEADS US TO THE BOOK...

I like it so far! :D Young adult M/M books are always hit or miss with me, so it's great to find one that I like.

If I have any criticisms--and this is just my inner nit-picker talking--it's that we don't really see /why/ Jesse assumed his family was so anti-gay. Sure, he was right about how they'd react, but the only evidence supporting the fact beforehand is that they live in Oklahoma and their reverend is homophobic. Homophobia tends to be more ingrained than that; did any of his family members use casual homophobic language before Jesse came out? Did they openly vote or voice approval for anti-gay legislators/laws? Etc.

But nonetheless, the actual coming-out scene itself and the resulting fallout was heart breaking. Jesse is such a believable teenage character-- I can't wait to see how he grows up and falls in love!


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I did think he was hard on his mum though, who I thought acted like a trooper. Her asking for time to process I thought was reasonable and better than my mum's reaction who was a liberal Adwaitist.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Lysistrata wrote: "The thought process seems to be either 'it's okay to be gay, but only if you're a Christian so that God'll forgive you' or 'it's okay to be a part of another religion, but homosexuality is unnatural.'..."

What interesting reactions. Thank you so much for offering your personal experience. And I'm delighted you're enjoying the story. On the question of Jesse anticipating his parents, are you familiar with rural Oklahoma? The entire state is extremely Christian Evangelical/ fundamentalist on the whole (consider that the GOP voters there went for Cruz, not Trump). And just so you're truly comfortable with Jesse's assumption, I'll tell you I've heard from a few readers in OK who said it was accurately represented in their experience. So I suppose it would be possible to expect a warmer reception from one's heavy-duty Christian parents there, but the odds are against it in the extreme. Thanks for raising the question and giving me a chance to respond.


message 26: by Toviel (last edited Mar 09, 2016 08:48AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Toviel (exagge) | 65 comments Robin wrote: "Lysistrata wrote: "The thought process seems to be either 'it's okay to be gay, but only if you're a Christian so that God'll forgive you' or 'it's okay to be a part of another religion, but homose..."

I believe you misread my comment a bit-- I meant that rather than assuming that your readers are familiar with the stereotypes (and delicate politics) of a specific region in the United States, it would be more effective to /show/ them and give unique details to Jesse's situation. It'd flesh out the family more, and make it all the more impactful when they start processing Jesse's identity.

The family's reaction in of itself doesn't have to more or less positive to be "realistic" or anthing like that. If I thought the book wasn't handling the content well, I wouldn't be liking it so much! :) My apologies for the confusion.

EDIT: Whoops, missed Aaron's post!

Aaron wrote: "I did think he was hard on his mum though, who I thought acted like a trooper. Her asking for time to process I thought was reasonable and better than my mum's reaction who was a liberal Adwaitist."

I love Jesse's mom and her solution to the fallout, haha. But I give Jesse a pass here because teenagers will be teenagers-- how many people realize good advice when they first hear it? Especially when they're under stress...


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Lysistrata wrote: "teenagers will be teenagers-- how many people realize good advice when they first hear it? Especially when they're under stress......"
LOL! Indeed. The teen characters in all my books have been loathe to take advice, especially from parents -- whom they don't always treat as well as they should. :-}


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I haven't exactly been reading, just sort of living with the characters in the book, which is all I really want from a book.

I love that you let the characters take on their own life and write themselves.

I want to ask you something, but I think I should wait for Lysistrata to post first so I can see where she's reached in the reading.


message 29: by Toviel (last edited Mar 10, 2016 11:41AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Toviel (exagge) | 65 comments I just finished Chapter 2. I'm a bit of a slow reader, but please don't worry about waiting for me to catch up. :)

Pure curisosity, Robin, is there any specific pagan tradition that you've based the in-book pagans on? The little I've seen of them thus far reads a bit like Dianic Wicca.

EDIT: On a side note, I feel the pain of "falling in love with someone who says they're straight, thus I resolve to be buddies instead" in my soulllllllllll, lol. Poor Jesse.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Lysistrata wrote: "Pure curiososity, Robin, is there any specific pagan tradition that you've based the in-book pagans on? The little I've seen of them thus far reads a bit like Dianic Wicca...."

True confession time, here. Knowing how fluid Paganism can be, I sort of created my own version of it that would work with Jesse's side of the story. I did draw on Pagan traditions and beliefs, for sure, but I'm not aware of a specific tradition that mine could be said to have been modeled after. You'll see at one point later in the story that there is no one in this grove who identifies as Wiccan, though if there were it wouldn't be a problem for the grove. They're pretty loosey-goosey, actually, which makes them very accepting of individuality. That's what would attract Jesse.


Toviel (exagge) | 65 comments Robin wrote: "Lysistrata wrote: "Pure curiososity, Robin, is there any specific pagan tradition that you've based the in-book pagans on? The little I've seen of them thus far reads a bit like Dianic Wicca...."

..."


Ah, that makes sense! :)


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments Waaaaah I don't want it to end! I'm almost done.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "Waaaaah I don't want it to end! I'm almost done."

Kind of how I felt writing it. So glad you've enjoyed the story!


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments It struck me that Jesse was doing a sort of healing on his friend Brad without realising it towards the beginning of the book?


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "It struck me that Jesse was doing a sort of healing on his friend Brad without realising it towards the beginning of the book?"

[Trying to stay away from spoilers here...] Very astute. In Jesse's mind, he was trying to make Brad miss his father less by going rockhounding w/Brad, when Jesse had had no interest before. And, certainly, after the abuse incident, Jesse was even more focused on being there for his friend. This kind of love and loyalty heals in ways Jesse wouldn't necessarily have been aware of, but he was deliberately spending time with Brad, driving him around if that's what Brad wanted, etc. Later on, there's Jesse's effort to bring Staci along. Are you seeing something in addition to these efforts?


message 36: by Aaron, Moderator (last edited Mar 14, 2016 10:59AM) (new) - added it

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments Prayer in church may have had some occult effect, unintended, but sometimes a natural witch may effect a spell in the form of prayer.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "Prayer in church may have had some occult effect, unintended, but sometimes a natural which may effect a spell in the form of prayer."

True; if you take the specifics of a religion (e.g., Christianity) out of the act of praying, it can serve to move energies and, as you say, act in the way of a spell. Jesse definitely wanted to help his friend in this way.


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I do want to do the questionnaire, I'm waiting for Lysistrata to catch up, and I might have to figure out how to code that spoiler hiding thing.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Aaron wrote: "I do want to do the questionnaire, I'm waiting for Lysistrata to catch up, and I might have to figure out how to code that spoiler hiding thing."

By "questionnaire," do you mean the GR questions that Stephen put online?

If your next post would contain spoilers, feel free to send me a direct message. Might not want to put spoilers into this thread, in case someone other than Lysistrata decides to read the book. What do you think?


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments Good idea, yes I'll message you.


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Aaron Carson | 1216 comments No the questions are in your book "a reading group guide".


message 42: by Toviel (last edited May 23, 2016 06:09PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Toviel (exagge) | 65 comments I'm sorry I disappeared for the last couple of months! I ended up so busy in April that I didn't get much reading done. But once I started the book again, I blasted through at least 65% of it in one sitting, and finished it in less than three days.

I posted a spoiler-free review here, if anyone's curious. The TL;DR version is that I enjoyed Throwing Stones very much, aside from a few small nit-picks here and there.

On a side note, if anyone here wants to post spoilers, Goodreads has a built in spoiler-hiding hmtl tag. (view spoiler) The "some hmtl is ok" link above the comment box shows which tag to use.


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Lysistrata wrote: "I'm sorry I disappeared for the last couple of months! I ended up so busy in April that I didn't get much reading done. But once I started the book again, I blasted through at least 65% of it in on..."

I'm glad you were able to finish the book; no apology necessary for the length of time.

Thanks for a very thoughtful review, especially since (as you say) the book is in a genre that you don't customarily read.

Typically I don't comment on a reader's review, because I truly want a genuine expression of their impressions and I'm grateful when a reader takes the time to submit a review. Once in a while, though, I see something that confuses me, and there is one point from your review I'd like to explore.

From your review: "[the words] heathen and pagan are used interchangeably..." This struck me as so completely opposite from my intention (as well as my understanding) that I searched back through my manuscript for the word "heathen." My confusion arises from the fact that whenever "heathen" appears, it's either specifically from the viewpoint of a character who is totally ignorant of Paganism, or it's spoken by a character who is referring to that ignorance. Is there any way you can highlight some specific place that you feel contradicts my intention?

If this review were not in a Pagan-oriented forum, I would not call attention to this point. But considering the audience here, it's very important to me that I not leave you with the impression that I would confuse the two terms or lead others to do so.

Thanks again for your insight and honest opinion; I value it immensely.


message 44: by Toviel (last edited May 24, 2016 04:40AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Toviel (exagge) | 65 comments Robin wrote: "Lysistrata wrote: "I'm sorry I disappeared for the last couple of months! I ended up so busy in April that I didn't get much reading done. But once I started the book again, I blasted through at le..."

Thank you for taking the time to respond!

I actually did make a note on a place where the "heathen" usage confused me: Griffin uses the term while talking to Jesse just before telling him that his mother throws pots. But now it that you've explained that it always refers to ignorance, the passage makes a lot more sense.

In truth, I'm more surprised that Jesse's never corrected on the terminology that he uses rather than the fact that it's used at all. After all, heathenism in the neo-pagan world tends to refer to beliefs/practices regarding Norse polytheism (e.g. Asatru, Northern Tradition, etc.), which is very different from the village's practices in the book.

Either way, thanks for pointing out that small flub on my part, I'll edit my review accordingly.

Allow me to emphasize one last time that I really enjoyed the book, and it's great to see a realistic take at paganism depicted period. I'm just a little nit-picky by nature, and that probably shows in my reviews in general. :)


Robin (therobinreardon) | 30 comments Lysistrata wrote: "I'm just a little nit-picky by nature, and that probably shows in my reviews in general. :)"

I'm a bit of a picker of nits, myself, so I understand. Thanks again for taking the time to be so picky! :-D


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