Lesbian Novel: Red Light

March 4th, 2007

Victoria “Tori” Scotts is a young woman with a lot on her plate. In her third year of college, she is looking for a way to support her family, build a career and have a life with the woman she loves, Kerry. It’s a great deal to balance – especially when no one seems to be all that supportive of her dream to become an EMT.

Tori struggles against the unreasonable expectations of her mother – a woman wounded by love and crushed by circumstance – and the constant comparison with her famous cousin, music star Nina Boyd. When Tori’s lover joins the ranks of those who have betrayed her, she is even more determined than before to carve out a life she wants, in spite of…perhaps because of, the obstacles in her path.

In Red Light by JD Glass, we follow Tori through love, lust and trauma on the streets and in her house, and we watch her come out the other side, a woman who has prevailed against much to become the person she truly wants to be.

There is much to like about Red Light – Tori is a real person, someone a reader can easily picture knowing or meeting somewhere. Young, superficially tough, a little crude, Tori is any typical New York kid trying to find herself in a tough, crude world. Tori’s life is filled with passion for her studies and her works as an EMT. The passages as she is educated in the ways of “New York’s Best” are some of the strongest in the book. Tori’s enthusiasm for the job is magnetic. As we read, we *want* to know how to handle these cases, just as Tori does. And we can sit back satisfied when Tori’s reactions are the right ones, and her skills are up to the task.

Even her weaknesses are real – we can hardly blame Tori for viewing her cousin Nina and her wife Samantha as “perfect,” even though we realize that they simply can’t be. Given her family history, her relationship with Nina and the fact that she has been compared unfavorably to Nina most of her life, it would be simply ridiculous for Tori to not see her that way. When, as Nina puts it, Tori does a “great impression of being an asshole” it’s almost a relief that she *can* fall apart so thoroughly.

Tori’s life is also filled with raw sexuality. At the beginning of the book, there is a strong dichotomy between the Tori who we follow in classes, with her family and friends, and the Tori in bed. These two people seem fundamentally irreconciliable. As Tori grows, the separation between the “real” Tori and Tori in bed becomes almost schizoid, something that is completely consistent with the lovers she takes. As the story progresses the two Toris move towards becoming one, the “real” Tori, the nice kid all grown up, the Tori this reader hoped she could become. Interestingly, as a writer who just about obsesses about “voice,” the quality of making each character sound unique from one another, and unique from the writer, I was amazed to note that as Tori takes new lovers in this book, the voice of the sex also changes. It’s true, its real, but not something I’ve seen very much in lesbian – or any – novels, really.

My *only* real complaint about the book was that the sex occasionally got in the way of the story. I found myself thinking – especially towards the end, “Okay, great, they’re having fun, but can we get back to the story? I want to know what happens!” :-) Also, I should note for those who might care – the sex and the language are quite *blunt* at times. If you prefer your romance and sex girly and mushy, this might be too much for you.

The world of Red Light is not a perfect one, but it is a rather enlightened one. The idea of homophobia exists, but it does not directly touch any of the women in this book. The lesbians are out, and mostly proud, the people around them accepting – even so far as to joke with them in the crudest possible manner without fear of offending. And oh my goodness, what a relief that is! There is no “coming out” angst in this novel, but it’s not a perfect world, as we learn when the subjects of marriage and criminal charges come up. Let’s call it an idyllic setting, if only so Staten Island can, for once in its existence, be called idyllic. ^_^

One last thing of interest – the idea of ethnicity runs through the entire book in a way that I have never, ever before seen. It’s a part of each character, their lives, their names, their thoughts, without bringing a sense of heaviness or cloying baggage with it. Perhaps the author errs on the side of idealism here, but I really enjoyed the various family gatherings that seem so stereotypical, but so typical and real at the same time.

Is Red Light worth reading? Yes, it absolutely is. Whether you’re looking for a sexy book with a plot that holds together, or a good book about a good character, with some romance and passion, then this book will definitely be worth adding to your “to read” pile.

In conclusion, I guess I have to say that Victoria “Tori” Scotts passes my litmus test for any character. I’d be glad to have her over for lunch anytime.

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