Last Thursday, Frontier High School's Gay Straight Alliance Club hosted a reading and book signing by author/poet Lyndsey D'Arcangelo. Author of two lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered-themed adolescent novels -- "The Trouble With Emily Dickinson" and "The Crabapple Tree" -- she was able to offer insight into her work, as well as personal struggles to the students who had gathered from all over Western New York.
After graduating from Frontier in 1996, D'Arcangelo knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life writing. She was curious to see where her talent would go, using author Judy Blume as her inspiration. As much as she believed she could do it, she still had some doubts.
"I knew that I could write, but I didn't necessarily think I could be a writer," said D'Arcangelo. "Judy Blume wasn't afraid to touch on experiences that really happened. That kind of resonated with me. I wanted to create real characters."
Nancy Witteman, adviser of Frontier High's GSA Club, helped plan the book-signing event.
"Reading Lyndsey's books I was struck by how her characters strive to know themselves," Witteman said. "Separate and distinct from knowing if they are gay or straight, they all want to know who they are, what they value, what they stand for. And whether you identify with the personality of each individual, seeing a character be authentically herself is important."
In the years following high school, D'Arcangelo was unsure of many things. She found it difficult to be herself in college and had always struggled with accepting her sexuality. It took her until she was 23 years old to be comfortable enough to talk with her parents about it.
D'Arcangelo is now married and is a freelance writer. However, she spends her time doing a number of other things. Currently, she blogs about sports for Curve magazine and writes a column for a gay/lesbian magazine based in Buffalo called Outcome. She also shares her poetry on her Web site (www.lyndseydarcangelo.com), as well as leading writing workshops for aspiring writers.
More than anything, D'Arcangelo is able to comfort teenagers through her literature. The characters in her books are going through real-life situations, similar to what many high school students face today.
"If there was one thing I would like to get across to my readers through my books is that you may see differences by looking at someone, but if you actually sit down and talk to them, you might find that you have something in common, whether it's race, religion, sexuality and so on," she said. "Everybody's normal."
Witteman said, "It's important for kids to realize that the successful adults they see around them didn't achieve their success easily or without self-doubt. For most of us, our paths were circuitous and full of obstacles, detours, and wrong turns. So we hope kids remember that growing up is messy and they don't have to have everything figured out right now, but that they need to keep moving, keep making the best choices they can right now, even if later they turn out to be the wrong move."
Emily Carson is a senior at Frontier High School.