What Happened in Lake Erie by Charles L. Ross
Stonewall National Museum – Wilton Manors
2157 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
Free to attend. Suggested donation $5.
Signed copies of the book will be available for sale.
Ross’ (Inside, 2013, etc.) literary novel considers the fraught relationship between a young gay man and his father.
When he is 8 years old, Anthony Dimora is swimming with his father in Lake Erie. They pretend that Anthony is a submarine and his father is a bridge so that Anthony can swim between his father’s legs, groping his father underwater where no one can see. “Swimming underwater, I lift my arm above my head. Daddy’s bulge feels firmer and pushes against my palm.” As Anthony comes up, gasping for air, his father affirms, “My boy’s just fine, isn’t he?” At least, that’s how Anthony remembers it. Growing up in the tightknit Italian-American community in Castleton, Pennsylvania, Anthony idolizes his father. But he’s also in love with him. As his gay identity develops, however, his relationship with his father becomes increasingly strained, and Anthony finds a surrogate dad in Tony Tomasso, his father’s friend. Tensions in his parents’ marriage, family secrets, and a conservative 1950s culture all weigh on the young man as he tries to understand his sexual orientation in a hostile environment. It isn’t until he reaches adulthood that he is able to examine the events of his early life—and his bond with his father—with clarity. When he finally realizes what truly happened, it may turn out to be even worse than the story he’s been telling himself all along.
Ross’ prose is pliable and perfectly animates Anthony’s unique voice: “I look at the kitchen clock. Five-fifteen. Daddy doesn’t know I have paper dolls. Even though Mommy said he wouldn’t like me playing with them, she gave me the Hedy Lamarr paper doll set that she had as a girl. Mommy said Hedy Lamarr was a big movie star, but I’ve never heard of her.” While much of the novel’s material is quite dark, Ross renders it palatable through the humanity of his characters. And the bold exploration of a father and son’s relationship makes for a compelling reading experience.
A carefully wrought study of a gay boy’s coming-of-age.
About Charles L. Ross
Charles L. Ross was the art director of Architectural Digestfrom 1978-1985. In 1987, he cofounded Verandamagazine and was its art director, and later its editor, until 2004.
Ross is the author of Inside, a novel about an art director at a high-gloss interior design magazine. It was a Lambda Literary Award finalist for debut novel.
Ross’ second novel, What Happened in Lake Erie, focuses on a boy and his father dealing with the son’s homosexuality.
Other writing by Ross has been published in GQ,Christopher Streetand The Advocate.
For several years Ross was the curator at Stonewall Library Museum Archive, where he has researched and designed several museum exhibitions. He currently is a curatorial assistant at NSU Art Museum.