Book Review: Johnny Appleseed

This month, I’m trying to read and review books that have LGBTQ+ foci and characters. I’ve not done this before, and I’m hoping to learn a lot!

The Book

Johnny Appleseed
Author: Joshua Whitehead
Amazon Link

Given the way Twitter gushes over with “I need more books with X type of character” and how often “X” included LGBTQ people, it was actually kind of hard to easily find a traditionally book in which LGBTQ issues are front and center. At the same time, somehow this book just fell into my lap, so I read it.

Fair warning to folks who might want to read this: This is VERY explicit. If you aren’t into semen flying at you from every which a way, read no further. It’s not like Beloved which contained a sex scene that added so much to the plot and characterization. It’s JUST sex things.

Non-Spoiler Review:

In a nutshell: this book was weird.

I don’t normally read memoir or anything contemporary, but I decided to this time in order to try gaining a new breadth of understanding. This book was about a two-spirit man who had difficulties melding his Indian and gay sides (a.k.a. dealing with being two-spirit). The book is about how this man, starting from when he was a young boy, comes to the realization of who he is, where he fits in the world, and how he goes down paths of bad decisions.

And also about semen. Lots and LOTS of semen. I don’t think he went 1,000 words without mentioning semen or penises. The amount of eroticism just felt over the top to me, but maybe I didn’t read enough up front to know what to expect. I didn’t read reviews beforehand, just the front and back cover.

I know this book is about coming of age and being a gay man of color. I know that I won’t ever understand everything the guy is talking about. I just didn’t expect constant analogies to semen and orgasming, didn’t expect erotic scenes happening over and over and over. I expected a more complete life story, one that had more characterization beyond “I’m a gay Indian who grew up poor and that’s literally it.” The plotline with Tias and Jordan was interesting, but all the little threads hanging around didn’t always build into that. The ending was alright, but once again it feeds into that modern contemporary feel of  “Well, sometimes we have messy endings!” that leaves me, who typically reads sci-fi and fantasy, feeling unsatisfied.

Upon looking back, I suppose there was an artful element to all the sex, but it is that kind of art that is pretty high-brow and is only there if you want to tell yourself it is. It’s the kind of art that bourgeois people can read and say, “Oh, I understand now” even if the point of the fucking book is to prove that they don’t and probably can’t “understand”. I think a lot of the stories’ intent was often fogged by the sexual descriptors in the book. At least they were for me.

I think the book mostly left me feeling frustrated because I feel there was something more, something missing. I think it was close to being something I could enjoy, but it wasn’t quite there. At the same time, I give it 2 stars because it was informative, interesting at times, and I think it could one day be an important read.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones


Honest to God, what kind of spoilers does this book need? It barely had a plot, if you ask me. It’s about a cam boy trying to get home for a funeral, then he succeeds by having enough webcam sexy times. Like I said, it was mostly an art book. If that’s what you’re looking for, go for it. It’s not what I was seeking.

Next week:

Stay tuned for a book I’m very hype for: Sissy by Jacob Tobia!

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Johnny Appleseed

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