© 2018 Gloria L. Velasquez. 

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INTERVIEWS

KCBX

by Jordan Bell 
May 30, 2014

Reporter Jordan Bell speaks with Velásquez about her new book and others in her "Roosevelt High School" series. Listen the interview here.

MUSTANG NEWS

by Kelly Trom 
May 28, 2014

Gloria L. Velásquez talks about her novel Tommy Stands Tall. Read full interview here.

NPR INTERVIEW​

by Eric Ladau 
January 15th, 2014

Gloria L. Velásquez was the author of the month on Arte Público Press. Gloria talks about her chilhood and her book Tommy Stands Tall Read full interview here.

ReVIEWS

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Forgiving Moses Review

by Sara Lissa Paulson

The latest installment of the long-running series that explores social injustices in Latinx and Black communities in short novel format is a narrated by two newcomers to the school: Chicano teenager Moses, angry at his incarcerated father, and a counselor, Ray, who is Native American and Chicano and innovative in his use of circle practices to build community. The inclusion of each narrator’s inner thoughts makes this novel readable, culturally responsive, and compassionate, and the central role of weekend prison visits makes it timely. The pitfalls and anxieties around those visits are not widely discussed in YA lit, yet Velásquez covers them all, including the extreme predicament of relocation for families of the incarcerated when spouses are moved to another facility, precipitating a new migration pattern. Despite the hard work and devotion given by his mother, Moses feels that she always put his father first by moving the family and sacrificing herself for a “lifer.” Luckily, another classmate, Dalana, also visits her father every weekend and, after Moses overcomes his initial resistance, offers her perspective. Ray has troubles of his own with his son, but once the voluntary, all-male circles begin, trust and healing emerge as they face the fears of repeating their fathers’ mistakes. VERDICT Buy this and the entire series.

KIRKUS REVIEWS

Forgiving Moses Review

by Eloisa Perez-Lozano

“Why can’t I accept things the way they are?”

It’s Moses Vargas’ first day as a freshman at Roosevelt High, and he’s not looking forward to being the new “tonto” at school. He misses his life in Salinas, where he would hang out with his best friend. Moses also doesn’t want to speak to anyone about his father, who’s serving 25 years to life on drug-related charges. Moses gets suspended after a fight when a photo of him with his father in prison circulates among the students. A significant portion of this slim hi-lo novel explores Moses’ anger, pain, and confusion with varying degrees of success. The author, however, excels at depicting a family in tatters, particularly in her portrayal of Moses’ relationships with his parents. Moses can’t understand why his mom wants to wait for his dad. Meanwhile, he struggles to appreciate and care for his father as a flawed human being throughout his prison visits. Support comes from Mr. Gutiérrez, a school counselor, and Dalana, a fellow Roosevelt High student whose father is also in prison. Mr. Gutiérrez begins a Círculo support group at school to reach out to students, including a reluctant Moses. The book features a cast of mainly Latinx characters.

Occasional doses of heavy-handed didacticism and an abrupt ending mar an otherwise fine entry about an underrepresented topic. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-18)

50 LATINO CHILDREN'S BOOKS YOU SHOULD KNOW

by Mamiverse 
Tommy Stands Tall's review by Cooper Renner 
August 01, 2014

Read Tommy Stands Tall is listed on the 50 Latino Children's Books You Should Know list by Mamiverse. full list here.

 

Velásquez’s pages move quickly and easily with a breezy style that almost makes readers feel like they are overhearing another’s conversation. In some ways reminiscent of a TV after-school special from the 1970s, the narrative raises issues and problems in order to solve them, intent both on telling an interesting story and encouraging readers to believe in and work toward better days. Readers who desire a more in-depth and literary treatment of the difficulties of accepting oneself and coming out as a gay young man—especially perhaps in a Latino family—might turn to Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s award-winning novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Nonetheless, Velásquez’s short novel is earnest without being cloying, and a quick read well suited for reluctant readers Read .full review here.

KIRKUS REVIEWS

Tommy Stands Tall's review 
September 15, 2013

An issue-driven novel chronicling the experiences of a high school senior and his friends as they deal with issues connected to sexual orientation.

Tomás "Tommy" Montoya is a senior at Roosevelt High, previously suicidal and bullied at school because he is gay. The ostracism of gays and lesbians-particularly in Hispanic communities-is a strong theme in the book, though other members of the LGBTQ community are rarely mentioned. When Albert, a fellow student, is badly beaten, Tommy reaches out, sensing Albert is gay and the victim of a hate crime, an action that eventually leads Tommy to found a Gay/Straight Alliance Club. Velásquez paints the issues with a broad brush, portraying the students from the school's Christian Club as intolerant and giving all characters who display homophobic behavior religious reasoning-an easy polarization that does not line up with reality. Strangely, Tommy's first-person narration is interspersed with chapters in the voice of therapist Ms. Martínez, an adult, whose story revolves around her suspicion that her younger brother, who committed suicide, was gay. With sometimes-clunky dialogue and minimal characterization, this book is admirable primarily for addressing the plight of gay and lesbian teens in Latino communities.

A decent choice for reluctant and struggling readers, as well as those interested in the struggles of gay and lesbian teens. (Fiction. 14-18)

WASHINGTON YOUNG ADULT REVIEW GROUP (WASHYARG)

Tommy Stands Tall's review 
by Diane Ferbrache

Tommy is "out" and comfortable with that, although this was not always the case. A couple of years ago, he attempted suicide. His mom and best friend, Maya, are supportive, but his dad is still struggling with acceptance. When the new kid at school is beaten and hospitalized because he might be gay, Tommy decides he need to do something to change the homophobic atmosphere at his school. So he and his friends start a Gay/Straight Alliance group at their school.

This is a great story about a diverse group of students who decide to take a stand. The lessons about diversity and acceptance are clear. There’s a sub-plot about a psychologist who comes to realize that her brother was probably gay and may have committed suicide. I liked that the characters were culturally and racially diverse and the message is clear and positive. It’s an easy read, but not so simplified as to be insulting to teens.

I do think, however, that the story sometimes becomes a bit heavy-handed and didactic to the point of “preachy”. Another minor concern is the quality of the art on the cover. I think it could have been more crisp and clear; maybe a photo instead of a painting would have been better. It seems to make the book seem lesser somehow. (But the painting is actually a good likeness of a teen boy.)

Having said that, there is a clear need for stories about students of color, particularly Hispanic students, and this series (The Roosevelt High Series) fills that need. The book is very readable with very little profanity and no sexual content that references to homosexuality and “liking” other boys/girls. This makes it suitable for all teens. I will be recommending this title to my students and plan to purchase others in the series for my high school.

PIÑATA BOOKS

Tommy Stands Tall's review 

Tommy is excited to finally be a senior at Roosevelt High School. There was a time when he thought he’d never graduate, especially after he tried to kill himself to avoid dealing with his sexual orientation. But with the help of his friends, he has accepted who he is, come out to his family and friends and is preparing for college next year.

 

But when Albert, a new student at Roosevelt High, is beaten so badly he winds up in the emergency room, Tommy can’t help but wonder if he was attacked because he’s gay. Soon, rumors about Albert are reverberating down the school’s hallways, and Tommy fears Albert might seek the same solution he himself did two years before. Tommy visits Ms. Martinez, the counselor who helped him come to terms with his sexuality, who reminds him about his idea to start a Gay Straight Alliance Club at Roosevelt High. Suddenly, he realizes how he can help Albert.

 

In spite of being busy with school, his job at the local theater and tutoring a young im- migrant boy, Tommy finds other students—both gay and straight—interested in starting a club to raise awareness and seek equality for gay students. But will it really make a dif- ference? Will they be able to modify the school’s anti-discrimination code? And will the group be able to help Albert?

 

Tommy Stands Tall is the ninth novel in Gloria L. Velásquez’s popular Roosevelt High School series, which features a multiracial group of teenaged students who must individually confront social and cultural issues (such as violence, sexuality and prejudice) that young adults face today. This is the second novel that follows Tommy’s story, which began in Tommy Stands Alone (Piñata Books, 1995).

 

Gloria L. Velásquez is the author of the Roosevelt High School Series, which now comprises nine novels, and two poetry collections, I Used to Be a Superwoman (Arte Público Press, 1997) and Xicana on the Run (Chusma House Pub- lications, 2005). She lives in San Luis Obispo, where she is a professor in the Modern Languages and Literatures Depart- ment at California Polytechnic State University.

KIRKUS REVIEWS

Rudy's Memory Walk's review 
October 1, 2009​

This eighth novel in Velásquez’s Roosevelt High School Series tells the stories of two Hispanic grandmothers who are experiencing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and the grief and mixed feelings that their progressive dementia causes to their families. Both abuelas are named María, and their individual journeys are narrated from the perspectives of two close family members. One of them is Rudy, a senior, who sees how his home is falling apart when his confused grandmother comes to live with them at a very small house. Rudy’s voice is compassionate and gives readers a glimpse into the life and traditions of a working-class family. The other voice is Sonia Gonzalez, a teacher at Rudy’s school, who is reluctant to accept her mother’s mental illness and refuses to put her in a nursing home. Gonzalez’s internal battle depicts an inspirational and positive portrayal of the families affected by Alzheimer’s. Educational and at the same time compelling, the novel raises teenagers’ awareness on a topic considered taboo among Latinos. (glossary) (Fiction. YA)

VOYA

Tyrone’s Betrayal's review 
by Delia A. Culberson 
February 2007

When Tyrone’s father, a habitual drinker, abandons his family after an angry argument with his wife, the young man feels deeply betrayed and bitter toward his father. Although a senior at Roosevelt High and formerly a model student, Tyrone allows his resentment and frustration to spill over into outbursts of temper at school, and much to his mother’s distress, he soon quits school and gets a job to help support his family. Enter Dr. Sandra Martinez, a local counselor who had casually met Tyrone through his Chicano girlfriend, Maya. At her concerned urging, Tyrone reluctantly agrees to meet with the coordinator of the newly opened Teen Resource Center, a man who has great success helping at-risk African American and Chicano youths. Skeptical at first, Tyrone is later so well impressed with this man’s good work that he begins to attend the Center and then returns to school. He even changes his intended college major from engineering to social work to help other teens. Eventually and despite Tyrone’s clear opposition, his now contrite father returns home, eager to make amends to his family by attending AA meetings regularly. Gradually Tyrone’s attitude also changes, and the teenager realizes how much he really loves and has missed his dad.

 

In this Roosevelt High School series entry, Velasquez’s easy writing style and true-to-life language will capture teens’ attention. The credible characters along with the well-developed if somewhat simplistic plot also make for entertaining and inspiring reading. The glossary helps with the many Spanish phrases and idioms used throughout. This award-winning writer’s highly acclaimed series provides not only positive role models but also constructive ideas for resolving social and cultural issues often facing multiracial teens.

CATHOLIC LIBRARY WARD

Tyrone’s Betrayal's review 
by Allan O-Grady Cuseo 
Volume 77, Number June 2007

The seventh book in the Roosevelt High series featuring multiracial characters in an urban setting is in the same vein as the previous six. The language is simple, the plot unrealistic at times, and the dialogue stilted. Yet they will have great appeal to the teen reader. They are fast reads, excellent for the reluctant reader, as the flat characters will be recognizable to the urban teen. The series is plot driver, not character, and the average reader will care less about those literary elements.

Tyrone, angry that his alcoholic father has left home, has to assume the role of the man of the family. His life descends quickly into drinking, skipping school, eventually quitting school, and hanging with less than desirable buddies. He does, however, pull himself together, and go to work to help his mother with the family bills. His psychologist, Dr. Martinez, introduces him to a man who runs a program for angry young men and the reader hopes for Tyrone’s turnaround. With everyone’s help, he does return to school with the hopes of eventually becoming an engineer.

His mother agrees to forgive her husband and the father returns home—much to Tyrone’s disbelief and outrage. Will Tyrone accept his mother’s decision? Can a person change? This novel could serve as an introduction to repentance and forgiveness issues and would create a fascinating discussion topic.

THE LATINO REVIEW OF BOOKS​

I Used to be a Superwoman's review 
by Roberta Gordenstein (Elms College)

In this eloquent and eminently readable collection of poems, Gloria Velásquez, poet, novelist, and professor, expresses her desire to experience life fully, to be her own woman, even at the cost of becoming Superwoman. The cover illustration mimics the superhero comic genre by depicting a determined woman with six arms juggling domestic implements as well as her university book bag against a gigantic “S” in the background. “Superwoman Chicana,” the title poem reveals the multiplicity of roles that turn her into “the super-pendeja Chicana, very very tired, and fed up.” According to Velásquez, for a Hispanic woman the only way out of a barrio, the fields, or the hotel rooms is a college degree: Edúcate mujer / Adelante mujer / the future is yours. Contrary to the expectations of her machista culture, she dares to leave her husband and raise her child alone in order to get an education, thus inspiring others who fight the uphill battle for liberation.

 

Otherness provides the context for much of the poetry by this Mexican-American woman. Surrounded by Anglo society, marginalized by her Chicana identity, Velásquez nonetheless takes pride in her heritage: “Children of the Sun, the earth pleasures in your burned, bronzed body. This is Aztlán / where my people were born / My ancestors didn’t come on ships / across the ocean blue.” Her response to the question, “Who am I?” is that she embodies all women of Hispanic heritage and history, la Malinche, la Virgen de Guadalupe, la Llorona, the undocumented woman laborer, the revolutionary Chicana, crying out for human rights and equality. The Chicana draws her strength from other female role models.

CBS INTERACTIVE

Teen Angel's review 
by Francisca Goldsmith

The author’s Roosevelt High series (Juanita Fights the School Board, Tommy Stands Alone, etc.) turns to the issue of unwanted teenage pregnancy and explores how a 15-year-old Latina, her family, and her friends cope with it. Like other books in the series for the most part, Martinez, a counselor whose miscarriage and resulting depression parallel teenaged Celia’s discovery of her pregnancy and the attendant crises that raises, has an already established but unexplained relationship not only with Celia and her family but with all her friends as well.

 

While Celia’s problems, and how they affect others in her life, are clearly presented, the approach here is uncomplicated and linear: girl is used by young man, girl keeps her pregnancy a secret, girl is shunned by father when secret is discovered, girl is restored to family through the intercession of an understanding counselor who also gets girl into an idealized program for pregnant high school students. High school students themselves will not find Celia’s story very engaging, although their younger sisters could. On the other hand, Martinez’s story needs a mature audience to appreciate her psychological misery and the effect of the miscarriage on her marital relationship. Perhaps the best audience for this book would be adults learning to read English who have advanced beyond basic literary but who need a simple storyline to follow through a text and concerns that invite discussion. Francisca Goldsmith, Teen Services, Berkeley P.L., Berkeley, CA

 

J—recommended for junior high school students. The contents are of particular interest to young adolescents and their teachers.

DEVON ELLINGTON

Teen Angel's Review

Teen pregnancy is a delicate, important issue. How can one discuss the possibility, probability, and consequences without preaching? How can one discuss the options? This book supplies some of the answers in a compelling form.

Celia is a young Latina woman from a strict, close-knit family. She is hooked on a soap called Teen Angel. When her best friend’s delinquent cousin comes to visit and shows interest in her, Celia confuses her life with the soap opera. The night she loses her virginity to Nicky is the night she gets pregnant. The boy dumps her after their encounter and leaves town. When Celia confides in her older sister, Juanita, her sister in turn confides in their parents, and Celia is thrown out of the house as an embarrassment. Her older brother, Carlos, takes her in.

Help comes from Sandra Martinez, a counselor Juanita knows. Ms. Martinez is reluctant to help at first because she is severely traumatized by the recent miscarriage of her own much-wanted child. However, she knows that without knowledge of options, Celia has no future, and that there are choices for Celia to continue her education and learn parenting skills.

Other writers would have opted for a tidy cohesion of the storylines. Sandra Martinez would have offered to adopt Celia’s baby and Celia would go back to being a teenager.

Fortunately, Velasquez does not take the easy way out. She gives equal weight to the obstacles both characters must overcome, both without and within. She never loses compassion for her characters, and she treats the situation with supreme integrity. In standing by her characters’ truths, she allows the reader to care even more deeply.

Velasquez created the Roosevelt High School Series to reflect modern diversity and encourage understanding and tolerance. This is the fifth book in her series, and one of the best young adult novels on the market today. It is difficult, hopeful and loving. It should be required reading in every high school in the country. May she write many more.

KIRKUS REVIEWS

Rina's Family Secret

In this entry in the Roosevelt High School series, Rina Morales lives with her younger sister and brother, her mother, and her stepfather, JosÆ’, who is slowly destroying the family with his verbal and physical abuse of his wife. After one particularly ugly incident that leaves her mother hospitalized with stab wounds, Rina goes to stay with her grandmother. Her school friends know that Rina has a problem, but only one of them knows how to help her: Tommy, who was able to come to terms with his homosexuality, convinces Rina to talk to a professional counselor, Ms. Mart'nez. Rina realizes that her mother needs to break the pattern of domestic violence, and that help is available at a local women's shelter. Rina and Ms. Martinez share narrative duties, and when the older woman takes over, the book is plunged into soggy bibliotherapy. Rina's chapters, however, are informative and believable enough to aid readers in similar situations, and well-written enough to entertain and enlist the compassion of those who aren't.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Rina's Family Secret

by Sylvia V. Meisner

The oldest of three children, Rina Morales lives with her mother and stepfather. When sober, José Morales is a loving and involved father figure. Drunk, however, he engages in acts of increasing violence toward Rina's mother and then toward her. Rina experiences the mixed emotions of anger and confusion; she is concerned for her mother and younger siblings and she cannot comprehend why her mother will not seek the appropriate restraining orders. The story is told from two perspectives: Rina's as well as that of Sandra Martínez, a counselor who has experienced similar problems with an alcoholic father. Rina's anger escalates to the extent that it spills over into all aspects of her life. The loyalty of friends and her counselor prevail, however, and she and Sandra are able to convince Rina's mother to take her children to a women's shelter where she is able to gain confidence and envision a future for herself. Velásquez touches on many social issues including teenage drinking, sex, and alcoholism. She writes convincingly of the teen's initial reluctance to reveal herself to members of a support group. However, the inclusion of untranslated Spanish terms is frustrating and the relative ease of the dissipation of Rina's anger is implausible given its intensity. Nevertheless, Velásquez accurately portrays the destructive cycle of domestic violence as well as the potential roles of counseling and social services in solving what may seem like insurmountable problems.-Sylvia V. Meisner, Allen Middle School, Greensboro, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Teen Angel

by Linda L. Plevak

In this sixth book in the series, 15-year-old Celia falls for Nicky, the older cousin of her friend Cassie. After she experiences her first kiss and loses her virginity, Nicky chooses to ignore her and soon leaves for his home in Chicago. After a climactic chapter in which Celia discovers she is pregnant, the narrative abruptly switches to that of Sandra Martinez, the local psychologist who also discovers that she is pregnant. The two characters come together when Dr. Martinez has a miscarriage and must find the strength to help Celia make decisions about the future with her child. The attempt to portray positive social events in Hispanic culture is laudable, but the message is lost as the author bends to stereotypes. The transition between points of view is awkward and leads to moments of confusion. The book's redeeming value is that the ending provides no easy answers for Celia. Best suited for fans of the previous books.

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HISPANIC CULTURA

Ankiza

by Katherine A. Diaz

Fifth in the Roosevelt High School Series, Velasquez's latest delves into a world of racial prejudice, integration, and friendship. In this tale, an African American teen begins dating an Italian Amercian boy. The reaction at their high school catches everyone by surprise. As more people are drawn into the conflict, everyone is forced to confront their beliefs and come to terms with them. 

 
 

articles

CAL POLY PROFESSOR SHARES HER STORY IN HER WRITING THE TRIBUNE

by Sarah Linn 
May 23, 2014

"Cal Poly professor shares her story in her writing" is an article published by The Tribune which explains Gloria L. Velásquez's writting inspiration. Read full article here.

FUGITIVO | REVISTA CRONOPIO​

Published Fugitivo 
May 5, 2013

Revista Cronopio is a Colombian magazine. It published Fugitivo on its 40th edition. Fugitivo is a fragment of Gloria L. Velásquez's next novel Toy Soldiers. Read full article here.

INSPIRING CHANGE | GREELEY TRIBUNE

Author Gloria Velásquez went to Roosevelt High School in Johnstown when the curriculum centered on white Europeans. Now she's promoting the sixth book in a series she created called "Roosevelt High School," set in a fictional city called Laguna on the central coast of California. There, a multiracial group of characters deal with issues Velasquez cares about, including teen pregnancy and homophobia. Read full article here.

YOUNG MANSON WRITERS CATCH STATE JUDGES' EYES

Girls’ letters to favorite authors earn honorable mentions 
May 29, 2006

People read because the experience changes their lives. That’s the presumption behind a new state contest, “Letters about Literature.” Students in grades 4-12 were encouraged to write a letter to their favorite authors, telling them how their work shaped their perspective on the world or on themselves. Two Manson High School students, sophomore Karla Pineda and freshman Samantha Etheridge, were among 11 students who received honorable mentions in the ninth to 12th-grade category. More than 1,500 students in grades 4-12 participated statewide. Instructors Mike Dewey and Jennifer Rayner gave the essay contest as an assignment to all ninth and 10th graders at Manson. Pineda and Etheridge are both Rayner’s students. “We are extremely proud that Samantha and Karla’s letter were honored,” Rayner said. Etheridge wrote to S.E. Hinton about her favorite novel, “The Outsiders,” a story about gangs in the 1950s and 60s. She read the book twice, she said, and saw the movie. The lesson she took from the novel: “I learned to accept gay people and not to judge them for their sexuality but for who they are,” Pineda said. “When my friend was gay and I found out, it helped me to accept them better.” Secretary of State Sam Reed honored the three contest winners in the three age categories—students from Spokane, Olympia and Stanwood—at a ceremony on April 18. “Children who are passionate about reading later become thoughtful and articulate adults. It is heartening to see so many young students interested in reading,” Reed said.

WINNING LETTER

Karla Pineda 
September 27, 2005

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Dear Gloria Velasquez, Your book Tommy Stands Alone is my favorite out of all your Roosevelt High School series. This book has helped me to accept homosexual people, and to understand them. It is very hard for them to come out, because they never know what peoples’ reactions will be.

When I found out that my friend was gay it was easier to accept him for who he is. I guess that it was also easier for him to have someone to talk to. Like Tommy, my friend also felt alone. He actually felt so alone that he was going to end his life. After reading your book, I knew that all I needed to do to help him out was just to listen. I encouraged him to just ignore what people said and to be true to himself. I told him that most people who were making fun of him were doing it because of their own insecurities, and then I gave him a copy of your book.

I spent hours talking to him everyday. I would talk to him before and after school, and whenever I could, just to see how he was doing. About four months later I finally convinced him to at least tell his parents; I felt they should be able to understand, since his mom always supports him in everything that he does. He didn’t want to at first because he was afraid that they wouldn’t accept him. He thought they might even kick him out. His parents didn’t take it very well at first, but they did accept him. He called me to tell me that everything went fine, and that he was really thankful that I had convinced him to tell his parents. It was hard, but I convinced him to get in to counseling so that he would have someone to talk to him or her when I wasn’t home. After a few months he called to tell me that everything was fine and that thanks to your book, he learned he just had to be himself.

I have learned so much from my friend. After talking to him about how your book has changed his life, I realized that it has also changed mine. Without your book I could have lost a really great friend. Your book taught me to appreciate books and now I actually love reading.

Tommy Stands Alone has helped my friend so much that he doesn’t need me anymore. Now when he calls me it is just to thank me for giving him support and helping him through those rocky times, and for sending him your book. Now he’s doing great, except I am the one thankful, for your book and for him, and for teaching me one of life’s really tough lessons. So once again, thank you so much Gloria for your wonderful book; I’m eternally grateful.

Sincerely,
Karla Pineda

INSPIRING CHANGE | GREELEY TRIBUNE

Author Gloria Velásquez went to Roosevelt High School in Johnstown when the curriculum centered on white Europeans. Now she's promoting the sixth book in a series she created called "Roosevelt High School," set in a fictional city called Laguna on the central coast of California. There, a multiracial group of characters deal with issues Velasquez cares about, including teen pregnancy and homophobia. Read full article here.