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Highlights in the Charts

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Reviewed by Daisy Young

Firstly… Happy Pride Month!

This month is the perfect time to spread love and embrace our differences… and what better way to do that than with Douglas Stuart’s latest masterpiece, Young Mungo. This gritty, gay, Glaswegian romance will have your heart aching by the end, wishing this author would pump out another novel soon. 

The novel opens with Mungo preparing to leave for a fishing trip with two of his mother’s male acquaintances from Alcoholics Anonymous. The aim is to prepare the 15-year-old for manhood, but unfortunately, the trip takes a turn for the worst when both men assault and rape him. The plot jumps between Mungo’s present and immediate past, piecing together the story that ultimately ends with both darkness and light. 

This story is a beautiful but harrowing work, covering themes like religious gang warfare, alcoholism, sexual violence and exploitation and toxic masculinity. However, at its heart is the soft-natured character of Mungo Hamilton. Mungo is an innocent voice in the grim world of Thatcher’s Glasgow, a person who wants nothing more than to be loved by those around him. His home life is haunted both by the absence of his mother and Tattie Bogle, the person she becomes after drinking. His siblings look out for him, but Jodie has dreams of a better life outside the tenement middens and Hamish (or “Haha”) has a reputation to uphold for the “Proddy” gang he heads. 

Enter James Jamieson. Warm, kind, Catholic James Jamieson. In him, Mungo finds companionship, understanding and love – a dangerous kind of love for the world he lives in. The romance between Mungo and James is the essence of young love and discovering love for the first time. Stuart’s writing is tender and attentive, matching Mungo’s gentle soul and becoming almost poetic amongst the hard Glaswegian dialogue. 

‘” kiss lasted hours… Mungo knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life doing this, just kissing this one boy.”

Stuart is an exemplary author, that much is clear from Shuggie Bain’s success as the 2020 Booker Prize Winner. However, Young Mungo is worthy of the same acclaim. Much is explored in the narrative of this book and that is what makes it stand out as a contemporary queer classic. The narrative voice and deliberate choice to speak only in a Glaswegian accent sets it apart from other LGBTQIA+ books and I utterly adore this as a Scottish reader. For anyone building an exclusive pride-based TBR pile, I implore you to add this to the top of the list!

The Men with the Pink Triangle by Heinz Heger

Reviewed by Jenna Tomlinson

For Pride month, I wanted to read more LGBTQIA+ non-fiction. So, I turned to my local queer bookstore in Manchester, Queer Lit, which did not disappoint with the recommendations. 

Chances are you've at least some knowledge of the horrors of WW2 and the atrocities committed by the Nazi party during the rise of the Third Reich. But lesser known, perhaps, is the treatment of homosexual men and women at the time. Extremely few accounts of the experiences from this community have been recorded: perhaps the main reason for this being the ramifications that sharing such an experience would cause to those who survived.

Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community were imprisoned in the concentration camps and the true number of those incarcerated is still somewhat of a mystery, due to the nature of their imprisonment. A pink triangle adorned their uniforms, used to identify their status as homosexual and this symbol meant they were subjected to violent and sadistic acts of torture and depravity. But the criminalisation of homosexuality and the discrimination faced by members of the LGBTQIA+ community meant that the few that survived were later subjected to further incarceration and punishment. They were often ostracised by their home communities and families, as well as being legally vilified. Understandably, when Heger originally published this book in 1970, he did so under a pseudonym to protect his status as a gay man at a challenging time for the community. 

Heger's account of one man's experience of imprisonment in some of the Nazi's most difficult concentration camps is a deeply emotive and gut-wrenching portrayal. Sachsenhausen camp, outside of central Berlin, is one of these camps and having visited the museum that now stands on the former site of the camp, it was heartbreaking to put a real-life account into the knowledge I had of the camp. 

Today, the pink triangle symbol has been reclaimed by the community. One of the ways they're doing this is to end the stigma around HIV and now, in terms of HIV, U=U: Undetectable means Untransmittable. I was lucky enough during a visit to Berlin to see one of the only ones from a uniform known to still exist at a museum exhibit which focused on bringing more awareness to those who were imprisoned in the camp at this time. 

This book was a difficult read but definitely worth it if you want to learn more about this period of history or about LGBTQIA+ History.



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