Sixteen-year-old Smiley Hanlon is a young woman trapped in a young man’s body. In the 1950’s Appalachia coal fields of Solitude, Virginia, Smiley is placed in the “Mentally Retarded Class” because he is effeminate and wears a blouse and saddle shoes to school.
Smiley is backed by his best friend, Lee Moore who protects Smiley from a father and many townspeople who hate him. Smiley has dreams of becoming an entertainer. Raised by his aunt in a juke joint, as a child Smiley sings and dances on the Formica bar top into the wee hours. Chosen as the female lead, Dorothy, in a new town production called Dorothy of Oz Coal Camp, his dream is being realized. The triumph of the play and his dream is sabotaged by his father and classmate bullies culminating in a tragic and horrific moment that changes both Smiley and Lee, forever.
Smiley and Lee flee to NYC. They learn that prejudice is prejudice whether in the coal fields of Virginia or on the streets of NYC. Smiley suffers at the hands of his real mother who is a religious zealot. She tries to change who Smiley is because he is a boil on the body of Christ. Lee suffers at the hands of psychologists who practice Aversion Therapy-electric shock treatment to cure his homosexuality.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Both Smiley and Lee become forces of change as do countless others. In 1969, Smiley Hanlon and his friend, Lee emerge as leaders of a gay revolution, The Stonewall Riots. The riots are vicious but the real battle will be won or lost on another continent: Solitude, Virginia.
The Grass Sweeper God is a force of nature that flows through all things…straightens out that which is bent…which is sick…
Targeted Age Group:: 18 to 80
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I penned the novel with insight into my own struggle for sexual identity and personal tragedy. My mother committed suicide in 1982, blaming her two sons’ sexual identity in a letter and declaring herself a martyr for intolerance and social bigotry. She referred to her own sons as “Gutter Rats that Could Rot in Hell” and represents the hate and mistrust that have plagued society.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The protagonist is based upon a fellow class mate that I grew up with. He was clearly transgender (a term not known during that time period). He wore women’s clothes & was beat daily by those who feared him. I did not stand up for him & regretted my cowardice, so I penned this novel in his honor.
All other character were based upon family members and those who have to fight for who they were born to be.
This godforsaken place was the backwoods of Appalachia coal mining country. And being sixteen meant a cultured age of about ten or twelve, really. Especially if you were retarded and rode the short bus. This meant riding a school bus designated specifically as the retarded kids’ bus, but it also meant boarding normal kids alongside retards at each bus stop. The only real specificity: If you were trapped inside the wrong body—if you were a young man who wanted to be a young woman—you were the bull’s eye in the kids’ cross-hairs because you were the biggest, retarded mongoloid excrement of ‘em all, really. Excrement being too proper of a word: Specifically you got the ‘cultured’ and ‘godforsaken’ shit kicked outtaya every school day by retards and rednecks. Proper language left this place along with any civility once branded as a retarded freak, really. Indifference to proper language and civility ruled the day, and brutality beat the night.
It was the first day of Smiley’s tenth year in the “Mentally Retarded Sophomore Class.” Smiley had prepared for his first-day-of-school-beating by donning Aunt Lettie’s blouse and his shit-kicking saddle shoes. The school bus stopped and Smiley boarded. Under his breath, he summoned God’s wrath upon those who would do him harm, those who could and would kill him, that he knew, he had known that since the first grade.
He clutched his school books against his chest. Even the simple act of a boy holding his school books against his chest was considered sissy in this neck of the woods, really. Real boys/men held their books down at their side, not clinging to their chests like a girl.
The seats weren’t full, some had only one person seated, but just as last year his classmates scooted to the end of the bench seats so Smiley couldn’t sit. The school bus sputtered forward and jerked to stops. And with each stop and start, Smiley precariously balanced himself. Each time the school bus stopped, kids, sometimes one at a time and sometimes in groups, filed past Smiley. They pushed him aside in the narrow aisle and crushed his school books into his chest. The attacks from his classmates had become more brutal through the years than just the usual spitballs that he knew would pepper his head at any minute.
Links to Purchase Print Books
Buy The Grass Sweeper God Print Edition at Amazon
Links to Purchase eBooks – Click links for book samples and reviews
Is this book in Kindle Unlimited? Yes
Have you read this book? Tell us what you thought!