For a particular generation of gay men, author Edmund White’s semi-autobiographical novel, A Boy’s Own Story, is a foundational text. First published in 1982, the book tells the coming-of-age story of a gay adolescent growing up in the 1950s as he comes to terms with his sexuality as well as navigating a difficult, fractured family life.
Narrated in the first person and suffused with White’s signature lyricism and sardonic wit, A Boy’s Own Story is considered a classic of LGBTQ+ literature. Forty years after its publication, the novel has been adapted into a beautiful graphic novel by writers Michael Carroll (White’s husband) and Brian Alessandro, with art by Igor Karash.
“I think the story is still disturbingly relevant today,” Alessandro told LGBTQ Nation. “I’m not sure much of anything in terms of social tension has been resolved since 1982, when Ed wrote his novel, or the 1950s, which is the autobiographical years during which the story unfolds. Young gay people still feel alienated and threatened and given what has happened in the United States during the past half-decade, possibly more so.”
While the graphic novel captures the original’s depiction of growing up queer, Alessandro said that he pushed to include additional scenes of the narrator’s later life drawn from White’s later autobiographical novels The Beautiful Room is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997).
“It was important to explore the full arc of a gay man’s life from boyhood during that most dangerous and oppressive era for people in the margins to middle adulthood, where we can illustrate his formation as a resilient man with all the war wounds incurred along the way,” Alessandro explained.
Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story: The Graphic Novel is out now from Top Shelf Productions. In this exclusive excerpt, the book’s narrator recalls his friendship with a couple who owned a bookshop in Chicago in the 1950s.