Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (8/17)
Article first published as Book Review: ‘Stainer’ by Iolanthe Woulff on Blogcritics.
“Stainer” by Iolanthe Woulff is a flashback to times in the 70’s when young adults were looking to find themselves and be cool, yet still observe religious traditions.
Ben Steiner, a college undergraduate, lives in a communal house for Jewish students. He loves the atmosphere, customs, and peers who have the same beliefs as he does. Ben wants more from life however, and on his 21st birthday, he fights his strict religious beliefs and meets up with individuals who introduce him to the dark side of friendship, and how we often self-sabotage our religion and beliefs in order to be accepted by others.
Woulff does a fantastic job of describing life in the 70's as a young adult trying to come to terms with following cultural expectations of the Jewish community, wanting to be popular, the loss of virginity, and testing the laws of freedom. It is only human nature to want to spread your wings, test the waters, and sometimes push the envelope as one grows as a young adult.
Growing up in the 70's, Woulff's interpretation of the era was a trip down memory lane for me. The speech, fashion, and quest to be popular were among the common themes of some friends I knew in college, who jeopardized their own convictions. Not having much knowledge of LGBT issues during that time, I have since learned much. I believe that Woulff's writing on the issues of sabotage and being used by so called friends or groups still hold true today.
I loved the preface of the author's journey as a transgender writer. Starting out as Nate in 1978 and finally publishing this novel as a thirty-nine-year-old transgender female, Woulff provides great insight into how perspectives change. Remembering the issues and the avoidance of individuals who came out during that era, today’s society still has issues, but hopefully we have become more knowledgeable and accepting of people for who they are.
As an avid reader and book reviewer, it wasn't too many years ago I would not have even considered books about LGBT topics. Since then I have met many wonderful friends and authors who have shared their experiences on this subject. Sadly some of those individuals were not accepted by family or colleagues as their true person.
I highly recommend “Stainer” by Iolanthe Woulff. An emotional, insightful read, I loved Woulff’s passion, the changes one makes to find “themselves,” and the belief that “the grass is greener on the other side.”