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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Haskell Himself is an LGBTQ coming-of-age novel written by Gary Seigel. It was 1966, and Haskell considered his life to be as optimal as it could get. Granted, his single mom worked all hours of the day and night, so they never really did get to see each other, but he loved the prep school he attended, and Miss Hogan, the instructor of his method acting class, had assured him that “he would be going places.” A spur-of-the-moment decision to visit his mom at the Real Estate Conference she was participating in led him to discover that life as he knew it was about to change -- and drastically. His mother had already arranged for Haskell to live with his Uncle Ted and Aunt Sheila in Encino, California. Before he knew it, Haskell found himself living with a real family, complete with a challenging younger sister, and faced with being the new kid at Encino High. To make things even more complicated, Haskell’s first kiss, which happened at a party in New York just before he left, was with a boy.
Gary Seigel’s Haskell Himself is a marvelous and compelling romp set in the late sixties. Haskell is an engaging character whose crooked nose, spindly body, and protuberant ears make him a target at school, yet this reader never really let those physical characteristics do anything more than provide a setting for his new life in Encino. I loved seeing his relationship grow with his Uncle Ted, who seemed to know exactly what to do to help Haskell adapt to his changed circumstances. Aunt Sheila, with her penchant for cooking prepared meals, is the perfect foil that makes this family not a stereotypical one for that era.
Haskell’s friendship with and crush on Henry Stoneman provides riveting reading, and the conflict Haskell feels in deciding whether to share his questions about sexuality with Henry makes the reader cognizant that attitudes about homosexuality were very different than they are now. Haskell’s fruitless attempts to fall in love with a girl from school cannot disguise the fact that he’s into guys, not girls, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Seigel’s story is well-written and moving, and his characters are true-to-life. I enjoyed every minute I spent reading Haskell Himself and only regretted that the story eventually did come to an end. Haskell Himself is most highly recommended.