Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher #20BooksofSummer #LGBT @KensingtonBooks #ReadWomen

Standard
Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher #20BooksofSummer #LGBT @KensingtonBooks #ReadWomen

Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher (Lesbian Career Girl Series #2) by Monica Nolan

published by Kensington Books, 2010

I eagerly jumped into my second Monica Nolan book! Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary was a delight to read, though sometimes it felt just a tad silly. Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher felt more grown up, in a way, because she knows she’s a lesbian. Lois Lenz took 80% of the novel to figure it out (despite making out with women through the whole thing). Thus, I enjoyed Bobby Blanchard’s story a great deal more. Mind you, you don’t have to read Lois Lenz first. However, I would recommend that you read the books in order (there are 4 lesbian career girl novels) for maximum enjoyment.

best lois lenz

It’s 1964 and we learn that Bobby Blanchard is a field hockey player. She played in high school and college, but then a stupid accident causes her to break a bone, leaving her unable to go pro. Now what does she do? Going pro was her whole plan, despite majoring in teaching in college. Miss Watkins, a guidance counselor (who was the guidance counselor in Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary) visits Bobby in the hospital and reminds the sad athlete of her teaching credentials — and says there is an opening for a gym teacher at Metamora Academy for girls! (By the way: Bobby and Lois did not go to the same high school, so Miss Watkins is a bit like a guardian angel guidance counselor for lesbians, which I find funny).

Bobby has concerns about being a teacher, though:

“But my grades — my brains –” Bobby struggled to express herself. “A teacher has to be smart.” How she’d sweated over those lesson plan assignments in Pedagogy II, how lost she’d felt when the class discussed the pros and cons of module-based teaching!

But off to Metamora she goes. I’m not sure if all academies have the same labels, but instead of “gym teacher,” Bobby is the “Games Mistress.” Instead of grade levels, like 9th or freshman, the girls are “formers,” as in “4th formers.” I could never keep track of what each form meant, which made it hard to image the students’ ages. The alternative titles were something I did not enjoy.

Miss Watkins, the guidance counselor, almost never gets it wrong when she advises young lesbians! But not all the Metamora faculty are that excited by newbie Bobby, especially the new Math Mistress, Enid:

“And when you teach something as basic as gym, you can always tell them to do laps when you run out of material. . . .That’s what my high school gym teacher used to do.”

How insulting to Bobby! Author Monica Nolan seems to enjoy writing the prim, snippy, librarian-type. In Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary it was Netta Bean. In Bobby’s world, it’s Enid. When there is always a know-it-all with a secret and a grudge in Nolan’s novels, readers can predict that the librarian may let her hair down and whip off her glasses for some between-the-sheets fun. Sometimes, the stereotype helps with expectations, and Nolan uses the sexy librarian stereotype beautifully.

bobby blanchard

Another distinct aspect of the world Nolan created is that everyone is lesbian, gay, or bisexual. You can guarantee that married or not, man or woman, teenager or adult, everyone is (note that very few men appear in Nolan’s novels). Nolan doesn’t make her character’s sexuality much of a secret, either, which is interesting. You just keep reading and become part of a world in which no one is straight, and it all is perfectly normal. You don’t have to wonder who’s point of view is the focus; it’s the titular character, and she’s a lesbian who doesn’t feel shame. I still remember Lois Lenz declaring, “I’m a lesbian career girl, too!” and feeling very excited about such a world.

Nolan does add a lot of subplots and points of contention to keep the story going like a mystery novel. When the mystery was solved at the end of Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary, I thought it was a bit silly. Some subplots circling Bobby’s life are:

  • How to integrate “Angle,” a frustrated teen with divorced parents who are of different faiths, with the other girls.
  • The Headmistress whose lover fell (or jumped!) from the tower last term and was killed.
  • The new field hockey team with most inexperienced players that Bobby put together at Metamora that keeps winning — because terrible “accidents” happen to the other teams’ players.
  • The ghost on the glowing bicycle.
  • Who stole one of the girl’s beloved locket.
  • A student who keeps buying Ouiji boards to summon the dead.

There’s a lot to take in! I’m not sure why Nolan heaps it on, but she did in both Lois Lenz and Bobby Blanchard. Piling on subplots was something I noticed in the mystery novel Terror in Taffeta. I want to call the Lesbian Career Girls series “cozy mysteries.” There is sex, but it’s mostly off page. There is almost zero violence. Things are wrapped up happily in the end. Perhaps plenty of subplots to misdirect readers is a key ingredient of a cozy mystery, one that other readers will appreciate more than I did. On a positive note, the books aren’t about the mystery, though; it’s about watching the main character develop into a stronger woman (YES!).

Most notably, Bobby Blanchard is just plain fun and funny. She’s always using sports metaphors to explain her feelings about other women. Early in the book Bobby meets up with her girlfriend, Elaine, a young woman who refuses to be seen in public with Bobby. Elaine wants to marry a boy so her father, who has lots of money, will stop threatening to send Elaine to college if she won’t get hitched (Elaine loves being lazy and having money). In reality, Elaine says, she will keep sneaking off to have sex with Bobby and marry some guy with even more money! The gym teacher let’s her have it:

“You may not be off the team, but your team loyalty is certainly in question!” Bobby responded hotly.

Elaine’s temper, never placid, began to fray. “Maybe I need a more competent coach,” she shot back. “One who understands the point of the game!”

“What are you saying?” demanded Bobby indignantly. “Are you implying my ball-handing skills are slipping? Why, I taught you everything you know! Your technique, your wide knowledge of plays…”

Keep in mind, they’re talking about whether or not Elaine is a traitor to lesbians, and if Bobby is sexually experienced enough. The metaphor goes on for just long enough to have any reader in stitches!

Furthermore, Nolan includes other bi-sexual women in the book who want Bobby in bed but not public, giving the reader serious food for thought. There is no shame in the characters regarding their sexuality, but the 1964 setting means society may have something to say about two women (and at one point there is a raid on a lesbian bar). Society is never one character; it’s a presence, though, allowing Nolan to overlap her imagined world and reality. In a way, Nolan asks the reader to consider her attitude toward LGBT couples — and not just feeling liberal, but actually seeing LGBT couples in public and not making untoward comments.

Monica Nolan does some fun world building when Miss Watkins, the guidance counselor from the beginning of the book, runs into Bobby while she is with Netta Bean, one of the main characters of Lois Lenz! Netta is a teacher, too, so she tries to help Bobby feel better about yelling unreasonably at her students by sharing some mistakes she’s made, including when she “failed to take a student’s threat to the assassinate the principal seriously.” The author keeps the characters just over-the-top to move you to gently snort with laughter. And the cross-over of the author’s novels is such a delight to read! I feel like I’ve run into an old friend, since I learned so much about Netta before.

Bobby Blanchard is an enjoyable read, one that I was happier to pick up and read to my husband each night than Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary. Beware: Bobby’s story is definitely more risque: she knows she’s a lesbian, she is promiscuous, and at one point has a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student (legal, but questionable ethically). Overall, though, a great, fun book!

20booksfinal

#20BooksofSummer

This book was read as part of Cathy 746‘s challenge to read 20 books between June 1st and September 5th.

Here’s the roster:

  1. Harley and Me by Bernadette Murphy
  2. On Air by Robin Stratton
  3. Single Stroke Seven by Lavinia Ludlow
  4. Girls of Usually by Lori Horvitz
  5. Retelling by Tsipi Keller
  6. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
  7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  8. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  9. Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol
  10. Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper
  11. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  12. Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  13. Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  14. Anne of Windy Poplars by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  15. Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  16. Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  17. Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  18. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  19. Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher by Monica Nolan
  20. Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore Review on Goodreads, as Grab the Lapels is a ladies only site! 🙂 I had to read Fluke earlier than I originally planned because book club was 8/28. *Rilla of Ingleside is still coming!*
Advertisements

31 responses »

  1. You’re cutting it close, but I’m sure you’re going to make it. Rilla will read quickly for you, I’m sure.

    Delightful, then? But sometimes a tad too silly? It’s a fine line, isn’t it. Maybe if one read it over a longer period of time, so that the sillness was spread out, it’d be more enjoyable? It sounds like it’s bound to be that way really. It reminds me another series that I’ve heard about, which is about spies in Washington, not gym teachers: this one strikes me as the same kind of entertainment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll probably post my last review on Sunday and then do a wrap up of the experience on Sept. 5th. This series is very spoofy, and each one is about a different career: secretary, gym teacher, debutante, landlady. 🙂

      Like

    • They’re really fun to read, and the sex scenes are never in detail. Someone might “go up” someone else’s blouse, but it’s not graphic. The mystery aspect always sounds like a cozy mystery to me. The real trouble is who is poisoning the other field hockey teams, and is there a ghost.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I remember your review for the Lesbian Secretary! I guess I’ve been following your blog for a while now 🙂
    I don’t think I’ve read a book in which all notable characters are Queer, that’s a really interesting concept, especially for a book set in the 60s.
    Congrats on almost being done with your summer reading challenge.
    How are you going to celebrate when you complete it?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These book covers look so vintage and fun! I already get the impression that these are quick read books meant to be enjoyed in a couple of sittings, like cozy mysteries, which you allude to in your review. How refreshing though, to read a book that is so open with the sexuality of its characters and I admit, I kind of like the idea that women are the focus and men are in the background. I did not realize you’re blog is ladies only. Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, ladies only, which is why poor Christopher Moore and Jonathan Kozol are merely footnotes, lol. I had to read Kozol to prepare for the semester, and Moore was a book club pick, so they went into my #20BooksofSummer challenge. These books can be quick reads, though I wouldn’t know because I would read aloud to my husband before bed. We usually did 1-2 chapters per night. You know what’s weird is that when I’m reading these books, I never feel threatened. I’m sure it’s because I’m a woman, but not having men around really does make a big difference in terms of feeling safe in an environment. At the all-women’s college where I used to teach, it dawned on me one day that I didn’t look back when I walked on campus, something I do frequently everywhere else.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You read such interesting books! And, I agree with Vijayalakshmi and Naz -the idea of a society in which no one is straight is pretty cool. I would never have picked one of these up based on its cover, though. They remind me of old book covers for kids, like Sweet Valley High or something.

    One book to go!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This book was a blast. I noticed fun word choices throughout that made cheeky references to the hook for the series. The mysteries were a fun element to the book that gave the characters something to do other than experience the drama of a high school that happens to be oddly absent of straight people. I was worried things would veer into cheesy territory, but it never got beyond the kind of campy that had to come with this kind of story. I can’t want to read the next one!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Rilla of Ingleside #20BooksofSummer #WWI | Grab the Lapels

  7. I love the idea of a series where all the characters are either lesbian, gay or bi. Though I think my favourite thing about this one might be the tagline on the cover. “She schooled them in field hockey …and desire.’ So deliciously cheesy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: #20BooksofSummer DONE! Congrats on a solid season of reading and reviewing, everyone! | Grab the Lapels

  9. Hey there GTL! Hope you are doing well! Lovely review! Is it strange that the cover art reminds me of a Nancy Drew novel? The more I think about it the more a detective lesbian mystery sounds hilarious: “Sarah Smith, Lesbian Private Investigator” 🙂 I definitely think I will be picking up this series. It reminds me a lot of Beautiful Ape Girl Baby, and how Fowler used humor to address close-mindedness in our society. Congratulations on finishing your summer challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Maxie Mainwaring #LGBT #ownvoices | Grab the Lapels

  11. Pingback: 2016: One for the Books! | Grab the Lapels

I value your thoughts! Share them here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s