Sunday, January 14, 2018

C.J. Janovy's "No Place Like Home"

C. J. Janovy is an arts reporter and editor for KCUR (Public Radio Kansas City, MO) and former editor of The Pitch.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas, and reported the following:
Half of page 99 is a photograph: A woman, kneeling with her ranch dog, in the middle of a wide dirt road that narrows toward the faraway horizon, prairie scrub on either side, weighty clouds above.

The woman is Anne Mitchell, who left her job as a legal secretary in downtown San Francisco and moved to Kansas after falling in love with a woman who owned a ranch in this starkly beautiful county near the Oklahoma border. Mitchell is among the dozens of people who shared their stories of activism with me. Sometimes that activism was loud and headline-making, like a rally on the Statehouse steps; sometimes it was a solitary farm laborer keeping the boss man’s 1,200 cattle alive while going through a gender transition.

For Mitchell, that activism was starting a chapter of Equality Kansas, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization, in the rural southwestern part of the state. Mitchell was spurred to take action after 70 percent of Kansas voters banned same-sex marriage in 2005. “I realized: all our neighbors hate us,” she says at the bottom of page 98. “They might be very nice people and good Christians and smile at you and cook you dinner, but then vote against you.”

Below the photo on page 99, I recount how Mitchell calls and emails everyone she can think of who is slightly progressive, inviting them to supper “at the western-themed Dodge House Restaurant on West Wyatt Earp Boulevard” in Dodge City. “Eighteen people showed up. Among them was Lindy Duree, a fifty-something reading teacher at Dodge City Middle School who had been troubled by other teachers’ response when a student confessed to one of them that he was gay.” Duree told me: “They kept saying, ‘What are we going to do with this kid?’ Everybody was shocked that I wasn’t more shocked about him.”

In the chapter of No Place Like Home that contains page 99, Duree, Mitchell, and a small handful of folks spend the next few years making western Kansas a little bit more hospitable for LGBT people. Like almost everyone in the book, they challenge what outsiders think they know about Kansas.
Visit C.J. Janovy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue