Francesca is sixteen and her heart beats strong. Has just received a ‘Hello’ on Facebook by an unknown person whom, though she does not yet know, in a short time will turn her life upside down.
Francesca’s heart beats strong in her cosy house in Bassano del Grappa, where she lives with her older sister, Beatrice, and her two loving parents who taught her the great values of respect for others and tolerance. Francesca also has a grandmother who, until now, has always loved her unconditionally.
She received that ‘Hello’, seemingly cold, from Giulia, an extroverted, funny and lesbian student from Bari.
The love story between these two teenagers is the absolute protagonist of The Other Part of Me, a book (not only) for young adult written by Cristina Obber and published by Piemme (L’altra Parte di Me in Italian).
The story that fills the pages of this book is in itself simple, exactly how the love between two teenagers should be, who are looking out to the adult world for the first time in their lives. Paradoxically, it is the simplicity and purity of this love to complicate the story.
Although the feeling that bonds the two of them is pure and carefree, Francesca’s parents’ views are not as relaxed, whom from tolerant and loyal supporters of LGBT rights, are transformed immediately into adults who are subtly homophobic, whose house doors will reluctantly be open to let that girl, who with one simply text, has managed to make their daughter so happy.
Even Francesca’s friends, except for one, are struggling to understand why her friend decided to fall in love with a girl, as if you could decide which person to fall in love with.
The love between Francesca and Giulia slowly blossoms, with expectations, desires and Skype calls, trying to desperately understand what a hug will feel like, a hug that will come only a few months after that first ‘Hello’ written almost carelessly on Facebook. Their first meeting, at the station, will remind anyone who is reading this book of the first teenage crush, the one that leads to talking nonsense that is also one of the most candid expressions of love.
“You have beautiful hair” whispers Fancesca.
“I need to trim it” says Giulia while grabbing a strand between her fingers.
“In the video it doesn’t come across this shiny” replies Francesca.
Then she adds ‘Let’s go” pointing to the exit.
“You’re tall!” says Giulia.
Francesca nods and says “Indeed” which doesn’t make any sense.
After that ‘indeed’ which didn’t make any, many more meeting followed, filled with kisses, holidays together, laughter and even tears and anger, too often due to the four walls that restrain their love rather than to real personal misunderstandings between the two girls, revealing to the reader the unhealthy ecosystem made of fake tolerant behaviours of our everyday society.
Why do you not look me in the eyes, dad, why don’t you do so anymore?
The beauty of this book lays in the dichotomy between the thoughtlessness of this love vs. the negative view of the society in which they live towards the two girls, which always tries to hinder them and make them feel bad.
It is precisely for this reason that The Other Part of Me should be read by adults, especially parents and/or former teenagers who have failed to neither fully experience a love, nor to totally identify with a book that talks about this love.
Therefore just as Francesca’s tolerant father of Francesca is no longer able to look into the eyes his daughter whom he loves so much just because she’s lesbian, anyone could find themselves in the same situation, discovering aspects of oneself that we didn’t know belonged to us. Similarly, all those adults who grew up without a representative literature can finally identify with two characters who, with all the simplicity of the world and their own strength only of those you love, defeat any prejudice travelling across half of Italy to find themselves, be together and live.
The importance of literature is precisely this: to tell stories in which we can find ourselves, maybe to also find a bit of that hope and courage needed to sleep tight at night when, after a long day of feeling wrong, you want the confirmation that of wrong, in us, there is really nothing.
The Other Part of Me is that light and carefree book that was somewhat missing in Italian LGBTQIA literature, which many teenagers, past and present, can refer to when they feel the need to remind themselves of those happy memories that were never lost, though often overshadowed by the lack of a pen that could narrate them for what they are and not for what they are (mistakenly) perceived.