IN THE FALL OF 1980, two sixteen-year-old boys in Verona, Indiana, fall in love, are outed and abused in a bigoted community, and commit suicide on the same day, despite the desperate efforts of their few friends. Their fictional story, in Mark A. Roeder’s young adult (YA) novel, The Soccer Field Is Empty (1999), is the root from which author Roeder has created an intricate tapestry of tales of young, mostly gay men, some of whom he tracks through middle age.
Roeder has two sets of YA books about Bloomington, Indiana. The first is about the Verona boys of the 1980s who go to college there, beginning with Brenden (Temptation University, 2011), Brandon and Dorian (2013), Nathan and Devon (2014), Scotty and Casper (2015), and Tim and Marc(2015). One of Roeder’s most moving books, set in Verona at the same time, The Antichrists (2013) features Elijah, younger and very small brother of Tom and Mitch who play football with Brenden in Bloomington. Elijah struggles to make the junior varsity football team and succeeds, only to develop an untreatable brain tumor that quickly is killing him until he is miraculously healed at the last moment by Jesus, who is temporarily a student at Verona High School, helps Elijah’s religious parents accept Elijah’s homosexuality. Why not bring Jesus in?
Robert Cummings Neville, professor of philosophy, religion, and theology at Boston University, is the author of books and articles on religion, value, and Confucianism.