Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

What readers are saying about A Vigil for Joe Rose...


Gerry A. Burnie

I first encountered Michael Whatling's writing on Authonomy. It was with regard to the novella, The Last Coming Out Story, now published as part of a collection called, A Vigil for Joe Rose. At the time I was impressed by his skill, but finding Authonomy too much of a popularity contest cum paper chase, I didn't revisit it until recently. That's when I learned of Michael's published work. 

To appreciate the nature of this work the reader should first take note of the introduction, wherein Whatling explains that the genesis is found in his doctoral research, and that, although it is a fictionalized account, it is based on interviews with actual gay students, i.e. a "non-fiction novel," á-la-Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood."

In this regard, Whatling has done a superb job of shining the spotlight on the thinking of sixteen to eighteen-year-olds, who happen to be gay, out, and attending high school. Sometimes the `coming out' is intentional and planned, and sometimes it is not. "Losing control of the process," it is called in "Elton John, Uncle Dave, and Me," and that is a frightening process. "The Holy Ghost" explores teacher homophobia, and "A Lesson on Being Inseparable" tells the tale of a boy who is dedicated to teaching younger students about sexual orientation. Therefore, a wide range of perspectives are explored with the same sort of insight.

Best developed, in my opinion, is "The Last Coming Out Story," which probably best fulfills the "non-fiction novel" function as well. It is a postmodern take on the ubiquitous coming out story. How does the president of the school's "Rainbow Club" go from being the most popular student to the most hated? Though not for being gay.

So far. so good. The writing is very strong throughout, and one cannot be overly critical regarding the facts. After all, non-fiction is its own defense. However, when this is combined with the requisites of a novel (per se), the ordinary rules of entertainment apply. In this regard there was an overall lack of any real conflict. "Episodes in Fear: Mathews Story," comes fairly close, but otherwise there is no real `high drama' On the other hand, the factual account of Joe Rose's murder is high drama enough. (See above)

A compelling read. Four-and-one-half stars.

Gerry Burnie,
"Two Irish Lads" & "Journey to Big Sky"


Joe H. Murphy Jr.

This is a wonderful book about teens coming out in school. It will help them feel that they are not alone in the process of coming out at a young age. It will also help adults such as certain "administrators" and other educators see what is like for glbtq teens to come out in school. Then maybe certain "administrators" will do more to make their school culture safe for glbtq youth and teachers as well as all youth.


Dave Parker

Author Michael Whatling is an experienced collegiate level educator who has taught diversity courses that include race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. These courses led him to recognize the scarcity of research in this area that includes the voices of those being studied - LGBT students themselves. While working on his Ph.D. thesis, he interviewed students in the 16 to 18 year age group and elected to present his research as a series of semi-fictional stories based on his interviews - in the students' own words. They are all based in Quebec, Canada - often thought of as a very accepting community.

Each student's story is different, but with many of the same situations. Some schools and classmates were more accepting than others. Some parents and family members were as well. Each student reacted in a fashion dictated by their own fears and conscience.
Through these stories Mr. Whatling shows the reality of "accepting" schools and friends. It is his hope that school administrators and teachers all over North America read and understand his point of view - that our schools, even "accepting" schools, are doing their LGBT students a disservice.

From my perspective - recognizing that I am neither a high school student nor gay - this is an important work. I feel that I hear the student's voices. They ask only for acceptance and respect for who they are.

This is an excellent book. It should be in every school and municipal library, accessible to parents, students, and their teachers and administrators.

How much did I like it? My wife and I purchased it for our local PFLAG Chapter, even though we have my review copy at home. Highly recommended.


Paul White

I have just read the book for a second time and I don’t think this will be the last. It is a fantastic book.



Finished reading it today. A poignant yet beautiful work. I especially liked the novella "The Last Coming Out Story". I'm sure this first reading won't be the only one.