A Boy's Own Story

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A Boy's Own Story
AuthorEdmund White
CountryUnited States
GenreAutobiographical novel
PublisherDutton Adult
Publication date
September 28, 1982
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages217 pp
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3573.H463 B6 1982

A Boy's Own Story is a 1982 semi-autobiographical novel by Edmund White.


A Boy’s Own Story is the first of a trilogy of novels, describing a boy's coming of age and documenting a young man's experience of homosexuality in the 1950s in Cincinnati, Chicago and Michigan. The trilogy continued with The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997), which brought the setting up to the 1990s. Although all three share a number of themes and are frequently considered at least partly autobiographical, they do not tell a linear story in the manner of some trilogies, and can be read independently of one another.[citation needed]


The story starts when the narrator, aged 15, experiences the physical side of young love with his twelve-year-old friend Kevin O'Brien. Although he is the younger boy, Kevin takes the lead in the sexual activity. Kevin's remoteness keeps the relationship one-sided; he forgets all about it once each session is over, whereas the narrator gets more and more worried about his deep feelings. As the book progresses, he starts to have cravings for anal penetration. The encounters between the two adolescents become infrequent and are pushed to the background as the narrator's soul-searching about his homosexuality continues.

Literary significance and criticism[edit]

Catherine Stimpson, a reviewer, suggests that A Boy's Own Story combines elements of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and Oscar Wilde's De Profundis.[1]

Paul Flynn and Matthew Todd call the novel "a touchstone in gay culture just as Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin was in the 30s, Larry Kramer’s Faggots in the 70s".[2]


  1. ^ Catherine Stimpson, 'The Bodies and Souls of American Men', The New York Times, October 10, 1982 [1]
  2. ^ "Pride and prejudice for gay men". TheGuardian.com. February 20, 2011.

External links[edit]