The Loss of Innocence Store is a one of the stories in MLR Press’ Honorable Silence anthology, a collection of stories focusing on the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. It is more fiction than traditional romance, and is the story of a gay man’s experiences in the military in the early 1970s. The story takes place before the formal DADT policy, but it is clear even then the expectations for gays and the need to keep quiet.
The story follows the narrator over his years of service, from basic training through being stationed in Norfolk. From the beginning it was made clear to him that the “cutesy boys” needed to keep hidden, never showing their true selves to anyone. He distinguishes between knowing he is gay and actually knowing how to “be” gay, to live the life of a gay man, something he can not experience in the military. And though he shares one night with a fellow soldier in secret, his life as a gay man doesn’t really begin until after he leaves his service.
At the same time the story shows us this need to hide his true feelings, it also makes it clear that this man is first a soldier. Not a gay soldier, or a white soldier, or a soldier from Colorado. But just a soldier. I liked how Seaton shows us that despite the bans and what these men and women were allowed to say and do, underneath they are all soldiers and committed to service just like everyone else.
Seaton writes beautiful prose and the story is engaging. It really feels like a memoir, or a reminiscence, rather than a traditional romance. But it is well written and gives us a flavor of life in the military at that time and the challenges gay soldiers faced, and continue to face, as they serve.
Cover Review: The cover is just gorgeous on this one. Such beautiful artwork by Michael Breyette. Love it.