Our guest blogger today is Angela Ocana. Angela (she/her) is a fierce queer Latina, not to mention a saucy and sassy Teen Services Supervisor for Eugene Public Library.
Check, Please! Vol 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu
First Second, Sept 2018
Plot Summary: Samwell College’s newest freshman, Eric ‘Bitty’ Bittle, has handed in his figure skates for a hockey a stick in Ngozi Ukazu’s webcomic turned graphic novel, Check, Please!. As the newest member of the Samwell hockey team, Bitty finds himself in a strange world of straight men, steeped in ‘bro’ culture. It is hilarious how disgusting and gross college boy can be, and better yet, how Bitty deals with it. For the most part he spends his college days posting on his baking blog, fretting about the team, and learning to take a hit on the ice. Indeed, as the title implies, Bitty struggles with taking a check—or, for those of us who do not understand hockey, a hard hit delivered to block out an opponent. You fall in love with Bitty during his pie baking monologues and watching him sing his heart out to Beyoncé. As the book draws to a close, we discover the fate of the Samwell hockey team’s championship aspirations, and maybe more intriguing, Bitty opens up about his crush on fellow teammate and captain, Jack Zimmerman.
Queer Rep: From the outset we know that Bitty is a gay teen stuck in a very hetero world. The scene where he comes out to his teammates is not a huge part of the book; in fact, it is deftly handled in just a few pages, and Bitty doesn’t receive pushback from his friends and teammates. This kind of universal acceptance is what every queer kid who plays sports hopes for from the notoriously homophobic world of sports.
The book lacks any sort of sexual tension between Bitty and his crush Jack until almost the end when we meet Jack’s ex-boyfriend and ex-teammate, Kent Parson. This is the first time we can assume that anyone other than Bitty is queer. In fact, the end of the book is where the queer romance really begins, as Bitty and Jack come together for a series of romantic, heart-fluttering kisses and sharing of feelings.
Final Word: Check, Please! is one part sports book, one part queer romance, and ten thousand parts bros being bros. While I enjoyed this book, I couldn’t tell where its identity lay, and I think that could push it out of Stonewall contention. There were many serious directions this book could have taken but didn’t. I think voters will find it cute but lacking the oomph needed for a Stonewall nomination.