Finding ecstasy

‘Finding Ecstasy’ – a very biased book review

Norman Fox
The Author, Norman Fox

For my review of ‘Finding ecstasy’ I have to make a couple disclosures up front.

First, the author is my partner of over 15 years. This largely explains the aforementioned bias.

Second, I edited the novel and also consulted on the social media campaign accompanying its publication which gives me great personal pride in this project.

I feel strongly about the book’s subject matters, which have a direct bearing on culture, society, social justice and law reform. The book deals with a variety of controversial and ‘taboo’ subjects, from bullying to homophobia and from teenage alcohol and drug use to mental illness.

The book is based on a true story. The story of a closeted, young gay boy growing up in Sydney’s eastern suburbs in the 1980s. His trials and tribulations in high school, his discovery of Sydney’s emerging dance party scene, his struggle with, and the exploration of, his sexuality and his use of alcohol and drugs in search of a ‘good time’ and as a coping mechanism to dull the fear and confusion.

What if they found out at school? They’d all start teasing me and picking on me for being a fag all over again. My life wouldn’t be worth living.

There was no way I could tell anyone – ever. No way in the world. I’d have to keep this secret until the day I died.

Even though I lost all my inhibitions, and was surrounded by thousands of alternative couples, I still couldn’t reveal or face the truth.

I held Anna close and promised myself I’d never tell anyone I was gay.
‘Finding ecstasy – the true story of a teenage closet case’, by Norman Fox

The book raises a number of significant cultural and social issues, relating to how bullying is managed (or ignored). How young gays, lesbians and transgender manage to survive in schools where they are often confronted with verbal and physical expressions of homophobia. And our attitudes towards alcohol and drug use by young people, and mental illness.

Normally, when I got home on a Friday afternoon, I tore off my uniform and checked out my face in the mirror. “So ugly,” I thought as my reflection stared back at me. I had shiny metal braces and pimples, which I spent half an hour popping, squirting puss onto my reflection.

After I popped every white head I could see, I applied Clearasil cream, which stung like hell.

That’s how my week normally ended since hitting puberty and starting at Dover Heights High. Popping pimples is how I forgot about being called a “faggot” all week by the kids at school. Those words stung more than the Clearasil did on my popped pimples.
‘Finding ecstasy – the true story of a teenage closet case’, by Norman Fox

In my mind the book raises questions about the effectiveness of the legal framework in place designed to deal with bullying, homophobia, discrimination and drugs.

Finding ecstasy draftsAdmittedly, we have legal protections in place to protect young gays, lesbians and transgender from bullying, homophobia and discrimination, but have we yet achieved the right culture where such actions are not just illegal but also truly culturally unacceptable? I would argue that the higher than average suicide rate of gays, lesbians and transgender is clear evidence to the contrary. Of course, these days there are also many wonderful community organisations that work very hard to address these issues, such as ‘Wear It Purple‘.

As for our current drug policy framework, are they even remotely appropriate for a real world situation? Is the current policy focusing on ‘prohibition’ working at all? And if we accept the assertion that they have failed, why do we insist continuing with a failed policy? Is it appropriate to continue to deal with drugs as a ‘law and order’ issue or should the matter be treated as a health and education issue instead?

Obviously, I don’t have the public health expertise to answer these questions, but we have many experts who have come forward in recent years and recommended significant changes in respect of how we handle these issues culturally, socially and legally.

‘Finding ecstasy’ is a timely reminder that teenage decisions and behaviours are often irrational and innately risky. The book does not purport to provide solutions to these complex cultural, social and legal issues. However, it is an honest, and consequently sometimes shocking, real life account of the circumstances and triggers that lead to risky teen behaviours, including drug use.

Without truly understanding these circumstances and triggers, we are just stumbling around in the dark to find workable solutions, while young people continue to be the victims of bullying, drugs and homophobia.

Finding ecstasy paperbackThe book is also a warning tale of how quickly the ‘good times’ can spiral out of control by virtue of a random chance combination of questionable drug quality and personal susceptibility, or the loss of control and decent into addiction.

I sincerely hope that ‘Finding ecstasy’ can become part of the public discourse by providing an honest insight to all involved, from young people to parents, and from experts to the people in power who think they know what’s best in terms of public policy.

The novel is available in paperback and also as an eBook at iBooks, Amazon and Kobo.

It’s a real page-turner!

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