H. Arlo Nimmo

Cultural anthropologist

Before Summer

Before Summer.  2013.  Chicago: Prairie Avenue Productions.

Before SummerBefore Summer is a collection of sixteen interrelated short stories about a gay youth’s coming of age in small‑town Iowa during the 1940s and 1950s. The book is an affec­tionate and sometimes sorrowful portrait of a bygone way of life in a small Iowa farming town and what it was like growing up gay in such a community.

The first story is set in 1940 when the narrator, Lach MacLennan, is seven years old and the final one in 1956 when he graduates from college. One story takes place on an army base during World War II and three are set on a college campus; all the others are in the fictional town of Tools Rock that serves as backdrop for the narra­tion. In some stories, Lach is the central character, but in others he is an observer of other people and the events of their lives.

Each story explores Lach’s youth as he realizes and comes to terms with his sexuality and the restrictions as well as the possibili­ties of his life.

ISBN: 1548929727, 218 pages.

“These beautifully crafted stories are a perfect, but not fluffy, summer read.”  OutSmart Magazine

“In a time when fantasy and cyberspace rule millions of 21st-century folks, anthropologist and writer H. Arlo Nimmo gives us a book of stories that is as real as life and as admirable as love . . . Nimmo’s stories are beautifully written and charming. His writing style, with its concise and non-affected language, creates stories that rest on the border between fiction and non-fiction/memoir. Not a thriller in the conventional sense, the book is no less than a page-turner . . . These stories are for anyone who loves good literature and wants to see the way the written word is skillfully handled by a talented author.” Portland Book Review

“Before Summer is an excellent collection of coming-of-age short stories that adopts an unusual format in describing the life of one Lachlan McLennan . . .  Each story stands well alone but adds to the overall profile of Lach – which is one of the delights of H. Arlo Nimmo’s book. It’s rare to see the short story format used so deftly: the strength of the short story to build up not only the protagonist’s profile but the lives and concerns of those close to him makes for a rare opportunity to delve into the psyches of all concerned; not just the protagonist’s viewpoint . . . What this means is that the stories center as much upon those who influence and touch his life as upon the evolution of Lach himself as he becomes not just a ‘gay person’ but a gentle man . . . By eschewing emotional drama in favor of mild evolutionary processes, H. Arlo Nimmo provides a moving series of explorations and encounters which (taken individually) fill in the daily nuances of people’s lives and which (taken together) create an overall portrait not just of Lach’s growth, but of the community’s interactions as a whole . . . In the end it’s not only Lach that evolves; it’s the reader. All achieved here, in Before Summer, with deft, accomplished creations of plot and character that make the short story format (like a well-done painting that looks simple but layers complexity into its subject) simply shine.” D. Donovan, Donovan’s Bookshelf, Midwest Book Review

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