Book Review: How to be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters


Whitney Robbins, Editor

We are a society that labels everyone. If someone’s into reading, they’re a bookworm. If someone’s into sports, they’re a jock. If someone’s gay, they’re gay? Julian Winters shows just how problematic labels are in his second book How to Be Remy Cameron. Everyone knows who Remy Cameron is, and for a while, Remy thinks he knows who he is too; he’s gay, black, adopted, president of the Gay Straight Alliance, a best friend, a big brother…it isn’t until Remy’s assigned to write an essay about himself that he comes to terms with these labels and decide if they truly define him or not.

Labels are inevitable, but perhaps what matters is how we let these labels influence us. Race is often a huge label; for Remy, his is Black. “[He’s] not Remy; [he’s] Remy, the black kid. Or, sometimes, just the black kid.” He feels as if his skin color is the only thing people notice about him, hence the reason why it’s one of Remy’s biggest labels. Just like everything else, black people have a lot of stereotypes, such as what kind of music they listen to, or where they live. Of course, with Remy being Remy, he doesn’t fit into any of these stereotypes, but because he’s black, it doesn’t really matter to other people. 

In a way, his race clashes with his other label: adopted. While Remy knows he is loved by his family, he can’t help but think how being adopted influences his identity. He often compares his parents’ looks to his own. His “denim-blue eyes, light-brown skin, and thick eyebrows [doesn’t] match [his] parent’s features.” As a kid, he often had questions: “Why did that lady give us a funny look at the grocery store,” and “why do kids at school say I’m not yours?” Many books have adopted characters, sure, but there aren’t as many books from the adoptee’s point of view. It’s nice to read from the adoptee’s point of view how being adopted influences your train of thought and ultimately your identity.

Sexuality is just as big a label as his race. Remy is known for being the openly gay kid at school, which of course is something to be proud of (which he is), but it can be pretty tiring. He’s had to come out so many times to the point where “it became as basic as telling a stranger [his] name.” He never minded so much; at least until he realized how being called gay became as normal as being called by his actual name.

Winters’s How to be Remy Cameron is a great coming of age book. It really makes the reader think about how labels affect our own society today.