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Judy Kiehart
Calico Lane
Judy Kiehart, author
Set in a time before sexual identity became a household phrase, Judy and her parents settled into a neighborhood called Calico Lane. In Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Lane, Judy develops attractions for an older girl. Year after year, the feelings intensify. Other girls want to kiss the boys; however, no one talks about girls kissing girls. “Don’t Make Shame” is the family’s mantra, and over time Judy fears her emotions are not typical and, if continued, will shame the family and dishonor the church. Judy ventures into adjacent neighborhoods searching for new friends, and like all teenagers, she strives to be accepted. She soon discovers that the Lane isn’t the only neighborhood where girl crushes exist. At age sixteen, Judy meets Karen, who becomes a mentor in ‘everything lesbian.’ However, this lifestyle in the sixties and seventies attracted negative attention. Not even Auntie Heley, Judy’s life-long confidante, can prevent her from falling in love with Valerie. Details surrounding Valerie’s sudden death in 1972 become blurred with Judy’s suppressed memories and marijuana-induced confusion. The loss profoundly impacts Judy into blaming herself and making life-changing decisions as cultural, societal, and familial norms urge her toward marriage. She complies, thinking the gay would disappear in time. Little does Judy realize that the pretense and compartmentalizing she started as a youngster would govern her life for nearly four decades. Struggles with truth and memory weigh heavy on Judy during motherhood and a volatile marriage. As the sexual diversity climate evolves, Judy leaves the union keeping her secret hidden, even as she begins a new relationship. Judy reconnects with Karen, who fills in the missing pieces of the events surrounding Valerie’s death. More than a lesbian’s coming of age story, Calico Lane shows it’s never too late to become true to the person you are—whether it takes several years, a few decades, or a lifetime.