As a teen, I relied on coming-of-age stories to provide comfort in navigating through what felt like some of the toughest years of my life. For me, like many of us, they are reflections of our own awkward beginnings, moments of happiness, and rites of passage. At times, they are glimpses of just how hard life could be.
It’s difficult stepping out of Richard Linklater's Boyhood without thinking about your own childhood. The film has received acclaim for its unique development and because it was filmed over the course of twelve years with the same cast, it manages to transform a familiar genre to a real-time story of growing up that happens right before your eyes.
It’s almost like seeing edited home movies (well, if your home movies had a budget) of the significant events that shaped your life.
While the film’s written from the perspective of the aging main character, Mason, it manages to preserve the integrity of the stories of other core characters including several flawed father figures and a mother who is strong and empowered.
Making me nostalgic for late afternoons with friends, getting into trouble and the anticipation high school graduation brought, the film prompted many memories of growing up and took me back to pivotal conversations with my father, sisters, teachers and friends. Despite there being so many differences between us, it managed to provoke images and analysis of my own versions of the events as any good coming of age story should.
Growing up, I had many favorite films about tough childhood years that spiraled into tough adolescences which grew into a somewhat enlightened futures. None however, ever compared to the story captured in my dog-eared copy of Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story. That novel seemed to know me personally and offered a great deal of relief in facing the confusing challenges of growing up as a gay adolescent.
For the most part, A Boy’s Own Story was the reason I set my heart on studying writing—hoping there was something my own childhood could offer a gay, brown kid growing up.
Whatever film you prefer or whether you’re a teenager looking for validation and insight or an adult looking for an entertaining story, coming-of-age stories can provoke a deeper understanding of our paths to the maturity of adulthood and beyond.
What was your favorite coming-of-age story?