Prizm News / May 13, 2019 / By David-Elijah Nahmod

Now I’m Here, by Jim Provenzano

Prizm reviews a recent novel depicting love lost and found in small town Ohio

by David-Elijah Nahmod

In his new novel Now I’m Here (Beautiful Dreamer Press), author and Lambda Literary Award winner Jim Provenzano paints a vivid picture of gay life in small town Ohio from the late 1970s to the early 90s. The book, now available in Kindle and paperback editions, tells a poignant tale of love found, lost, and found again. 

Joshua is a musical prodigy who was sickly as a boy. David is the rough-around-the-edges son of a pumpkin farmer. They meet when David steps in to defend Joshua from a schoolyard bully. Joshua instantly falls in love, but David has a girlfriend. It isn’t long before David and the girl break up, which leads to the boys becoming closer. 

Their first date is to a concert by the legendary rock band Queen, and they are soon deeply in love. Things take a sour turn when a school prank by David goes horribly wrong. He is sent to a halfway house for delinquents, and the pair are separated for several years. Eventually they reconnect as adults, moving in together just as the horrific specter of AIDS begins to engulf the gay community. 

“AIDS was and is the most impactful experience of an entire generation,” says Provenzano. “To ignore it in a gay novel, unless it’s set long before it or on another planet, would be inauthentic. I had written about AIDS from many aspects, including my own experiences in New York City, in three previous novels. But most of the novels and memoirs of that time take place in big cities. I had several high school friends who stayed in Ohio, or who returned there, and died. I wanted to tell their stories.”

With themes of religious intolerance, rejection from family members, and the sometimes harsh realities of gay life in rural America, the novel covers a ton of ground. For Provenzano, writing the book was an opportunity to relive his youth, much of which was spent in the Buckeye State.

“While I was born in New York City, our family moved to Ashland, a small town in Ohio, when I was four,” he said. “Serene, the fictional town I created, is smaller and farther south, but it is built from a lot my own experiences going to the mall to buy concert tickets, driving around with friends, and getting drunk and stoned at ‘the cool kids’ parties.”

Even at over 350 pages, Now I’m Here is a quick and easy read. Joshua and David come to life through Provenzano’s prose, as does the town of Serene. The story beautifully conveys the exhilaration of love, the power of music, and the profound sadness of loss. The book is also a slice of pre-internet life, when downloading music or meeting people online wasn’t an option. In those days people had to listen to the radio or buy records in order to hear their favorite songs. They would meet by chance, as David and Joshua did, in real life situations. The late 70s and 80s were, in many ways the last remnants of a more innocent time. Provenzano’s deft writing whisks readers back to those halcyon days.

The verdict: In Now I’m Here, Provenzano’s memories serve up a bittersweet nostalgia and a plethora of emotions to which readers of all ages can relate. 

David-Elijah Nahmoud is a San Francisco-based writer whose career includes work for LGBTQ and Jewish publications as well as monster magazines. You can follow him on Twitter at @DavidElijahN