Book Reviews / Canadian / feminism / nonfiction / queer / The Latest

Queer “High School”: a review of Tegan and Sara Quin’s memoir


Cover of Tegan and Sara Quin’s memoir High School. The twin sisters are back-to-back looking away from the camera.

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The first time I came across Tegan and Sara, I was working in a pizzeria trying to make my way through my undergraduate degree and work part-time, so I could put fuel in my car to get me to classes. It was a humbling time in my life. Side note: if you have ever wondered what it is like to get treated like crap by your customers, I can highly recommend working in hospitality. The only thing that made up for the sometimes awful customers and the long hours on the weekend were my work colleagues. Every one of them was kind, funny, hardworking, and supportive. My managers stood up for my other colleagues and me whenever we had issues, and always made me feel like I could go to them with anything. To this day I still keep in contact with a lot of the people who worked at that place but in particular with Adam, one of my managers. He is also the person who introduced me to the band, Tegan and Sara. For that, amongst many other things, I will always be grateful.

My favourite album of theirs will forever be So Jealous. The album has my favourite song — “Where Does the Good Go.” I played that song many a hundred times after my Dad passed away. Something in the opening lines — What do you do with the left over you? — kept rattling in my brain long after I had buried him. Their music is unlike anything on the market, and I feel that they can switch between grungy guitars like “Walking with a Ghost” and then synth/pop like their song “Boyfriend.”

If you are unfamiliar with the duo the brief rundown is that they were born and raised in Canada, are twin sisters, and are both queer (icons). When I heard they were coming out with a memoir, I was extremely excited. I was even more excited to learn that they would have an audiobook, which they would narrate, and that they would sing and play snippets of their old music.

Reliving high school would be tough. The older I get, the more I understand when people say they would never return to their teenage years, not for all the money in the world. It is hard to articulate the emotions that you go through when you are growing up. Everything seems elevated and more complicated. Family issues can deeply impact teenage growth, and no family is ever perfect. When you are a teenager, you are still trying to figure out yourself, and who that ‘self’ is compared to everyone else around you. To compound all of those issues through the added stresses and fears of queerness is only a testament to Tegan and Sara’s bravery in telling their stories through their writing and their songs, and also telling them so well.

Both sisters talk about their relationship with their mother and father, and step-father, as well as their relationship with each other. Like most siblings, they spent a lot of their youth hating each other. They both struggled with their lesbian identities throughout high school, and they tried to keep it from one another, even though it seems that they both somehow knew on some level that they were both queer.

No coming out story is ever the same, but I do feel that Tegan and Sara had support from their parents about their sexuality which is sadly not common for every coming out story. One of the things that come up in the memoir is trust because the twin’s mother seemed to suspect that her daughters might be questioning their sexuality. Still, neither Tegan nor Sara felt comfortable talking about it until much later. This meant that Tegan and Sara could have their girlfriends sleepover in the same room without any big questions being asked from parents. And look, that has to be a perk for same-sex relationships in high school, right? The issue of trust also comes from Tegan and Sara as they both seem to struggle with telling their mother and each other that they are queer. I also can imagine it would be hard to admit it to yourself. It is not something you want to jump the gun on and reveal before you are ready before you fully understand what you think and feel. Sexuality is also ever-changing. Sexuality is never static, and just because you come out to identify in a certain way does not mean that will always stay the same.

Listening to Sara and Tegan talk about their experiences growing up brought me closer to their music and their work. They do amazing things, and you can learn about that here. They also have the Tegan and Sara Foundation ,which helps LGBTQIA+ girls and women.

If you love coming of age stories, music, and awesome queer women, then you should definitely read High School.

So tell me, would you ever go back to high school? Why or why not? Comment below. As always, share the reading love.

Get your copy here.

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