Summer fling, don’t mean a thing… unless? haha (Review: Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales)
Hi again, and to quote my good friend Obi-Wan Kenobi, hello there. We live in the strangest of times, don’t we? I’m a very pessimistic person, but not even I expected a global pandemic when I thought about what could go wrong in 2020, but look at us now? Stuck inside of our houses! Time flies but also feels like it’s going by dreadfully slow at the same time! Spring and summer, and possibly autumn, are cancelled! All this has made people do the weirdest things, like learning a new skill or another language, going on a weird self-improvement journey that has to be documented via their social media, or just getting a new hobby. Well, I’m not doing any of this, you can bet on me remaining my full garbage self. While there definitely is a lot, and I mean a lot, of room for improvement, I will not work on any of this, and I’m doing it on purpose! I will just do what I can to not spend any second of the day alone with my thoughts, for if that happens, I will be bombarded by a cacophony of demonic voices in my head screaming “You’re not good enough!” and we can’t have that, can we?
I started social distancing on March 11th (now that doesn’t sound like a real date anymore, does it?), and the things that have kept me sane were playing the new Animal Crossing game, watching Parks and Recreation and engaging with high-brow literature. Just kidding, I read Young Adult novels like the dumb homosexual I am (good for me and for my goodreads Reading Challenge). Among a couple of good and a couple of bad reads, Only Mostly Devastated stands out as my favourite read of the year so far. The book is advertised as a modern-day rewriting of the musical Grease with contemporary romance elements a la Simon vs the Homo sapiens agenda.. While it’s not a life-changing or revolutionary, it manages to portray a very cute and authentic queer love story, gives the musical it’s inspired by a much needed revision, and is a fun, casual read. Which is all I expected from it, to be fair.
I know you must have a lot of questions now, such as: What is Only Mostly Devastated about? Why is it this twink’s favourite read so far and why am I so attracted to him? Who really killed JFK? And who the hell does Gwyneth Paltrow think she is? Well, I have the answers to almost all of these questions, and I’ll try to elaborate on them in the following!
What happened? My memoirs of the 2016 presidential ele- oh wait this is a summary of the setup!
If you know the basic plot of Grease, the premise of this novel will be very obvious to you. But if all your knowledge about it stems from that one episode of Glee, as was my case, I’ll explain it. Just in case.
I actually watched Grease Live! on amazon prime after reading the book, and didn’t like it at all. It felt outdated, everyone was straight and white, and the story seemed rushed and messy, despite nothing really happening. Not even Carly Rae Jepsen could make me enjoy it, and that’s saying a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed a few songs, like “Hopelessly Devoted to You” or “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”, but those have already been musical-theatre favourites and part of my lip-sync repertoire (I spelled this correctly on first try!!) of mine before watching the musical. While watching it, I mostly just thought about wanting to read the novel again… because it’s just so much better.
Anyways, here’s what the book is about. Ollie and his parents have spent the summer in North Carolina, close to his aunt’s place, to support her and her family through her illness. Ollie is the baby-sitter for her children, while Aunt Linda is taking care of all her doctor’s appointments and treatments. While spending time with the children at the lake, he meets Will, a cute guy from North Carolina, and they start to hang out. A summer fling ensues, that lasts up until the day Will heads back home. Despite promises to stay in touch, Ollie’s texts to Will go unreplied. At first he makes up excuses for Will, thinking he might just have forgotten to reply, or he died or he got abducted by aliens. He’s on to something there, considering that all the guys I’ve been texting with at some point ended up being abducted by aliens themselves. Sadly, in his case, it’s most likely that Will is just seeing what they had as a summer fling.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Ollie’s parents reveal that Aunt Linda is going to need more help, and that they have decided to move to her hometown in North Carolina for at least a year. Ollie’s senior year is going to be spent at a new high school, with new people. What a bummer, right? As an awkward kid from the West Coast, he’ll surely have a hard time fitting in with small-town kids in North Carolina. What if people ask if people from California are supposed to be, like, really tan?
On his first day of school, he befriends a girl named Juliette who introduces him to her two friends Niamh and Lara. The trio is this novel’s version of the “Pink Ladies” from Grease, made obvious by them wearing a rose-gold necklace. While talking about summer flings, Ollie reveals that he dated a guy named Will over the summer and shows them a picture. They react… awkwardly. Assuming that at least Lara is homophobic, Ollie shrugs this (alongside his plans to maybe stay closeted throughout the year) off. They invite him to a “back-to-school”-party, where all the cool kids will go, and Ollie decides to come along. After all, what could go wrong? Well, he could run into his summer fling at the party, wouldn’t that be awkward? Well, sucks for him because that’s exactly what happens.
He’s part of the Basketball team and his friend group, exclusively male, show off by wearing their varsity jackets. They are the novels counterpart to Danny Zuko and his boring friends. Just like Danny, Will is not the Will Ollie knows and furthermore not all that enthusiastic about him being there. Since Lara seemingly has told Will about Ollie accidentally outing him to the girls, he’s not really too keen on hanging out with him, considering he doesn’t want to come out yet, neither to his friends, nor to his parents. With Lara instigating drama, Juliette nowhere to be found and Will shutting him out, Ollie leaves the party after an awkward conversation with Niamh (who takes a while to warm up to people!). From there on out, with Ollie’s senior year off to an incredibly bad start, most of the novel deals with Ollie and Will, and their feelings for each other, but also Ollie and his life at the new High School. Is Will going to come out? Is Lara really a stone-cold bitch? Is Ollie’s senior year really going to be a disaster? How is Ollie’s family going to deal with the challenges regarding Aunt Linda’s illness?
Balancing all these issues (relationships, sexuality, friendship, grief, etc.) seems to be something a lot of YA-novels try but fail to do. Only Mostly Devastated’s less than 300 page-length alongside the stories initial predictability made me worry about whether or not the novel would manage pull that off, without half-assing stuff, or dropping storylines faster than the Glee-writers. However, in my humble opinion, the story is filled with a lot of life and a lot of heart, which really make this at first glance basic storyline feel special in its own way. Coincidentally, “special in his own way” is how people at school used to describe me.
There were quite a few aspects that surprised me, especially the portrayal of friendships, relationships and the character’s sexuality and its impact on their experiences. I’m going to explain these aspects more closely in the following.
What if the theme was healthy relationships?
While watching Grease Live!, the thing that struck me the most was that all of the characters were very simple and flat. Most of them could be described in a few words, mostly relevant to their function in the musical. While Sophie Gonzales based most of the characters on the characters in Grease, she put in the effort gave them an actual backstory, the ability to change, and understandable reasons for why they behave the way they did. Ollie, the story’s narrator and protagonist, is not just the victim in every situation. The characters aren’t divided into good and bad, as they often are in YA novels. Just like in real life, situations are about perspective, and sometimes you draw the wrong conclusions. As does Ollie, a lot of the time, but unlike most protagonists, he actually is realising things, and we as the reader get to see that. Past misconceptions and bad behaviour are questioned, and he grows. And so do other characters. After all, they’re teenagers who screw up and do shitty things. And I think that’s more realistic than having characters that never mess up and that are only ever the victims.
A clear case for having a better characterisation than her Grease-counterpart is Lara. She’s the Rizzo of this universe, and thus, from the beginning a mean, bitchy person. She appears to disapprove of Ollie, to not want him to be part of the group, seemingly sets him up for heartbreak and drama with Will and is even more ruthless that her Grease-counterpart when it comes to shady, under-her-breath remarks. So, Ollie and Lara pretty much have the Sandra Dee-Rizzo dynamic going from the start. However, the novel actually provides a bit of context later on for Lara’s tough personality, and puts in effort to slowly build a good friendship between her and Ollie.
While Lara at first seemed to disapprove of Ollie’s sexuality, it is revealed that her reaction to his coming-out stems from her own tricky experience with finding and exploring her queerness. Her environment just hasn’t allowed her to fully explore her identity beyond getting drunk and making out with girls at parties and pretending it’s for male attention. Ollie sees through her and realises there’s more to her making out with Renee than that. Though his first few attempts at talking to her about it in private fail because of her shutting him out (understandably so), but after seeing Renee and her boyfriend at a party, she slowly starts opening up to him, while also warning him that he might end up in a similar situation with Will. Arguably, trying to belittle Niamh’s dreams of becoming a model and making it in NYC is not a great thing to do. In light of her getting her hopes about Renee liking her back being dashed, her acting out on her bitterness is at least understandable.
She slowly lets other people, but most importantly Ollie, see her kinder side, or uses her naturally mean impulses to defend her friends. When it’s time for a school dance, Will’s friends announce that Will is going with his ex-girlfriend and mock Ollie for probably not having a date (clearly is a jab at his sexuality). Lara speaks up and declares (she’s Blair St. Clair) that she is Ollie’s date for the ball. And it’s not just a joke, she actually follows through on that. Queen shit. Maybe not completely selfless, since she herself doesn’t have a date, considering Renee is going with her boyfriend, but it’s a sweet gesture between friends.
The ball itself actually marks a very pivotal moment for their friendship, as they both end up a little heartbroken. However, instead of sinking into their sadness (which is what I’m doing right now), they lean on each other. They end up sitting outside on the sidewalk, talking about how shitty love can be, especially if you’re not a hetero, and this is the moment where Lara officially comes out to Ollie as bisexual and talks about her crush on Matt before falling for Renee. They reverse the gender roles of school dances, with Lara gifting Ollie a necklace that matches the girls’ rose gold ones, officially welcoming him to the group.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this moment felt like a very authentic portrayal of the connection queer people have with each other, and maybe straight people won’t necessarily understand that. It’s this moment where there’s someone who understands a part of you that you maybe have to tone down around other people or hide completely. It’s knowing that you’re not completely alone, and that there’s someone in your corner. It’s not always necessarily a deeper level of connection, but special kind of.
Queer solidarity has become somewhat of meme with wlw/mlm solidarity, but I think it’s quite beautiful to experience. And sometimes it can even be as simple as standing up for your friend and making a hard night just a bit better for them by being there. Not saying that straight people never stand up for queer people. In fact, when Renee outs Lara (one of the not so great moments of the novel) to hide her own struggle with her sexuality, Juliette (idk she might be queer too, she has no love interest whatsoever) stands up for her. And when some weird Christian horse-girl makes homophobic remarks, the group joins forces to tell that “Live, Love, Laugh” bitch where the fuck she belongs. In the trash!
Ollie later sort of does Lara a favour in return, and tells Matt, who thinks there’s just “straight or gay” and no in between, that Lara’s flirting with him isn’t a joke, and that there’s actually more identities than gay or straight. Lara and Matt end up together without Lara’s bisexuality being discredited or written out, which is a very, very, very low bar, but sadly, a lot of books manage to not meet it.
Anyhow, there’s one more scene that I think was a very good thing to put out there for teenagers to read. At the ball, when Will hurts Ollie’s feelings by putting on a show with his ex-girlfriend in order to pretend he’s straight, Lara gives him a very valuable piece of advice. She tells him that even if someone doesn’t necessarily mean to break your heart, but keeps doing so over and over again, you might have to take a step away from them. It doesn’t make them a terrible person, but just someone who isn’t good for you. Maybe staying away from them is for the best.
With a book market that loves to promote toxic or abusive relationships and romanticise the shit out of them, or perpetuates the myth that a love that is hard and painful is worth fighting for, this one hits, as the Gen-Zs say, different. This goes for friendships just as much as relationships. Especially for young, queer people, I think this is a very important thing to hear. If you’re so used to rejection and then someone seems to like you and care for you, you might end up moulding yourself to try and please them and let them walk all over you (Been there, done that). Not saying that you should cut out people that don’t paypal you the 3€ they owe you straight away. But if someone does stuff that hurts you or they constantly make you feel like shit, it’s best to do the hard thing, and stay away from them.
I have so much more to say on this topic, since I actually grew to cherish almost every character in the book, but this article is already way too long and I’m not finished. So, let’s just move on to the next point!
Delicious! Finally some good fucking logic to the rom-com structure
As you probably know by now, the novel’s plot heavily focuses on romance, amongst other things. Of course it doesn’t revolutionise the genre of the rom-com-ish YA-novel, and so it follows a very formulaic structure, however, unlike other books it puts an effort into making the different aspects of this structure make sense. There’s the introduction with the immediate revelation of obstacles to the relationship, there’s the reluctance in the beginning that turns to sweet build-up between the characters, of course with ups and downs and backs and forths, then there’s the huge falling-out and dramatic disruption of their love-story, which of course is followed by a reconciliation, and a happy ending. So far, so easy. To quote my good friend Jasmine Masters: “Nothing new, nothing’s changed. Same old shit. Same old fucking shit!”
With Only Mostly Devastated, the structure already switches it up by featuring a queer love story. Sadly, we live in a world that doesn’t make queer relationships very easy, considering that queerphobia is a thing that exists and leads to, among other things, internal and external struggles with coming-out. Something that might make being in relationships much more challenging, or altogether impossible, for queer teenagers and young adults. Parental disapproval, loss of friends and impact on the social status with peers are obstacles that could impact queer relationships in real life. I’m not saying that queer people’s struggles are a neat writing device to make your book more interesting with, since that would be very exploitative of other people’s experiences with oppression.
Writing queer relationships can go horribly wrong if you turn them into mere plot devices within the story. Sophie Gonzales didn’t put these issues in to mess with the characters and add 100 pages to her novel, while whispering “haha queer oppression is such fun!”, I assume she used them more so to authentically represent queer people, rather than to fill a common YA-lit framework. But doing so successfully, takes a certain sensibility for queer people and our experiences. Sadly, few cishet authors writing queer stories possess that sensibility. I do not know the author’s sexuality or gender identity, nor does it really matter in the end. Though, since I do consider myself the Jessica Fletcher of *tba, I have done some investigations/read the acknowledgements and she does thank a person named Cameron. And that’s a name that works for any gender, really.
Whether or not the author is queer herself is not really important here, what’s important is that she has put in the effort to make the classical structure work in favour of authenticity rather than have it work as a mere plot device. In doing without unnecessary overdramatised plot points, she has created a simple love story that nonetheless provides a powerful message about queer experiences regarding love without ever taking advantage of the people she is representing.
I do get that, in trying to stand out on the YA lit market, many authors bend over backwards to create the most dramatic set-up for their novels. And yeah, in some cases it’s entertaining or so ridiculous that it is kind of fun (like in most rom-com movies), but oftentimes it just feels over the top or very, very wrong. This applies mostly to stories with white, cishet main characters, where the authors try to make bland, boring, dull, lifeless, stale, monotonous heterosexual relationships (if these were a spice, they’d be flour yada yada) interesting. While this can be a simple as *checks notes* creating a “what if love was illegal but like for the straights?”-dystopia, it sadly often goes into romanticising abuse. Like, if you and your partner are white, cisgender and heterosexual, there most likely won’t be any obstacles in your way (if you disagree, feel free to write a response article), so writers have to get creative to make their stories about (white) cishets interesting. For some weird reason, some writers think romanticising abusive and toxic relationships and putting two people who constantly fight and are fundamentally different together is the way to go. In the spirit of “We hate each other fight a lot, but we’re really making our relationship work!” Are straight people okay? Tune in next week to find out that the answer is no!
Luckily, Only Mostly Devastated doesn’t rely on such tropes, nor does it need to. The problems and obstacles that impact Ollie’s and Will’s relationship are not overdramatised, but rather things at least I found myself relating to. Will grew up in a small town in North Carolina, his friends aren’t the most open-minded and educated when it comes to queerness, and his parents, whom he financially relies on right now and most likely throughout College, are very conservative. To add to these external struggles with coming-out, he also hasn’t quite figured out his identity. Not coming-out is a safe and sensible option for him. His relationship with Ollie was a summer fling that happened outside his day to day live. It never really impacted his life at home, since it was on a vacation somewhere else. With Ollie suddenly attending his school, living in the same town, this situation changes. On the one hand, their relationship is something that Will wants but can’t have, but on the other hand it is something that threatens the safety and comfort he has found in remaining closeted.
Not trying to insinuate that being closeted is comfortable, but for some people it just remains the safer option compared to what comes with being openly queer, trust me, I’ve been there. So, it’s easy to understand why he cannot, and in a way is unwilling to, date Ollie. Ollie interprets this as rejection, which is a very normal conclusion an 18-year-old could have. These initial obstacles they and their possible relationship are facing make sense and could easily impact people in real life. Will’s fear of coming-out and the possible impacts on his live and Ollie’s feelings of being rejected and pushed aside are the things that drive them apart at the beginning of the story. .
All this could then be applied to the back-and-forth-phase, where they have cute, but secret moments, that then get overshadowed by Will trying to seem straight to his male friends and to his rather conservative family members. Resentment builds up on both sides, but for more valid reasons. Of course Ollie is hurt by Will’s attempts at maintaining a straight appearance. Will, on the other hand, is frustrated that he’s giving Ollie all he can give him without coming out, which goes unnoticed by Ollie.
The big dramatic fallout isn’t a tiny thing being blown out of proportion, or just there for the drama, but is actually a result from the resentment pushing them to a breaking-point. There are understandable points on both sides. The resentment and frustration on both sides boils over. Ollie feels like he’s been kept waiting for painfully long. Will feels like he’s doing the best he can but it just isn’t enough. These two feelings clash, and climax in a very movie-like “break-up”-scene in the car. I even think it was raining, but that might just be my vision of a dramatic break-up scene.
Their reconciliation then comes with growth and actually trying to understand the other person. Both Will and Ollie, but especially Ollie, learn from their mistakes, and do better. Ollie learns that maybe in order to appreciate Will’s efforts more, he has to put in an effort himself. At that point, the novel rushes a bit, but he is rewarded for his efforts by Will coming out as bisexual (to his friends and to Ollie), and makes their romantic entanglement public. Ollie shows up to one of Will’s Basketball games for the first time, and actually stays to witness the team’s victory, which makes Will so grateful that he can’t stop himself from kissing his boyfriend once he comes to congratulate him. Sure, maybe it was rushed, and if this was a story about the straights I’d call it tacky. But since this is about queer people, I think it’s really cute resolution to everything that happened before.
I have died every day waiting for you*! (*authentic, well-written queer characters)
Yes, I’m biased when it comes to this, but this novel was much better than Grease, since it actually involved queer people and people of colour. But the representation isn’t just a checklist that goes “okay, I’m gonna feature one gay, one bisexual, a few POCs, one straight theatre kid, one teen pregnancy, one character with badly-written OCD, a creepy teacher… wait a minute, I’m describing Glee. My bad!”
The representation of queer people actually felt quite authentic, and well-written (as already established in the previous sub-chapter). Unlike other YA-novels, it never felt like it’s written by straight people for straight people. The character’s queerness also wasn’t the sole focus of their lives and experiences. There are stories where that’s the case, at least to some extent, and I get that there’s a good intention behind it, but especially when it is done by straight authors, it feels like they’re trying to over-compensate their lack of first-hand experience. Like sure, if the story is focusing on coming-out, a focus on the character’s queer identity is valid, but even then there are other aspect’s to the characters life. If the story then highlights straight feelings towards the coming-out, and goes the coming-out party-“of course we are fine with it! how dare you doubt us”-route, it was never really about the queer characters anyways.
Like, yeah I’m the first person to say “I can’t sit properly, it’s because I’m gay” and “I have a lot of flannel shirts, because I’m queer” or “Are tote-bags kind of part of the gay-aesthetic?” but I’m not constantly thinking “okay I’m queer, I’m gay, oh did I mention I’m gay? Don’t mind me, I’m gay!” I have other experiences and struggles. I’m also poor and bad with money. In fact, I’m bad at everything. Especially eye contact and having conversations with straight men.
In Only Mostly Devastated, especially with the storyline of his aunt having cancer and the family’s struggle with the situation, not all of Ollie’s experiences were about his queerness or his feelings towards Will. Only Mostly Devastated managed to not push its narrator’s queerness into the background, without constantly reminding the reader of it. He faced challenges that were unrelated to his sexuality, as real-life queer people do. And so did Will. I’ll admit that the story would have probably put more emphasis on the narrator’s perspective if it was told from Will’s perspective. However, this is mostly because he’s still in the process of finding his identity. But the novel still gives him storylines unrelated to that, like him trying to get a nursing degree instead of doing a business major thingy, like his parents want him to.
Ollie, or the other queer characters, aren’t the odd ones out. With Lara, he has a queer character other than his love interest to connect to and vice versa. There’s this weird kind of thing where stories have one queer character and that’s it. Maybe they get a love interest, and then they’re living happily ever after with an exclusively cishet friend group (apart from them). I would find that irritating, not gonna lie. So, I definitely think that it’s a good thing that books like this one or Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (listen, I just have to mention it at every opportunity), manage to portray the very important and impactful connections queer people make with each other. While there certainly might be queer people who only hang out with cishets, just like there are “haha I only hang out with boys, girls are too much drama uwu”-girls, I feel like it’s generally way more authentic to have queer characters have meaningful connections with other queer characters. Might just be from personal experience, because I love having queer friends and highly value the connections I have made with them. I miss hanging out with queer people in real life very much. Anyways, to give an example of impactful queer friendships in the book, we should look at Lara and Will. Once Lara comes out as bisexual, it, in a way, helps Will with finding and expressing his identity. When he then comes out to his friends later, he says “I’m bisexual, just like Lara.” They were never presented as the closest of friends, but nevertheless, their connection had an impact on him. And I think that’s beautiful!
Of course it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Only Mostly Devastated has very typical moments of heartbreak, that happen to be part of the queer experience, but they are just that: realistic, heart-breaking moments that aren’t used as pity-bait to make liberals feel good. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, and straight people read it differently, but there were some moments that seemed like realistic sad aspects of the queer experience that I could very much relate to. Like, when Ollie’s aunt passes away, he finds himself turning to Will for comfort, as you do when you’re kind of romantically involved, he can’t fully get the comfort, since Will’s dad demands the door to Will’s room to remain open so no funny business can happen. Things get awkward after that, since even a simple act of being there for a friend after they’ve lost a family member is something that other people see as possibly wrong.
Then there’s a moment where Will takes Ollie to the parking lot of a café so Ollie can try on his varsity jacket and he can see him in it, without any of their friends seeing and questioning them. It seems like a sweet moment between them at first, but the way they have to sneak out and hurry gives this a bit of a sad undertone. We all have probably seen moments like this on TV and stuff, and some may want to experience that. Something as simple as seeing the person you like in your jacket seems easy to achieve for straight people, but for queer people simple stuff like this is just impossible to reach, no matter how badly you want to. These moments aren’t there for straight people to pity queer people and rejoice in being tolerant or portray queer people as miserable and sad. Moments like this just sadly happen to be part of a lot of queer people’s experience growing up, which made them feel quite authentic to me.
Once Will comes out to people, it’s also not this big rewarding, cathartic experience coming-out often gets turned into. Will’s parents tell him that they love him, without this patronising “of course we accept you, how could you ever think any different”-bullshit. Things are awkward and uncomfortable for both Will and his parents, and Will’s fear isn’t blown out like a candle in the wind. They have a conversation, and his parents leave with stern faces, obviously needing time to get used to it. Nor do Will’s friends get off scot-free for all their comments about Ollie, and jokes about Will dating him in the past. There is no coming out party celebrating liberal’s being tolerant of queer people, and oh boy, am I glad about that.
Conclusion (thank goodness. it’s about time, isn’t it?)
To wrap everything up neatly, I can say that I really like the portrayal of queer people in this novel. The characters feel authentic, their relationships aren’t sexualised and their queer identity isn’t the singular dominating factor in this story. The novel’s queer protagonist doesn’t insist that he’s “gay, but totally normal. I’m queer, but just like straight people and normal.” Like in the movie Love, Simon, where the protagonist’s queerness was blended out and then hidden behind being very normal, and very “just like you, straight people we are trying to appease to”. I can’t even count how often Simon said “I’m gay, but I’m very normal and just like you, straight people.” Just like straight people? So, he’s boring, greasy-haired and not very pleasing to look at? Got it!
If you’re also tired of straight people and their boring, repetitive stories, you might want to check out Only Mostly Devastated. It gives the very basic story of Grease a much needed makeover, and actually fills it with a lot of love and authenticity. With its less than 300 pages, it is an easy, pleasant quick read that can help you *points at non-existent camera* beat your goodreads reading challenge, or just make you feel a bit less alone in these troubling times! Trust me, even my bitter, cold heart couldn’t stop itself from warming up to this lovely novel. And the paperback is pretty cheap, so in a way, you’re saving money by having a good time with this book. Treat yourself and live a little. After all, who knows what apocalyptic event comes next? We might not have much time left! And on that note, I’ll have to go buy more useless things online.
-Robin was listening to “Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks while writing this article.