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The Meadowlark Sings
Helen Ruth Schwartz
Harrington Park Press, 194 pages

The Meadowlark Sings
Helen Ruth Schwartz
Helen Ruth Schwartz was born and raised in New York City. She graduated from Queens College of the City University of New York with a Bachelor of Science degree. Shortly after her graduation, she accepted a commission as an officer in the Women's Army Corps, serving in the military for five years. Helen received the Army Commendation Medal for exceptionally meritorious service as the Commanding Officer of a Women's Army Corps unit, and later that same year, graduated from the Department of Defense Information School's journalism program as the Honor Graduate. When she returned to civilian life, Helen obtained her Master of Arts degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. As an avocation, Helen used her award-winning military skills to write for publications serving the gay and lesbian community. She supported her writing as a nursing home administrator, as a publisher of educational materials for nursing home administrators, and finally, as a real estate investor before retiring in order to devote her full time to her writing. Helen currently lives in south Florida with Mollie, a yellow Labrador retriever.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

In 2020 an American government dominated by the religious right bans homosexual acts. Thanks to mandatory testing for the "Scarpetti gene," the government identifies all gays and evacuates them to an island off the coast of California. For 35 years the two societies are isolated from each other. Heterosexuals born on the island of "Cali" are sent to the US, and homosexual babies from the US are sent to the island; otherwise the two populations never meet.

In 2055 Cara Romero, a young cabinet minister in the Calian government, is picked for a mission to the U.S., a first move in re-opening diplomatic relations. It's a sensitive and risky trip, complicated by a personal mission -- to find a lesbian doctor who chose to remain behind and work in the US, and who recently vanished.

Well, OK, the back story is silly (starting with the convenient earthquake that splits a chunk of land off the California coast, 40 miles wide by 720 miles long) but I thought what the heck, let's see what the author has to say about the many interesting political and social questions surrounding sexual preference.

For instance, what would a society made up entirely of gay people be like? According to Helen Ruth Schwartz, ideal. Hardly any crime. No more senile dementia (thanks to wonderful elder care). Full of gay men who are anxious to settle down as committed couples and raise children. Replete with good taste and wonderful designer fashions.

Simplistic is the nicest word I can come up with. The author not only has no clue about world building, economics, or science, she doesn't seem acquainted with basic human nature. In The Meadowlark Sings every human being is either gay or straight and there are no shades of gray. (Evidently there's no gene for bisexuality and nobody has a propensity for perversity.) People who have extremely responsible jobs at high levels of government have lots of free time to visit their friends and goof around. A delegate on a high security mission to a foreign country has so much privacy that she can carry on an illicit affair with the President's daughter without anybody noticing.

Background details are even worse. For instance, wood has become prohibitively expensive because of deforestation, but plastic made from petrochemicals is still cheap and widely available. The four million homosexuals who were moved to an entirely devastated and burned over land managed to survive without food, water or buildings (never mind an economy) and 35 years later they have built an ideal society, replete with good restaurants, fine wines, lovely buildings, and universal health care.

I wouldn't bother shooting the fish in this barrel if I weren't disappointed. The possibility of genetic testing for homosexuality is a real and alarming issue. Let's not worry about the science -- the case for genetically-driven homosexuality is not strong -- but if enough people are convinced that certain genetic markers are predictors of homosexuality, how will they react? We already have genetic screening technology, and in a world where female infanticide is common place, it's not hard to envision a misguided attempt to wipe out "perversion."

And what about sexual culture? Human beings already have radically differently male and female cultures that co-exist despite the fact that we live together in heterosexual pairs. What kind of a society might you get if males and females had no pressing motivation to interact at all?

Unfortunately, The Meadowlark Sings addresses none of this. It's an idealistic lesbian romance in which the SF elements are hopelessly silly and even the romance staggers because of poor plotting, purposeless dialogue and a complete lack of dramatic tension.

Copyright © 2006 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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