Out of the Ordinary

Dan Savage, Author, Noelle Howey, Editor, Ellen Samuels, Editor
Dan Savage, Author, Noelle Howey, Editor, Ellen Samuels, Editor Stonewall Inn Editions $17.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-312-24489-7
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The typical adolescent experience of being mortified by one's parents or squeamish about discussing sexuality takes on an additional dimension in this collection of essays by 20 contributors who have a queer mom or dad (or two). The lack of sophistication in these essays is both the book's weakness and its strength--for these accounts, many by first-time writers, sometimes unintentionally show with dramatic clarity how at early ages the authors sensed and shouldered their parents' struggles. Among the most poignant stories are one girl's account of her loss of contact with a much-loved nonbiological ""mom"" after the ""mom"" and the girl's mother broke up; another girl's memories of her fear of losing her father as he began transitioning from male to female; and the tale of a nervous boy who has been told to ""smile and say nothing"" whenever asked why his mother lives with a woman. With the exception of Dan Savage, these narrators don't sound like products of the current, proud gay-parenting boom; many are the children of parents who struggled to leave straight lives (and marriages) and to establish new identities later in life. Despite a number of tributes to parents who succeeded in finding themselves--and remaining sensitive to their children at the same time--a pall is cast over the book by the many parents who did not talk to their family about what was happening or who retreated into the closet. One reluctantly perceptive nine-year-old, asked how he would define ""lesbian,"" is quoted as saying, ""It's something that happens, and kids don't usually like it happening."" (Aug.)
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