Oddly Normal, by John Schwartz (audio)

9781469257174_p0_v2_s260x420Subtitled: One Family’s Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality.

This is a memoir about the author’s gay son, his suicide attempt at age thirteen, and the general troubles that gay people – especially gay children – meet in our current society.

So…there was nothing new in this book. It was all stuff I’d heard before, all politics that I’m very familiar with. However, despite it being nothing new, it was really good material, fairly put together without a strong political bent. The topics were discussed fairly and in a reasonable manner. Beyond that, the politics were softened by more personal issues, as the book flipped back and forth between the general and the specific.

I enjoyed the book, even if I don’t feel I really learned anything from it. The only thing that saddens me is that I believe it will continue to perpetuate gay stereotypes. Being a gay man does not mean that you love purple, play with Barbies, and dress “fabulously.” It just doesn’t. And it bothers me that this seems to be an inherent bias in our culture. Being a gay man does not mean you have to try to fit into a culturally female norm. I don’t even like the cultural norms for straight people! People are just people, and their stereotypical and cultural norms differ from society to society. What might seem “gay” here might be normal somewhere else, and I fear that too often, we overlook this problem.

I don’t think the parents in this book assumed their son was gay from an early age just because he played with Barbies and didn’t like sports, but I do think that was a major factor in their thoughts. And I think this automatic assumption influences a child’s thoughts about his or her own sexuality – whether positively or negatively – in a way that straight kids aren’t influenced. Straight kids get to figure themselves out without their parents worrying about their sexuality from a young age.

I don’t know. It’s a tricky issue, and I think that, as far as things go, this book did a good job putting together a personal story and a history of bullying and gay-rights politics. I just wish, in a way, that with a title like Oddly Normal, there wouldn’t have been all this “my son is different because he acts like a gay stereotype” bit.

Performance: Book was read by the author, which is what I would have suspected (I looked this up afterwards). Also, there was a chapter read by the son, which was kind of nice. I knew there had been a different reader, but I hadn’t realized that Joseph himself had read. Ironically, while Dad did a great job reading – I suppose he could very easily hear the inflections in his own writing – Joseph sounded a bit nervous and stilted. Ah well. It was only one chapter. Overall, the performance was engaging.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2013, Adult, Prose and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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