Books read in 2013

  1. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
  2. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
  3. The Jew Store by Stella Suberman
  4. Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan
  5. The Other Guy by Cary Attwell
  6. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
  7. Private Conversations in Neverland with Michael Jackson by William B. Van Valin II MD
  8. My Drowning by Jim Grimsley
  9. The Watch by Moonbeam McQueen
  10. Jesus Is Sending You This Message by Jim Grimsley
  11. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
  12. Joe by Larry Brown
  13. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
  14. The Key Is Love by Marie Osmond
  15. Scrap Metal by Harper Fox
  16. Life After Joe by Harper Fox
  17. Clear Water by Amy Lane
  18. The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B. G. Thomas
  19. Caught Running by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban
  20. Denial: My 25 Years Without A Soul by Jonathan Rauch
  21. Driftwood by Harper Fox
  22. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
  23. When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  24. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  25. Brothers of the Wild North Sea by Harper Fox
  26. A Midwinter Prince by Harper Fox
  27. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
  28. I Wrote This For You by pleasefindthis
  29. The Catcher In The Rye by Jeff Marsden
  30. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  31. Fire Birds by Shane Gregory
  32. When You Were Older by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Brokenhearted

In my opinion, no matter what the final cause of Michael’s death, there can be no doubt that Michael Jackson died of a broken heart, of deep and lasting pain, and that the principal twin causes of that pain were a broken relationship with his own father and the fact that innumerable people believed he was a predator who preyed on unsuspecting children.

- Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Honoring The Child Spirit

‘Help Thanks Wow’ by Anne Lamott

I just finished reading Anne Lamott’s book titled Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. It was beautiful. Anne has a unique way of understanding and elaborating on religious doubt. I could see myself in many of the pages, including the prayer in the following excerpt.

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say to God, “I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You,” that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said. If you told me you had said to God, “It is all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand,” it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real-really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table.

I like the idea of being completely honest with God. I tend to completely shut Him/Her out of the equation when I am feeling low spiritually. This has actually been the case for quite some time now. I also completely identify with the idea of recoiling from most people who believe in God. Even so, I still pray. Often in the manner Anne descibes. Short and to the point.

If You are up there, please help this person get better.

If You exist, thanks for my home, my partner, my comfort.

Wow. You really outdid Yourself with these beautiful flowers. I’m in awe!

I’m never sure if anyone is actually listening, but I do it anyway. Since reading this book, I intend to do it more, and in a much more honest manner. If God exists, He/She already knows my thoughts, so there is no point trying to conceal them.

Anne sums up her book and my feelings perfectly with a quote from Matisse:

I don’t know whether I believe in God or not. I think, really, I’m some sort of Buddhist. But the essential thing is to put oneself in a frame of mind which is close to that of prayer.

Special thanks to We Are Fambly for bringing this book to my attention.

‘The Watch’ by Moonbeam McQueen

mbmq_thewatch

One of my favorite bloggers recently published an ebook. I just devoured it, and you should too.

From the description on Amazon:

It’s Memphis in the 1970′s, it’s sweltering outside, and eleven-year-old Angel is trying to maneuver her increasingly messy childhood. She’s at the mercy of the adults in her world–a mother who’s on the hunt for a rich new husband, a cruel nun named Sister Claudia and a stream of potential step-parents.

There’s also her crazy father, Ray. He’s a dangerous man and an awful parent, but Angel holds out hope that one day, he’ll change. It’s a hope that grows stronger when he hints of buying her a incredible gift–one that could transform her entire life.

Weaving together threads of deception, dysfunction and childhood resilience, “The Watch” is a coming-of-age story you’ll never forget.

Books read in 2012

Books I read or finished reading this year:

    1. A Place of Yes by Bethenny Frankel
    2. Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin
    3. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
    4. Transparent by Don Lemon
    5. The Michael Jackson Tapes by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
    6. The King of Clayfield by Shane Gregory
    7. It Ain’t All About The Cookin’ by Paula Deen
    8. Bossypants by Tina Fey
    9. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    10. Older Man, Younger Man by Joseph Dispenza
    11. Remembrance of Things I Forgot: A Novel by Bob Smith
    12. Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories by Patrick Merla
    13. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    14. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
    15. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
    16. All That I See: The King of Clayfield Book Two by Shane Gregory
    17. True You by Janet Jackson
    18. Sidecar by Amy Lane
    19. The Fall by Ryan Quinn
    20. The Absolutist by John Boyne
    21. Featuring Michael Jackson by Joseph Vogel
    22. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
    23. Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble
    24. Unconditional Love (Seven Days Series) by Andrew Grey
    25. The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family by Dan Savage
    26. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
    27. Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
    28. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    29. Society’s Child by Janis Ian
    30. Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
    31. Boys by G. A. Hauser
    32. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
    33. Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama
    34. Ethan, Who Loved Carter by Ryan Loveless
    35. Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan
    36. The Convert by Oliver Broudy
    37. My Life and Other Unfinished Business by Dolly Parton
    38. Dream More by Dolly Parton
    39. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
    40. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
    41. Comfort and Joy by Jim Grimsley
    42. Winter Birds by Jim Grimsley
    43. Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley

A new understanding of coming out

I am currently finishing up a book titled Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories by Patrick Merla. What struck me the most while reading is how coming out as a gay person means something different to everyone. The accounts written by older gentlemen explain that “coming out” simply denoted the time and place they had their first same-sex experience. Today we worry about acceptance by others after revealing our sexuality, but back then accepting yourself as homosexual was the ultimate goal in a world where being openly gay wasn’t an option. As the book progresses into newer stories, the definition of “coming out” begins to evolve into what we understand today – revealing an often taboo secret to those around you.

Even though I am homosexual and came out to my family and friends many years ago, I found the short stories in the book offering a new perspective on what it means to be openly gay. Some men took years to overcome their fear of being ridiculed and marginalized by admitting their sexual orientation. Some grew up confused about what was happening within themselves. Some knew right away.

Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones, because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t gay. Being straight was just never an option. From around the age of five, I can only remember being drawn to the same sex. There were a few girls that I liked during elementary and middle school, but never in a physical way. I was more interested in emulating their penmanship or mannerisms than holding their hands or kissing them, yet I understood society expected me to have a girlfriend.

I constantly had crushes on boys. If a moderately attractive guy showed me the slightest amount of attention, I was a goner. Although I was technically a virgin until the age of 20, I had made love to many different men in my head by that time. There were several instances of fooling around with the same sex throughout my childhood and teen years, but never with someone I cared about in a romantic sense until twenty. Unlike the older gay men in the book, I never viewed my first same-sex encounter as “coming out.” That was something I did when I told my sister I was gay one night over dinner. A week or so later, after my parents left for church, I placed a handwritten note on the dining room table and went to my sister’s house for a few nights.

Even though that event marked the most important and gut-wrenching coming out experience I’ve had to date, I have found coming out to be a never-ending process. I constantly find myself in situations where I am revealing my sexuality to people – necessary or not. Maybe it’s while talking with my hairstylist about her lesbian stepdaughter. Maybe it’s when a healthcare provider asks if Honey is a family member or a friend. Even though it happens frequently, I still get a mixture of feelings; anxiety that it might not be received well, and pride because I get to present myself and my relationship with complete honesty.

So, while coming out might mean different things to different people, the one common vein running through it is the ability to accept yourself. Much like the saying “You must love yourself before you can love others,” we must accept and appreciate our own uniqueness before we can expect others to understand it. Knowing that, it is easy to see why so many still choose the security and anonymity of the closet.

The short stories in the book are chock-full of details and downright confessional at times, but they express the complexity and beauty of what makes each of us human. One day I hope to write my own story without censoring myself or worrying about what others will think; a brutally honest depiction of my experiences so far, a new “coming out” story from a guy who came out almost twenty years ago.