Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 13 Mar 13 18:46
John, Congratulations and thank you. Call helicopter parents names, but coming from the side where we can't get parents to come in and sign the necessary paperwork to get kids help, it's wonderful when parents are true advocates for their kids and partners with the school.
Scott Underwood (esau) Thu 14 Mar 13 06:24
Building on <fsquared>'s question, there are surely a few dozens of people who know Joseph and the rest of the family, and who know the identity of the teachers you kept anonymous in the book. You've likely heard other anecdotes about them from other parents and former students, but have you heard *from* them?
Jessica Mann Gutteridge (jessica) Thu 14 Mar 13 15:16
Count me as another who raced through this book. I especially loved the supplement at the end -- will not spoil for those still reading. Even if you're not dealing with issues directly on point to Joe's, I think this is a story that many, many parents can feel close to, whether it's grappling with schools and teachers or worrying about how to help your child when you see him or her struggling. It's a real gift of John's as a writer to make these stories both specific and universal. Joe has been such a terrific ambassador for the book since it came out. I predict great things for that young man. How have your other kids reacted?
Julie Rehmeyer (jrehmeyer) Thu 14 Mar 13 15:47
I'd also love to hear about the effect the experience of publishing the book, and playing ambassador for it, has had on Joe.
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Thu 14 Mar 13 18:51
sorry that the day got away from me, guys! Let me start in on this: "all boy." In the way you discuss it, Brady, I see how it could offend. Obviously, Joe was a boy; he was just a very effeminate boy. In a world where traits like "girly" are easily understood, it didn't cross my mind. Now I think that it probably should have. I was happier with the sentence in which I said Sam had "a lot of yang," which got the same idea across. But I didn't mean to imply Joe was less of anything. We had such a strong example of those boy-snips-and-snails-rough-and-tumble qualities in Sammy, and so little of that in Joe, those classic "boy" traits. I can tell you that Joe didn't say anything about the phrase when he read it in the book, and I haven't had any of the gay men who have written to me about how the book described their childhood tell me that the phrase bothered them.
John Schwartz (jswatz) Thu 14 Mar 13 19:02
<scribbled by jswatz Thu 14 Mar 13 19:25>
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Thu 14 Mar 13 19:05
The other kids have reacted well to the book! I showed to them, of course, when the manuscript was done, and they had things to add, thoughts. Sam has snarked a little about being relegated to the role of foil, but he had the most constructive comments about the book. Elizabeth wrote to say the book made her cry, and she's been a big advocate on Facebook. They are pretty damned great, I've gotta say.
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Thu 14 Mar 13 19:18
>>> I'd also love to hear about the effect the experience of publishing the book, and playing ambassador for it, has had on Joe. Joe likes the fact that there's a book out, likes the fact that it might be helping some people. He'd held the process at arms' length for a while, and left the book talks and interviews to me for the most part. He's started participating more in interviews, and gaining confidence in the process. When we went into NYC to tape a segment of Katie Couric's show last week, Joe spoke with real confidence about his experiences. I ask if he wants to do book talks or interviews with me; sometimes he says yes, but he usually says no. I don't push. He jumped at the chance to meet Katie Couric, though. Some of the kids at school and at his summer camp have read the book and talk to him about it, and he says many of them tell him he's "brave." He tells this with something of an eye roll. He doesn't think that he's done much that is special. So we don't seem to have turned him into a media monster. He's still very much Joe. In December, an editor for a young adult imprint asked if Joe would like to write his own book. He thought about it, and decided he's not ready to take on a project like that. But wow, would I like to read it.
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Thu 14 Mar 13 19:20
getting back to this point: >>> It does seem like a very delicate balance, between the need to protect vulnerable kids from bullies and the need to develop a thick enough skin to deal with the various people you are just plain stuck with in the rest of your life. I've often thought that some kind of dorm or barracks experience ought to be universal, because it helps you not only to deal with the people you're stuck with, but to realize (if you have any sensibility at all) that you're not always a peach to be around either. And we're back to the delicate balance. that's a central concept of the Bazelon book, and I focus on it at the conclusion of my review in the Times. We've got to find a way to let kids run up against SOME trouble, to work through some conflict.
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Thu 14 Mar 13 19:24
and, getting back to this point: >>> Yet-- in this era of helicopter parents (I mean-- this era of that being a term that gets mocked or criticized and sometimes rightly so) it seems like such a delicate balance to advocate for a kid, or take things up the chain. How do you figure out when to act? How far to go? -------------------- We just stumbled along blindly. There are plenty of times, and we discuss some of them, when we've decided NOT to fight a teacher, especially as Joe moved from elementary school to middle school and had to start advocating more for himself. That's the process we went through with all of the kids. If nothing could be accomplished from dealing with a teacher, disputing a grade or treatment we thought was unfair, we'd generally stand down. They tell parents to pick their fights with their kids; we've learned to pick our fights with the system as well.
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Thu 14 Mar 13 19:29
about the school: We've heard very little. A teacher who is somewhat recognizable as the third grade teacher, one of the good ones, got in touch to tell me that she liked the book, and that she heard some grumbling in the teachers' lounge from someone who wasn't mentioned in the book that she heard it was bad; she had not read the book. The fourth-grade teacher who was a bully, not just to Joe but to so many other kids, passed away a couple of years ago. (I mentioned in the book that he was very sick even then, and had wanted to go on disability but couldn't afford to.) Some of the others have moved on, some have stayed. No from the schools has said a word to me, aside from that one teacher. A few months before the book came out, I went to see the superintendent of the school district to tell him the book was coming, and to let him know that I didn't see it as an attack on these schools; I explained the name of our town is nowhere to be found in the book, because I felt that this is a story that could be found in many towns. He thanked me and asked what I wanted him to do. I told him that I wasn't asking him to do anything, but I wanted him to know it was coming, and to direct any complaints about the book to me. I didn't want him to have to deal with it, since the incidents in the book came before he came to town, and I wanted to deal directly with anyone who felt I had gotten things wrong or felt under attack. He never called. No one has called or written with a complaint. But a fair number of people in town have told me I got it just right. I spoke to the town's parent group for special ed kids and it went really well; a member of the school board and I talked for a long time afterward about how to make the schools more responsive. I waited to be attacked, snarked about, criticized by the teachers, the administrators, or people in town. Hasn't happened. Actually, it's amazed me.
Stoney Tangawizi (evan) Thu 14 Mar 13 20:22
Sorry, I missed this. Is it on Kindle?
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Thu 14 Mar 13 21:13
Yes. That's how I read it (Kindle app on various devices).
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Fri 15 Mar 13 04:14
a warning about the Kindle edition of the book: Kindle starts the book at chapter one, skipping the Foreword. The Foreword is important.
Julie Rehmeyer (jrehmeyer) Fri 15 Mar 13 07:47
Oh really? Wow. I read it on Kindle, so I missed it. Is there any way we Kindle folks can read it?
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Fri 15 Mar 13 07:48
I always scroll back to the cover when I open a Kindle book. Otherwise I miss cover images, forewords, epigraphs, dedications....
Julie Rehmeyer (jrehmeyer) Fri 15 Mar 13 08:03
Oh, I see -- you don't mean it's not there, just that you have ro scroll back. Goign to look now...
Brady Lea (brady) Fri 15 Mar 13 08:58
Weird about kindle books! I did not know that. I agree the forward is important, and also sets you up to really want to tear through the whole book. Re: my earlier question about "all boy" and related ideas, just to respond to John's post 30: I didn't get from the book that you thought Joseph was Less Boy compared to your older son at all. Or that "girly" things he liked made him less so. I'm just thinking of the language out in the world at large. That "girly" and "gay" get hurled around as insults for kids (don't have the book in front of me, but one of Joseph's bday parties is held at a place that the boys of his age have decided is "for girls") when in fact, as we move forward, we hope that neither will be an insult. I'm reading the piece on trans kids in the current New Yorker right now, which also has me thinking about the broader spectrum kids are growing up in, where it is clear there's a broader spectrum and male and female and manly and womanly don't even begin to cover it. As a former girl (and current woman) I can say that I don't want "girly" to be an insult to boys or girls or anyone, and I don't want "all boy" to exclude boys who might act and think differently but identify fully as boys. I only meant to wonder about how we can think about whether to use these terms, or what kind of vocabulary will we develop to shape the changing reality of diversity and acceptance of queer youth (and adults for that matter.)
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Fri 15 Mar 13 09:52
It's a fascinating question--we don't want our language to become homogenized and totally bland, but we don't want it to wound the innocent, either. So I'm glad you raised the question.
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Fri 15 Mar 13 09:54
I kept seeing reader reviews that said the book seemed to start so slowly, and how could possibly be getting all of this detail down accurately, and other questions that are answered, or at least addressed, in those first few pages. And then a friend's cousin asked me about those same things over Thanksgiving, and that's when it all clicked. Horrified. I was horrified.
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Mon 18 Mar 13 06:22
still here , folks! thought I'd share a rcent blog post by Joe: >>> dear parents thank you for the shoddy genetic blueprints i didnât really need working organ systems or neurostructure the homosexuality and occasional gender confusion have made my life infinitely easier as well with love, joe
Ed Ward (captward) Mon 18 Mar 13 07:40
And if you, the non-Well-member reader, have a question or comment, operators are standing by, monitoring e-mails to inkwell [at] well [dot] com, to swiftly pass them on to this conversation.
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Mon 18 Mar 13 08:33
I fear the sound of crickets.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Mon 18 Mar 13 12:26
Hi John I'm coming a little late to the party but I've been on the journey a lot longer than you have. My son is 30 yrs. old, came out as gay in his late teens, and during the prior confusion period had a psychotic break and was diagnosed with a major mental illness. I read your book with interest about the ADD and IEP and the interactions you had with the schools and the mental health industry. Your chapter on the relationship of mental illness to homosexuality was too much of a overview and didn't help me much. In my son's case I always sensed a strong possibility that there is a relationship between the two. Do you have any pointers besides the "usual suspects?"
not Well-kinky, but normal-person kinky. (jswatz) Mon 18 Mar 13 13:53
David, you might take a look at Andrew Solomon's "Far From the Tree," which deals with mental illness and other conditions that lead people to be isolated from the mainstream. But the central point to the research that I read was that there is nothing inherent in homosexuality that links it to mental illness, though the stress of being a sexual minority can make things hard on anyone and does seem to be linked to higher rates of depression, etc. I'm not sure there is more than that to find.
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