From Naiveté of Childhood to Passionate Commitment of Adulthood,
November 15, 2010
Ken Harvey has written a memoir that is a fine book on so many levels. The utter simplicity of retelling his childhood is as tender a story as any in the literature. Somehow Harvey manages to completely return to those days as a kid when he realized his attention and desires were not similar to those of other boys his age, his mortification when he progressed to gym class and faced the showers where his fellow students would mock his dreaded indication of arousal, his being a closeted gay man through school and teaching, dating and interacting with women successfully but without the passion he longed to experience, and finally his coming out process in gatherings and clubs where his innocence was magnified with his honesty with those with whom he came into contact - all of this is related in such a keenly written style that echoes of Salinger and Joyce haunt the pages. There is a section when he is describing his trip to Spain and his frustrating encounter with a German man that he sets aside space for adroit philosophizing. 'Above all, I've learned, kids value authenticity in adults. There have been other times when I was visible even though I didn't want to be, times when I didn't want to be visible to myself. I wanted to slip on the comfortable shoes of denial, even if those shoes eventually wear out at the sole, exposing your bare feet to the glass and sharp rocks of the burning pavement.'
At last Harvey comes out to his fellow teachers only to win their support, goes on to date through the local newspaper ads until he encounters the man who will become his life partner Bruce - a man who comes complete with two children that the new couple will parent. From this point on through the rest of the book Harvey personalizes the events that lead up to the equal rights stance of same sex marriage, becoming an activist and remaining an activist to this day. He shares his beliefs, his trials with the ups and downs of governmental decisions and laws and takes us to the present moment when some states have sanctioned same sex marriage while others, like the supposedly emotionally advanced California, have failed to pass such measures as Proposition 8 just this year, and for once that sharing becomes fine literature.
While other writers are producing pamphlets and books and blogs and demonstrations about the inequality that likely at some point in the future will seem as irresponsible as women's rights and racial equality now appear, Ken Harvey offers a different way to analyze the situation. By sharing the turmoil of his innocent but emotionally abusive childhood in such eloquent prose the reader is introduced to the issues of human rights on a wholly different level. We want to hear what this man has to say because he says it so well. This is a book to read for pleasure and a book that should well be mandatory for schools across the country. Ken Harvey is a very fine new voice. Grady Harp, November 10