An illuminating dissection of a gay upbringing in suburbia, told in alternating chapters by its central participants....


NOT LIKE OTHER BOYS: Growing Up Gay: A Mother and Son Look Back

An illuminating dissection of a gay upbringing in suburbia, told in alternating chapters by its central participants. Marlene Fanta Shyer, a writer of magazine articles, novels, and children's books (Ruby, the Red-Hot Witch at Bloomingdale's, 1991, etc.), had begun to fret about her son Chris by the time he was five: ""His sweetness, tidy nature, attention to wardrobe and cleanliness were charming but worrisome."" Such chilly lines render frighteningly Marlene's obsession with conformity, which was perfectly normal in the repressed Elysium of Larchmont, New York, in the '60s. Chris was unathletic and a teacher's pet, so his schoolmates naturally targeted him for abuse. One psychologist informed Marlene that she was too demonstrative to Chris, so she made a concerted effort to withhold affection from him, which didn't do a lot of good for mother or son. Looming over the family was the baleful figure of Chris's father, whom both Shyers portray as generous, but critical and hot-tempered. Chris's desire to fit in perfectly with the straight world was scarcely less intense than his mother's. But while her additional burden was always to fear while never knowing for sure whether Chris was gay (he came out to her only a few years ago), Chris's was to know he was gay and have no apparent role models and no one to confer with about his dilemma. At boarding school his confession was rebuffed by an unsympathetic roommate; only in college did he finally develop a solid circle of friends to whom he could come out without fear of rejection. But his coming out, like most, has been a long, incremental process; he has remained closeted with the clients he meets as a marketing executive. Both Shyers attest wrenchingly to the pain inflicted by acquaintances who are either ignorant or unaccepting of Chris's sexuality. By offering different perspectives on their shared past, the Shyers produce a complex and emotionally persuasive family portrait.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 1996


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995