A powerful memoir of life with an accomplished but secretly tortured father.
Born to wealth and privilege, a graduate of the country’s finest schools and a decorated veteran of Guadalcanal, Paul Moore, the author’s father, chose the life of a priest in the Episcopal Church. From postings in Jersey City, Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., he became a leading voice for social justice and rose to minor fame as the Bishop of New York. For his oldest daughter, he remained an oddly remote yet dazzling figure. Only in the last years of his life did she learn of his secret homosexuality, a discovery that explained so much about him, her frequently depressed, occasionally violent mother and the author herself. Poet and playwright Moore (Writing/The New School and Columbia Univ.; Red Shoes: Poems, 2005, etc.), an attentive, sensitive narrator, performs an intensive, sometimes painful genealogical dig on her parents’ backgrounds, their courtship and marriage, their work together in the church and their private lives, including many interviews with friends and male and female lovers of her father. She’s equally forthright about herself, charting her shifting comprehension of the meaning of her family life, of the larger social movements her parents helped promote and of her own artistic development and troubled sexual progress. In the end she remains too admiring of her father, ascribing to him a kind of martyrdom, conflating (as he apparently did) his spirituality with his sexuality—perhaps a forgivable assessment given its harrowing cost. In 1977 Ms. assigned the still-young Moore to interview her father, then under attack for his ordination of Ellen Marie Barrett, an acknowledged lesbian. The magazine rejected the piece as “too general.” No such objection here.
A moving prose poem about what it means to be spiritual, sexual and human.