A gay man recounts his life and professional career as a plant scientist in this debut memoir.
The author was born in 1927 into a hardworking Presbyterian family and spent his formative years in Illinois and Wisconsin. As a teenager, he writes, he experimented with sex with other boys in the neighborhood and at church camp. These early forays helped him feel less alone, as they let him know that there were others whose desires matched his own. In the Army and then in college, Sinclair found that a few things were consistent: There was always a gay subculture if one knew where to look, and he felt destined to always be a loner, as he was “afraid of being judged for being gay.” Then his life changed course when he was accepted into a doctoral program about plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin and he found his lifelong partner, Elmer “Al” Uselmann. He and Sinclair would spend the next 47 years together, until Uselmann died from lung cancer in 2001. Although Sinclair says that he intended his memoir as a tribute to Uselmann, this fact isn’t clear until the last few pages. Until then, he tells a mostly chronological and bland narrative of his own life, rushing through scenes, simplifying complex emotions, and failing to provide concrete details that would allow readers to better connect to the events. For example, at one point, he vaguely describes his relationship with a childhood friend who was also his first crush: “He and I became fast friends, playing together the entire summer. We bonded.” That said, Sinclair does offer some memorable moments by reminding readers that, until relatively recently, sex between men was illegal in many states. It also succeeds as a tribute when Sinclair writes that because of his relationship with Uselmann, “I will not hide this love.” (Includes occasional black-and-white photos.)
An often emotionally distant remembrance that still provides some informative historical insight.