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 An earnestly didactic case study about homophobia. Mary Griffith, a mother of four in the suburbs of San Francisco, was a conservative Presbyterian who viewed her son Bobby's homosexuality as an affliction of which only faith and prayer could cure him. Raised to be a devout Christian, Bobby came out to his family when he was 15; he spent the next five years in various degrees of torment, largely caused by the staunch conviction of his mother and his church that ``you can't love God and be a homosexual.'' In 1983, at age 20, he killed himself. Aarons, a playwright and founder of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, uses excerpts from Bobby's diaries and the testimony of his friends and siblings to paint a portrait of a gregarious, creative, but supremely alienated adolescent whose attempts to forge a coherent identity were sabotaged by the internalized message that being gay was wrong. The book focuses on Mary's transformation, in the wake of Bobby's suicide, from bigoted Bible-thumper to compassionate activist for gay youth and spokesperson for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG). At first she searched the dogma she had absorbed over the years to understand why God hadn't ``cured'' her son; eventually she figured out that Bobby hadn't been responsible for his homosexuality and that she had been wrong to condemn him. Over several years Mary found more liberal churches and other parents who helped her deal with her grief, and she began pleading publicly for tolerance of gays and lesbians, at town meetings and on Sally Jessy Raphael, recounting her own tragedy to warn others of the fatal consequences of ignorance and homophobia. (For an account of another P-FLAG parent, see Robert Bernstein's Straight Parents/Gay Children, p. 520.) Glumly informative in tone and only intermittently affecting, though Aarons effectively drives home the sad point that Bobby's death is only one in an avoidable epidemic of gay teen suicides. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-251122-X
Page count: 274pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1995