FAMILY VALUES by Phyllis Burke


Two Moms and Their Son
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 Novelist Burke (Atomic Candy, 1989) juxtaposes the story of her fight to adopt the son of her lesbian partner with an impressionistic account of her involvement in the San Francisco chapter of Queer Nation. Burke's partner Cheryl found a sperm bank sympathetic to lesbians desiring motherhood, underwent artificial insemination, and got pregnant, After Jesse was born, the author began a tortuous legal process aimed at legally becoming the boy's second mother, and, following official discouragement and a visit from an insensitive case worker, a judge permitted the adoption to go forward. Meanwhile, Burke had become increasingly drawn to Queer Nation, the activist group that has used humor and shock tactics- -such as ``queer fashion shows'' at suburban shopping malls and glitter-tossing demonstrations against the filming of Basic Instinct--to propel gay and lesbian issues into policy debate and the media. The adoption saga as chronicled by Burke is rich in drama but underdeveloped. Cheryl is only sketchily characterized; and while some vignettes--especially one in which Burke and her lover comb the house for compromising material before the case worker's visit--are vivid, other potentially fascinating incidents (for instance, meetings of a Lesbians Considering Parenthood workshop) are given short shrift. Meanwhile, the Queer Nation segments are marred by a confusing chronology and overlong profiles of movement participants; the author also fails to spell out whether she's attending meetings as a journalist or as an activist. Burke is rigorously honest about fits and starts on her journey to radicalization, but she's far too sparing in describing the formative experiences in her life pre-Jesse. An earnest, heartfelt memoir, then, but choppy and only intermittently compelling.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-42188-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1993