I’m humming Dave Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston” as I load my pickup. I’m leaving my blue roof tarps (courtesy of hurricane Hermine) beind for a trip north. We’ll be stopping in Savannah and New Jersey before arriving in Boston. If you’re in the area on September 25th, please join Sally, Jim and me for an afternoon of reading and visiting. We’d love to see you and share our stories.
This posted on the Twisted Road Publications website. Thank you Twisted Road.
Jodie Taylor’s first lesson about the consequences of her attraction to the little girl next door is delivered by her mother. Jewel Taylor tells her ten-year-old daughter: “Lord, baby girl, it’s starting to look like you’re going to need to take up far less space in this world. Double up on them clever lies you’re so good at. That’s if you figure on staying alive.” It is the late 1940’s, being gay is still illegal in all 50 states, and being “peculiar” is dangerous, even for a child.
Gays and lesbians were prosecuted for their sexuality, particularly in the south, until 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled that such laws were unconstitutional. The ruling invalidated laws that were still on the books in thirteen states.
In her wonderful second novel, It’s Not Like I Knew Her, Pat Spears looks at a time before the gay rights movement, when young gays and lesbians understood that admitting who they were could lead to prison, institutionalization, and unspeakable violence that was widely regarded as justifiable.
But this is no self-indulgent rant against injustice. Instead, it is a clear-eyed look at the way we were, and what it cost countless young Americans: the emotional and psychological damage of living in secrecy; the constant threat of violence; and the frequency with which they committed violence against themselves. Jodie Taylor experiences all of this and more, living her life behind a wall of lies and half-truths.
But Jodie is fierce and resilient, and her journey is ultimately a hopeful one. Along the way, we discover that we do know her, and that we’re the better for it.
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While It’s Not Like I Knew Her is not autobiographical, I am roughly the same age as my protagonist, Jodie Taylor. And although I experienced none of the childhood brutalities she suffered, I knew the emotional and psychological burden of maintaining constant vigilance after having been labeled “peculiar”. Early in the book, an incident with a neighbor girl results in Jodie being told by her mother, Jewel, “Lord, baby girl, it’s starting to look like you’re going to need to take up far less space in this world. Double up on them clever lies you’re so damn good at. That’s if you figure on staying alive.”
As a teenager, I sat many an evening on pilings, watching the sun withdraw beyond St. Joseph Bay, and tried desperately to imagine a future from nothing at all. Everywhere I dared to search there were no stories that promised me a place in the world. My deepest longings were condemned as insane. I shared Jodie Taylor’s anger and despair, and her fear of being discovered.
So much of LGBTQ history has remained only with us, and I want to share our stories with others who wish to understand our history more completely. The damage of silence; our fears of sharing our lives, thus denying our full humanity, separating ourselves from those we are sure can’t love us. The result, I believe, is something akin to abandonment of self or soul. Jodie remarks that she made of herself a ghost. I have felt this, and I believe many others have as well.To deny our true self is to deny our full humanity.
Excerpted from interview with Judy Goodman, Jane’s Stories Press Foundation