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The Bishop's Daughter: A Memoir

The Bishop's Daughter: A Memoir

5.0 1
by Honor Moore

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"An unsparing portrait of a glamorous but elusive father and his daughter's search for the truth about his secret life."—Sylvia Nasar
Paul Moore's vocation as an Episcopal priest took him—with his wife Jenny and a family that grew to nine children—from robber-baron wealth to work among the urban poor of postwar America, prominence as an activist


"An unsparing portrait of a glamorous but elusive father and his daughter's search for the truth about his secret life."—Sylvia Nasar
Paul Moore's vocation as an Episcopal priest took him—with his wife Jenny and a family that grew to nine children—from robber-baron wealth to work among the urban poor of postwar America, prominence as an activist bishop in Washington during the Johnson years, leadership in the civil rights and peace movements, and two decades as the bishop of New York. The Bishop's Daughter is a daughter's story of that complex, visionary man: a chronicle of her turbulent relationship with a father who struggled privately with his sexuality while she openly explored hers, and a searching account of the consequences of sexual secrets. With a depth of questioning that recalls James Carroll's An American Requiem, this memoir engages the reader in the great issues of American life: war, race, family, sexuality, and faith.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Having told the sad, extraordinary story of her maternal grandmother, the painter Margarett Sargent, in The White Blackbird (1996), Moore offers a painfully honest memoir of her father, Paul Moore (1919-2003), the Episcopal bishop of the diocese of New York from 1972 to 1989. Educated at St. Paul's and Yale, Paul distinguished himself in battle as a marine on Guadalcanal during WWII; fathered nine children by his first wife, the vivacious Jenny McKean; and became an activist in the liberal social movements of the 1950s and '60s. He also had numerous clandestine affairs with men. While Paul's bisexuality did little harm to his professional career, it took a heavy emotional toll on his family, notably Jenny, who up to her death from cancer at age 51 confided to only a few intimates the underlying cause of the unhappiness in her marriage. The author, a poet and playwright, draws on letters between her parents, the reminiscences of friends (including a male lover of her father's) and her own experiences as her parents' oldest child coming of age in the '60s to create an indelible portrait of a charismatic religious leader who could be insensitive or even cruel to those who loved him most. At the dramatic heart of this engrossing family chronicle is the ultimately triumphant struggle of the daughter, who suffered her own sexual confusion and years of therapy, to reconstruct her father's personal history in an effort to understand his behavior and thereby forgive. (May)

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Library Journal

Poet Moore's (writing, New Sch. & Columbia Univ.) 1996 memoir White Blackbird focused on her painter grandmother, Margarett Sargent. This one probes her relationship with her father, Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore (1919-2003). Often controversial, Bishop Moore embraced social causes such as poverty, racism, and gay rights and ministered in dioceses of Jersey City, Indianapolis, Washington, DC, and New York. In these 22 chapters, each preceded by a black-and-white family photo, the author struggles to come to terms with her relationship with her parents as well as with her bisexuality and that of her father. Skillfully interweaving contemporary news into the text, she crafts her memories and narrative from family correspondence and diaries, personal conversations, family scrapbooks, and her parents' own published writing. Religious elements appear as stage settings, which make the book more of a literary execution than a deep probing of her father's faith. Of selective interest for literary and biography collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ1/08.]
—Anna M. Donnelly

Kirkus Reviews
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. Themagazine rejected the piece as "too general." No such objection here. A moving prose poem about what it means to be spiritual, sexual and human.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Honor Moore is a poet and the author of The Bishop’s Daughter. She lives in New York City and teaches at the New School and Columbia University.

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The Bishop's Daughter 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book because Honor and I were classmates, graduating from Shortridge in 1963. One of my best friends was Gwen Solomon, the first African-American Junior Prom Queen. From the outside, Honor seemed to have had a perfect life - the book laid out the truths, as she knows them to be. It is a true testament, to the rest of us, that having it all is not what is important. Being able to trace your lineage,having trust funds or connections means crap if you don't know the truths surrounding you. Each chapter brought a dropped jaw and teary eyes. I applaude her bravery and for re-telling her father's story and giving voice to her mother's side.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i had the privilege of reading an advance copy of this book. i think it's pulitzer prize winning material. a really important american story--complex, grand, dramatic, enthralling, moving. i mean, money, sex, god, and glamour--who could ask for anything more? honor moore is, of course, a marvelous writer--and this is eye-popping material. a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an unusual peek behind the Rectory door.