Oddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality

Oddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality

4.6 11
by John Schwartz
     
 

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A heartfelt memoir by the father of a gay teen, and an eye-opening story for families who hope to bring up well-adjusted gay adults.

Three years ago, John Schwartz, a national correspondent at The New York Times, got the call that every parent hopes never to receive: his thirteen-year-old son, Joe, was in the hospital following a failed suicide

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Overview

A heartfelt memoir by the father of a gay teen, and an eye-opening story for families who hope to bring up well-adjusted gay adults.

Three years ago, John Schwartz, a national correspondent at The New York Times, got the call that every parent hopes never to receive: his thirteen-year-old son, Joe, was in the hospital following a failed suicide attempt. After mustering the courage to come out to his classmates, Joe’s disclosure — delivered in a tirade about homophobic attitudes—was greeted with dismay and confusion by his fellow students. Hours later, he took an overdose of pills.
 
Additionally, John and his wife, Jeanne, found that their son’s school was unable to address Joe’s special needs. Angry and frustrated, they initiated their own search for services and groups that could help Joe understand that he wasn’t alone. Oddly Normal is Schwartz’s very personal attempt to address his family’s own struggles within a culture that is changing fast, but not fast enough to help gay kids like Joe.

Schwartz follows Joseph through childhood to the present day, interweaving his narrative with common questions, including: Are effeminate boys and tomboy girls necessarily gay? Is there a relationship between being gay and suicide or mental illness? Should a child be pushed into coming out? Parents, teachers, and counselors alike will welcome Oddly Normal and its crucial lessons about helping gay kids –and any kid who is different — learn how to cope in a potentially hostile world.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
…a deeply affecting account of Joe's learning to embrace his sexuality, as well as his parents' efforts to shield him from homophobia and help him endure a school system that continues to marginalize (and even pathologize) kids who need special understanding…the star of the book is Joe. It's impossible not to fall in love with a kid who, even amid his torment, displays such droll humor and fierce intelligence.
—David Sheff
The New York Times
…a whimsical take on the subject…The text, translated from the original German, has awkward moments, but it gets the easy vernacular of childhood play just right…Tolman places her delicate miniature figures in vast, sweeping landscapes on the border between magic and reality, with imagined sheep and lambs and a fox and bunnies gathering and parading alongside the very real figures of Kelly and Franklin.
—Pamela Paul
Publishers Weekly
In this moving account of a family’s journey to raise and protect their gay son, New York Times correspondent Schwartz begins with his son Joe’s suicide attempt, discovering afterwards that his son had come out to his classmates that afternoon. Joe’s parents had always suspected the youngest of their three children might be gay, playing with dolls and wearing pink lightup shoes, but he had only coyly revealed his sexuality to his parents a week before his suicide attempt. With an unusual condition therapists variously diagnosed over the years as Asperger’s, bi-polar, ADHD, among others, school was always a challenge for Joe. With the growing awareness of his sexuality, however, came increasing sensitivity to fellow students’ homophobic slurs and taunts, as well as a growing realization that he was “different” and even that there was something possibly wrong with him. Schwartz recounts in sometimes painful detail his and his wife’s difficulties in getting Joe the help he so desperately needed, from working with school officials on appropriate ways of dealing with Joe when his condition overwhelmed him, to joining the Youth Enrichment Services at the Gay Center. With the new support, Joe thrived. Equally humorous and heartrending, this memoir reveals just what it takes to raise children who are different in a world still resistant. Agent: Rafe Sagalyn. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
Praise for ODDLY NORMAL

“Schwartz's frank discussion of a subject many still find taboo will be helpful to parents of LGBT children as one example of how to accept a natural condition with dignity and love. An added bonus is the delightful story written and illustrated by Joe. An honest, earnest, straightforward account of one boy's coming out.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[A] moving account of a family’s journey to raise and protect their gay son… Equally humorous and heartrending, this memoir reveals just what it takes to raise children who are different in a world still resistant.”
Publishers Weekly

“John Schwartz and Jeanne Mixon are the heroes of Oddly Normal.  Still, the star of the book is Joe.  It’s impossible not to fall in love with a kid who, even amid his torment, displays such droll humor and fierce intelligence.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Schwartz writes a poignant and well-documented account of what it meant to be a father who had tried all he could to make his son feel comfortable, but still came terrifyingly close to losing him.”
The Daily Texan

“An inspiring story, and much needed at a time when so many others end tragically.”
—ModernTonic.com

Oddly Normal chronicles the Schwartz family’s mistakes, heartaches and triumphs in raising a child coming to grips with his sexuality.”
Mother Jones Magazine

Oddly Normal is a funny, touching and indispensible book. Moving as well as buoyant, it will give parents of gay children a great deal of hope.”
—Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Super Sad True Love Story

“John Schwartz has written a moving and important memoir about the challenges that even the most enlightened parents face when bringing up a gay son. Combining personal experiences with rigorous reporting, Oddly Normal will be tremendously useful to anyone raising a child perceived as different.”
—Charles Kaiser, author of The Gay Metropolis

“John Schwartz shares his family’s bumpy journey with humor, a journalist’s eye for detail, and a generous honesty of emotion.”
—Jennifer Pizer, Senior Counsel and Director of the Law and Policy Project at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund

Oddly Normal is a book for parents, teachers, and anyone who works with children. Mr. Schwartz illustrates how even the most accepting parents often need assistance staying engaged, to best help a child who is not fitting in—in fact, there is a little bit of Joseph Schwartz in every kid.”
—Joseph Clementi, founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation
“Jeanne and John Schwartz are inspiring parental role models, and I’m sure I’ll think of them often…”
Slate.com
 
“Schwartz, an ace reporter for the New York Times, peppers his emotional response with vital research and telling anecdotes.”
—Queerty.com

“Schwartz's memoir is brave and beautiful, surprising and inspiring, a testament to parents' endless determination to help their children, and the bottomless capacity for love.”
—CNN.com
 
“[A] very personal, touching, funny and frank memoir. Anyone with a teenager, gay or straight, will be able to relate to a parent's struggle when dealing with their troubled child.”
—USATODAY.com

Library Journal
03/01/2014
New York Times correspondent Schwartz's memoir begins with his son Joe's suicide attempt after coming out at school. He traces his son's development as a "different" child and relates how he made sure Joe got the help he needed. A bonus: Joe's own charmingly illustrated story. (LJ 6/15/12)
Kirkus Reviews
A family's memoir of raising a gay son. New York Times national correspondent Schwartz (Short: Walking Tall When You're Not Tall At All, 2010) enlightens readers on the difficulties he and his wife faced while trying to help their son, Joe, accept his homosexuality. From a very early age, Schwartz and his wife suspected Joe might be gay, noting some telltale signs: the desire to play with Barbie dolls, the need for a pink feather boa and pink light-up shoes, the love of glitter and costume jewelry and the lack of interest in sports. However, because they had raised all three of their children in a gender-neutral environment, with dolls, action figures and trucks available to both their older son and daughter, they simply assumed Joe was just different. When Joe started school, though, behavioral problems developed. Because he was an avid reader at an early age, his parents suspected boredom; Joe's teachers suspected mental issues and suggested therapy. Numerous therapists later, with diagnoses that included ADHD, autism and Asperger's, Schwartz and his family were still no closer to understanding what made Joe different from his siblings and peers--and no one suggested homosexuality as a possible explanation for Joe's mood swings, anger and sullenness. Thanks to Internet research, the coming-out of TV personalities and new acceptance and legislation for homosexuals, the author was able to provide Joe with a safe home environment for him to reveal his "secret." It was only when Joe divulged his natural tendencies at school that disaster struck in the form of rejection, resulting in a life-altering situation for the entire family. Definitely defined as "not a self-help book," Schwartz's frank discussion of a subject many still find taboo will be helpful to parents of LGBT children as one example of how to accept a natural condition with dignity and love. An added bonus is the delightful story written and illustrated by Joe. An honest, earnest, straightforward account of one boy's coming out.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781469257181
Publisher:
Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
11/08/2012
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
5.37(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Schwartz's frank discussion of a subject many still find taboo will be helpful to parents of LGBT children as one example of how to accept a natural condition with dignity and love. An added bonus is the delightful story written and illustrated by Joe. An honest, earnest, straightforward account of one boy's coming out.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[A] moving account of a family’s journey to raise and protect their gay son… Equally humorous and heartrending, this memoir reveals just what it takes to raise children who are different in a world still resistant.”
Publishers Weekly

“John Schwartz and Jeanne Mixon are the heroes of Oddly Normal.  Still, the star of the book is Joe.  It’s impossible not to fall in love with a kid who, even amid his torment, displays such droll humor and fierce intelligence.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Schwartz writes a poignant and well-documented account of what it meant to be a father who had tried all he could to make his son feel comfortable, but still came terrifyingly close to losing him.”
The Daily Texan

“An inspiring story, and much needed at a time when so many others end tragically.”
—ModernTonic.com

Oddly Normal chronicles the Schwartz family’s mistakes, heartaches and triumphs in raising a child coming to grips with his sexuality.”
Mother Jones Magazine

Oddly Normal is a funny, touching and indispensible book. Moving as well as buoyant, it will give parents of gay children a great deal of hope.”
—Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Super Sad True Love Story

“John Schwartz has written a moving and important memoir about the challenges that even the most enlightened parents face when bringing up a gay son. Combining personal experiences with rigorous reporting, Oddly Normal will be tremendously useful to anyone raising a child perceived as different.”
—Charles Kaiser, author of The Gay Metropolis

“John Schwartz shares his family’s bumpy journey with humor, a journalist’s eye for detail, and a generous honesty of emotion.”
—Jennifer Pizer, Senior Counsel and Director of the Law and Policy Project at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund

Oddly Normal is a book for parents, teachers, and anyone who works with children. Mr. Schwartz illustrates how even the most accepting parents often need assistance staying engaged, to best help a child who is not fitting in—in fact, there is a little bit of Joseph Schwartz in every kid.”
—Joseph Clementi, founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation

“Jeanne and John Schwartz are inspiring parental role models, and I’m sure I’ll think of them often…”
Slate.com
 
“Schwartz, an ace reporter for the New York Times, peppers his emotional response with vital research and telling anecdotes.”
—Queerty.com

“Schwartz's memoir is brave and beautiful, surprising and inspiring, a testament to parents' endless determination to help their children, and the bottomless capacity for love.”
—CNN.com
 
“[A] very personal, touching, funny and frank memoir. Anyone with a teenager, gay or straight, will be able to relate to a parent's struggle when dealing with their troubled child.”
—USATODAY.com
 

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