In the West, liberal education asks one to "Know Thyself". While writing his first book, John Vore finds this to be a complicated road to travel, seeing quickly that to know himself, he has, as well, to know those around him. Vore thus examines his relationships to his family, school, mentors, and the labels by which he might be known: adopted son, adult child of an alcoholic, victim of priestly sexual abuse, spokesman for gay and lesbian civil rights, writer.
In undertaking this self-examination, Vore runs squarely into the myth of Narcissus and realizes he must first understand its lessons before he can truly come to self-knowledge. Tell Me What Home is Like thus begins with a look at the myth, and Vore's discovery that it is not what it seems. Where others see a cultural warning and a label, Vore sees a prescription for how to handle one's ideas.
Utilizing this insight and ideas taken from Timothy Leary, Vore, through fiction and non-fiction, deconstructs himself and the power structures at the University of Notre Dame, structures in which he became entangled as a student speaking openly about being gay and the University's attempt to sweep under the rug a long history of sexual abuse by its former Provost, James Tunstead Burtchaell.
TELL ME WHAT HOME IS LIKE recounts meeting Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman, Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, Garry Wills, lovers, tricks and the friends who helped Vore survive his return to Notre Dame. The book also describes negotiations with Notre Dame administrators.
Vore ultimately reazlies his road to self-understanding means finishing his book and getting out of Notre Dame as quickly as he can. He earned his Masters degree for the book in 1993.
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'Tell Me What Home Is Like' forced me to acknowledge the brutality behind the pretty facade of Notre Dame. This book left me feeling sad for what John Vore experienced, angry for what more than 150 years of homophobia has done to the gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who have studied and worked at Notre Dame, and appalled anew by manifestations of Catholic corporate ruthlessness... ...The book was written in 1993 as a Notre Dame masterís thesis, and it shows signs of its academic origins. It contains sections of autobiography, fiction written for creative writing classes, and numerous letters, memos, and media articles, some written by people other than Vore. There are appendices, notes, and a list of sources. (No reader should skip Appendix Five, which contains an excerpt from the truly horrific letter Notre Dame spokesman Michael Garvey wrote to the National Catholic Reporter after that newspaper published its story on Fr. James T. Burtchaell's sexual abuse of students)... ...In writing about his own abuse at the hands of Burtchaell, Vore makes it clear that this brilliant but flawed priest is a symptom, not the source, of the problem. The serpent in the garden at Notre Dame was not James Burtchaell but the Holy Cross Order, or at least those members of the order who refuse to face sexual issues that no longer trouble most American high school students. In some of the most touching passages of the book, Vore relates how he came to forgive Burtchaell, whose fellow priests failed him when he needed them the most. Vore reserves his anger for two institutions, Notre Dame and Holy Cross, and in this he speaks for many with connections to the University... John Vore has explored difficult personal and public territory and reported on his journey in a troubling and courageous memoir. How can we not admire the honesty and self confidence of a gay man who admits he had a 'teen cult' of the awkward underdog Richard Nixon, who believed he too would some day be president of the United States, who loved a family that could never fully accept him, who survived and forgave Burtchaell, who bears his breast about his desire to become the excellent writer this book proves him to be. I do not expect to read another book about Notre Dame that is the equal of 'Tell Me What Home Is Like.'