Gerry B's Book Reviews

Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son: A Memoir by Kevin Jennings

One man’s story of hope and inspiration

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Click on ghd cover to order

Click on ghd cover to order

Story blurb: Growing up poor in the South, Kevin Jennings learned a lot of things, especially about how to be a real man. When his father, a fundamentalist preacher, dropped dead at his son’s eighth birthday party, Kevin already knew he wasn’t supposed to cry.

He also knew there was no salvation for homosexuals, who weren’t “real men” – or Christians, for that matter. But Jennings found his salvation in school, inspired by his mother. Self-taught, from Appalachia, her formal education had ended in sixth grade, but she was determined that her son would be the first member of their extended family to go to college, even if it meant going North. Kevin, propelled by her dream, found a world beyond poverty. He earned a scholarship to Harvard and there learned not only about history and literature, but also that it was possible to live openly as a gay man.

But when Jennings discovered his vocation as a teacher and returned to high school to teach, he was forced back into the closet. He saw countless teachers and students struggling with their sexual orientation and desperately trying to hide their identity. For Jennings, coming out the second time was more complicated and much more important than the first–because this time he was leading a movement for justice.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I’m a bit late tonight, folks. I Had an unexpected but important project pop up earlier in the day, so this review will be brief.

Kevin Jenning’s life, as fascinatingly retold in Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son: A Memoir [Beacon Press, May 15, 2007], is a slice everyone’s life who grew up poor – and conscious of it: The clean but threadbare clothes; the avoidance of bringing your friends home; the white lies about how prosperous your father was; and the constant feeling of being ‘second-class’.

Jennings shares all of this for us to share, but throughout there is an ever-present love, and hope, and inspiration. His mother’s love and sacrifice, for example.

The other phenomenon that spoke to me is the drive to succeed that is so often manifested in poorer children: The will to be not only better, but to be the best at whatever they do. This was demonstrated by Jennings drive to win his scholarship to Harvard, and then to become a leader in the gay rights movement.

On the quibble side, I found it just a trifle self-indulgent in places. Not an unusual shortcoming in autobiographies. Four bees.

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March 30, 2015 - Posted by | Autobiographical, Gay autobiography, Non-fiction

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