Gay Marriage Through the Eyes of a Child
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The book opens with a twelve-year-old girl, Bea, talking about her Dad’s wedding day, or more precisely, the wedding day for his second marriage. She tells us that the “sound of corn growing” will explain everything we need to know about that day. For us to understand that, however, she will need to tell us everything that happened over the last two years.
The sound of corn growing? I was intrigued, and so I read along even though it is a middle grade book for ages 8-12. I’m glad I did. The book has a lot to offer.
As we quickly learn, Bea’s story really starts at the age of eight when her parents told her they were getting divorced. The reason for the divorce was given too: Her dad is gay. At that family meeting, the parents gave Bea a notebook to keep with “The List of Things that Will Not Change.” Thus she has it in writing that each of her parents will always love her, she will always have a home with each of them, and those homes will never be far apart. Also put in writing are the facts that her parents still love each other and they are all still a family, just in a different way.
Ostensibly, this book is about divorce from the point of view of a child, but that’s not really what it’s about.
Or, one could look at it as a book about having a gay parent and learning how to handle the reactions of the world, but that’s not really what it’s about either, though that gets us closer.
Bea’s dad is Daniel, and Daniel’s fiancé is Jesse. When each of these men came out as gay, their families of origin had vastly different reactions. And so that’s what this book is about: unconditional love, love so strong you can smell it and taste it. That’s the love Daniel experienced with his family, but not Jesse.
If divorce and gay marriage aren’t enough for Bea to handle, she was also present when Daniel almost choked to death on food he was eating. This experience caused her to worry about her dad, her mom, herself, everything! And so, she started to see a psychologist, Miriam, who taught Bea how to worry. Here are the rules: You allow yourself to worry twice a day for five minutes straight. You do this once in the morning and once in the evening – but not near bedtime. If worries pop up at other time of the day, you just tell them to go away, that you will deal with them later. Bea tells us that this plan works so well that by the time she was ten, she only needed to worry once a day.
More than just loving this life lesson, I also loved the way the psychologist was presented. It was 100% normal and fine to seek psychological help in the same way that it was 100% normal and fine to have divorced parents and a dad who is gay.
All of this unconditional acceptance and love made the book a wonderful read – even for those of us beyond the middle grade reading level. I guess that is why NPR chose this as a best book of 2020. It appears in their Book Concierge at the intersection of Staff Picks, Family Matters, and Kids’ Books.