Monday Memories: Hometowns


This is the eighth of my Monday Memories series of posts. In these posts, I pull a book off my shelf, somewhat randomly, and tell you a bit about it. It's not a review of the book so much as a memory of the book, a bit about what might have been going on in my life when I read it, and my thoughts on who might like this book. 

The Book

Hometowns: Gay Men Write About Where They Belong, Edited and with an Introduction by John Preston. A Plume Book published by The Penguin Group. Printed in the United States of America. Copyright John Preston 1991.

Why This Book?

I have a shelf full of books targeted to gay people. Almost all of them are non-fiction. A couple of them are histories. Browsing my shelf, out of all those books, this one is perhaps most reflective of my own journey, and so I thought, "Well, that's the book for this week."

What's This Book About?

From memory:
It's a collection of short stories written by Gay men reflecting on where they came from and where they ended up.

From perusing the book after I pulled it off the shelf:
There are 29 stories collected in this anthology. Twenty-eight of them are titled after a specific American town or area, and one is named after the Episcopal Church. The authors, each a gay man, spins a story reflecting on hometown, home, family (whether biological or chosen or both), and belonging.  

One of the stories focuses on Okemos, a community near my undergraduate alma mater of Michigan State University. The author, originally from New York, reflects on how he and his partner bought a home in Okemos, and how having a home of their own has strengthened him in ways he hadn't anticipated - becoming more confident and comfortable as a gay person, and surprising himself by not only taking on a parental role, but discovering the joys and wonder of raising kids, as his partner's two sons from his previous marriage have settled into their new home with them. 

What Was Going On In My Life When I Read This?

Hometowns, like a few of my other Monday Memories, is a book I bought when living in the Chicago area. I got it at Unabridged Bookstore, one of Chicago's oldest bookstores focused on the LGBT community. I had finally come out to myself at the time, a "late bloomer", in my early 30s, and was figuring out how to come out to others. It took a while, and I've learned that it is a process, and that it's different for everyone. For me, reading as much as I could about gay folks and gay lives helped alot. 

What I liked about this book was the focus on the everyday. The stories in this book helped me recognize that gay people are real people who have real lives and real families and real relationships.  Unfortunately, and a sign of the times then, in the majority of these stories the writer had to leave his hometown to find a place where he could be comfortable enough to live his real life, just as I had done.

Other books on my shelf also helped to convey the everyday-ness of gay lives. Books like And Say Hi to Joyce by Deb Price and Joy Murdoch from 1995, or 2001's The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's also tell stories of how individual gay people really live and make their way in the world.

It wouldn't be until a few years after I read this book that I met my partner and we settled down to our own real life, and began to surround ourselves with both biological and chosen family. I am happy to say that we will have been together 27 years when we celebrate our anniversary this year, including five years of marriage.  

Why Would Someone Like This Book?

I think that anyone looking for stories of belonging would find something to like in this book, though it's focus is on gay men. While there are only 46 ratings for this book on Goodreads, it gets 3.78 stars. It's still available on Amazon, and I wouldn't be surprised to find it still for sale at Unabridged Books.

So that's my "Monday Memories" book post for this week.