Saturday, July 2, 2011
A Twofer! - What I'm Reading and a Little Rant about Equality
I finally read Jodi Picoult's latest book, Sing You Home. It came out in March and it's been sitting in my "to-read" stack since then. I always like Picoult's books. She writes about current, hot-button topics, and doesn't shy away from controversy. She's written about teen suicide, autistic kids and murder, and this one is about infertility, gay rights/equality and evangelical Christians. There's some serious controversy for you! A lot of Picoult's books trade off narrators in every chapter, which I really like. It lets you see different characters point-of-view. It was especially helpful in this book because the main characters have such VERY different points-of-view.
In this book, Zoe and Max have been trying to have a baby for ten years. Their infertility has taken over their life. In-vitro treatments have cost them a ton of money. They have had multiple miscarriages. And after they lose their baby, a still born at 28 weeks, Max decided that he can't do this anymore and wants a divorce. Max, an alcoholic, copes with the loss of their son and their marriage by drinking. Then one night, after a drunken car accident, he finds Jesus. He joins a "born-again" church and becomes a completely different man. Zoe copes by finding a new best friend, Vanessa. Vanessa happens to be gay. Zoe and Vanessa fall in love.
Now, I'm probably going to give too many spoilers for people who want to read this book, but I have to talk about the rest of the book. I have read many, many books. They've made me sad and I've cried, I've laughed, I've been bored, I've been confused. But I don't think that a book has ever made me so angry. I'm sure that part of the reason I got so angry is because my sister is gay and I see all the time how the world treats her differently because of that. But I also know that I would feel this way about gay rights even if she wasn't gay. My sister is getting married this summer, but gay marriage isn't legal in the state of Oregon. I think that absolutely sucks!
And full disclosure here, I'm not religious. I was raised Catholic and I have found that my beliefs and the Catholic church don't match up well at all. My ex-boyfriend considered himself a born-again Christian, and though I went to church with him and his family and I enjoyed the music, that didn't fit me either. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything by not having religion in my life, but I don't begrudge people their beliefs and their religions, even if I don't exactly understand it all.
In the book, Zoe and Vanessa go to another state to get married. They discuss their options for having children and Zoe remembers that they still have three fertilized eggs from when she and Max were going through treatment. She wants those eggs and the children they might produce.
When Max finds out that Zoe is gay, he is understandably shocked. That news would be shocking for anybody's ex-husband, but it is doubly so for Max because he is now so ultra-religious. His church believes that gay people are..., well, basically, the devil. He and another member of the church, a women who was formerly "gay-identified" (because being gay is a choice, and now she chooses differently), try to talk some sense into Zoe. They quote bible passages at Zoe and Vanessa, trying to get them to see the error of their ways. At the end of the visit, Vanessa finally goes off on them and says: "How dare you tell me that what makes me me is wrong? How dare you say that you're tolerant, as long as I'm just like you? How dare you suggest that I shouldn't be allowed to get married to someone I love, or adopt a child, or that gay rights don't qualify as civil rights because, unlike skin color or disabilities, you think that sexual orientation can be changed? But you know what? Even that argument doesn't hold water, because you can change your religion, and religious affiliation is still protected by law. Which is the only reason I'm going to ask you politely to leave my home, instead of throwing you out on your hypocritical evangelical asses."
I wanted to clap when I read that passage! Good for them! I'm sure that any gay person who has been preached to about how wrong they are, in the name of God, has wanted to have a retort like that.
The rest of the book is about the lawsuit that happens when Max doesn't want to give Zoe the fertilized eggs. It becomes a fight between gay rights and the evangelical Christians. It gets messy and disgusting. Most of the arguments Max's side brings up pissed the shit out of me, to be honest.
At the end of the book, one of the characters says, "Jesus didn't make exceptions, Max. He didn't say we're supposed to love ninety-eight percent of our neighbors...but hate the ones who play their music too loud or who always drive over our lawn or who vote for Ralph Nader or who get tattooed from head to toe. There may be days I don't really want to love the guy whose dog ate the heads off my day lilies, but Jesus says I don't have a choice. It's not love if there are conditions."
That's they way religion is supposed to be. There isn't supposed to be hate or condemnation. Everybody should be accepted, no matter what. And no matter what your sexual orientation is, you should be allowed to marry the person you love and have children how you choose to have them. Last week New York passed a law giving gay people the right to marry. Though they are not the first state to do so, they are one of the largest. And it seems like it got the most press. Now we just need to rest of the states to do the same. This country was founded because people wanted freedom from England. How is this freedom any different than that? I have to believe that our country will eventually do the right thing, because they have always done it in the past.
I highly recommend this book, and any of Jodi Picoult's books, but reader be warned that this one may stir up some serious feelings and thoughts.