“If there’s a moral to be found here, it’s this: if you want to be happy, you have to figure out who you are, then be true to yourself. Own your life. To do that, everyone, gay or straight has to come out, first to themselves, and then to the world” (Alex)
I am looking forward to meeting Kevin Newman at the Grimsby Author Series in February. This former Global National anchor had provided my nightly news and I respected his professionalism and trusted delivery of the national events. Reading this book, provided insight into his personal life and the day-to-day challenges of raising a family while balancing work as well as an honest account of both father and son learning and accepting Alex as a gay man.
This unique book weaves their narratives into one blended story. The chapters alternate between Kevin and Alex’s perspectives. Kevin describes his experience as a journalist, as a spouse , as a son and as a father who accepts and comes out as the parent of a gay man. Alex’s talks about his challenges growing up, feeling awkward and lonely and his discovery and acceptance of himself as a gay man. It is an honest account of both of their challenges, misunderstandings and experiences which helped both men grow and be comfortable as themselves. Even thought the stories reflect similar times and events, they are remembered and told with very different perspectives.
Kevin initially shares a timeline of his career in journalism. He was focused and committed as he built his career while raising a family spending much time away from his children, chasing news stories and working odd hours. I learned that he had anchored Good Morning America prior to being the face of Global National. His open discussion about being fired from this job provided context to the idea of failure as a precursor to growth and change. This experience helped him discover that he needed to be confident and make decisions based on his own thoughts and opinions and not depending on the encouragement of others. While often being absent, he wanted Alex to experience an adolescence that was different from his own where he did not feel that he fit in which led to Alex being dragged to scouts and encouraged to try different sports.
“The lesson was simple: unless I was true to myself, I couldn’t be happy and wouldn’t succeed” (Kevin)
Alternate chapters of the book were written by Kevin’s son, Alex. He wrote intimately of his experience growing up, feeling that his dad did not accept him as he was, being bullied and finally accepting his own sexuality. He felt enormous pressure to be something he was not when his dad suggested scouts and sports and did not understand that Kevin’s actions had been out of love, to help him avoid social difficulties that he, himself had faced. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to feel that no-one really knew him in the time when he had discovered he was gay and prior to sharing his real self with his family.
The two men wrote their stories independently to preserve their own thoughts and remembrances yet learned so much that had been unsaid when they read each others words. I admire their transparency and honesty. They both shared intimate and very personal thoughts, failures and struggles which will help others in similar situations both as parents and young adults. It is heartbreaking to read that although Kevin was doing his best to help his son, his son felt pressured and did not understand how much his dad loved him and how much he was truly trying to help. It must have been devastating to Alex to worry that his dad may not accept him when he came out to his family.
“If we’d tried to write together, we would have quarrelled over whose version of each story was right. Seeing both narratives side by side, it’s clear that we’re both right, we’re both telling the truth. What’s important is to hear one another’s truth, really take it in and think about it, not argue with it” (Alex)
This is a great shared memoir that all dads and sons should read (all families). It gives perspective that we can all to a better job communicating and that we all experience life with our own set of lenses. I admire both men for sharing their story which will help other families in their own unique situations. Despite seeing the perfect broadcaster, prepared and professional on the TV set every night, the viewers really did not have any insight into the chapters of a story that was happening off-screen.
“Here’s the part I never would have predicted twenty-nine years ago: my children have been the most important teachers in my life. They have tested my beliefs and challenged my will. They have called me to account and made me look at the world differently. They have taught me to aim for true success, the kind that lasts and matters: being a good father. I keep trying” (Kevin)