Definition of an unlikely reader: A person who may not be likely, for various reasons, to come across books like mine.
She is a country girl — salt of the earth, works hard, gotten some breaks but not many. Politically she is somewhere in the Ron Paul range, so it didn’t take long to see that we should probably stay away from politics. But we had something caring that clicked. It was enough to make us very friendly neighbors at our weekend cottage.
She is kind and she does nice things. I try to reciprocate but she is full of good indoor and outdoor hints and I am not, so it feels a little uneven. But I think she knows I appreciate her and that is always nice. She is definitely not homophobic – we’ve had that conversation — but she wouldn’t be likely to read a book like mine.
So I gave her my book.
Next day I got a call. “I read your book, I couldn’t put it down,” she exclaimed.
“Which essays did you like the best?” I asked, a question that is always very interesting and telling about the reader.
“I liked the Uncle Johnny essay,” she said. This is an essay about a man who became my surrogate father and who, on looking back, I concluded was probably gay.
“Really,” I said. And then she told me about her “uncle Johnny”, who was an unmarried man who lived with his mother next door to her when she was young.
When things got bad at home or she wanted a little attention (she was the oldest in a family of three children), she would crawl under the fence and hang out with her Johnny. He loved all flowers and plants. Gardening was his thing and landscaping is her thing. He was kind and she felt valued and special with him. She described a lot about her Johnny and then she got quiet.
“I also liked the essay about 9/11,” she said. This is an essay about religious hypocrisy. She was a little hesitant now as she told me how poorly the people at her church treated her “uncle Johnny”, calling him “light in his loafers,” which she didn’t understand, but she knew it wasn’t good.
So at a very young age she spotted it, and it resonates with her to this day.
Hypocrisy – saying one thing about loving-kindness and all too often doing something very different. She lives in a place where there are more churches than crows, but she hangs out with the crows.
So many of us had an Uncle Johnny somewhere in our lives, and your book reconnects us with our capacity to love and understand, and to be advocates for much greater tolerance and acceptance.