Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son
By Kevin Jennings
(Beacon Press, Hardcover, 9780807071465, 267pp.)
Publication Date: August 2006
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Growing up poor in the South, Kevin Jennings learned a lot of things, especially about how to be a real man. When his father, a fundamentalist preacher, dropped dead at his son’s eighth birthday party, Kevin already knew he wasn’t supposed to cry.
He also knew there was no salvation for homosexuals, who weren’t real men”or Christians, for that matter. But Jennings found his salvation in school, inspired by his mother. Self-taught, from Appalachia, her formal education had ended in sixth grade, but she was determined that her son would be the first member of their extended family to go to college, even if it meant going North. Kevin, propelled by her dream, found a world beyond poverty. He earned a scholarship to Harvard and there learned not only about history and literature, but also that it was possible to live openly as a gay man.
But when Jennings discovered his vocation as a teacher and returned to high school to teach, he was forced back into the closet. He saw countless teachers and students struggling with their sexual orientation and desperately trying to hide their identity. For Jennings, coming out the second time was more complicated and much more important than the firstbecause this time he was leading a movement for justice.
Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son is that rare memoir that is both a riveting personal story and an inside account of a critical chapter in our recent history. Creating safe schools for teenagers is now a central part of the progressive agenda in American education. Like Paul Monette’s landmark Becoming a Man, Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, and Rick Bragg’s All Over but the Shoutin’, Kevin Jennings’s poignant, razor-sharp memoir will change the way we see our contemporary world.
Kevin Jennings taught high school in New England after graduating from Harvard and is best known for his work creating safe schools for LGBT students. In 1988, Jennings helped establish the nation's first Gay-Straight Alliance for students, and in 1990 he founded GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, to bring together teachers, parents, students, and community members to end anti-LGBT bias in schools. Mr. Jennings led GLSEN to success in making Massachusetts the first state in the nation to outlaw discrimination against public school students on the basis of sexual orientation, and he helped establish the Safe Schools Program for Gay & Lesbian Students. Under Jennings's guidance, GLSEN has become a national education and civil rights organization with a presence in all fifty states. Newsweek named him one of a hundred people to watch in the new century. Jennings tours extensively and makes frequent media appearances as an advocate and spokesperson for LGBT youth. The author of One Teacher in Ten and Always My Child: A Parent's Guide to Understanding Your Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning Son or Daughter, Jennings also wrote and produced the historical documentary Out of the Past, which won the 1998 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary.
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