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Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son: A Memoir Hardcover – August 15, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (August 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807071463
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807071465
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,147,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This rags-to-riches story, about growing up poor and eventually reaching Harvard has bite and pathos. The youngest son of a born-again Southern Baptist preacher originally from Massachusetts, and a mother from Appalachian Tennessee, Jennings led an itinerant youth among trailer parks in Southern towns where his dad would try to find work. The boy couldn't make his father proud on the football field, and already he had learned that "being a real man meant taking advantage of anyone smaller or weaker than you." With his father's abrupt death when Jennings was eight, he became a "mama's boy," introverted, brainy and overweight, and ridden by guilt at his incipient homosexuality. Supported by his scarcely educated mother, who became the first woman manager at McDonald's, Jennings excelled in school and on the debate team and was accepted to Harvard by 1981. Jennings became a high-school teacher, at Concord Academy among others, agonizing over the decision to out himself; he promoted the creation of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) to protect students from the kind of harassment he experienced firsthand. When his national crusade brought him back home to speak at the same Winston-Salem school system where his "young soul had almost been crushed," Jennings writes of his journey with graciousness and candor. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When hospitalized in 1966 with whooping cough--a consequence of his family's extreme poverty, which excluded vaccinations, insurance, and even a doctor until the three-year-old's fever exceeded 102 degrees--Jennings almost died. Buoyed by his Appalachian mother's steel will, he returned to the family's two-bedroom trailer and recovered, but fighting for life left him feeling different and vulnerable, and his mother overprotective. Hence, he became a mama's boy. As for his fundamentalist--preacher dad, he cared only about God and sports, worked construction jobs--and dropped dead at Jennings' eighth-birthday party. He grew up gay with athletic brothers in a sports-mad family ("a white-trash version of the Kennedys") amid a culture that forbade homosexuality. After 12 years "of isolation and sadness" in public schools, he went to Harvard on a scholarship and discovered new freedoms, but he re-closeted himself when he went home to teach. After two years, he left, marched with his partner for gay rights in 1987, and eventually spearheaded efforts to make schools safer for gay kids. A refreshingly readable memoir. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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I highly recommend this book as high school classroom reading.
Jessica Lux
And the book makes one realize how fortunate we are to have Kevin along with many others in this country fighting homophobia for our future generations.
R. Hoyer
The book is sad, but incredibly the writer makes it funny as well.
Happy and Proud

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lester Brown on July 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Very few books I've read have touched me as deeply as Kevin Jenning's book "Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son." The author does an excellent job hooking the reader in with descriptions of life growing up in the South, with feelings of not being "normal."

From the depths of despair in a childhood gone wrong, Kevin managed to form an idea of how to change the climate in schools, and make them a better place for kids to learn. The things he went through as a student trying to get an education and putting up with bullying and harassment are amazing, and incredibly sad. This book should be required reading for teachers entering the field, so they understand why bullying and harassment isn't just "kids being kids" and can cause significant and lasting damage to the victims.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bob Drake VINE VOICE on November 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One might expect the life of a gay son of a Southern minister to be miserable and brief, but this one is truly inspirational, both because of the quality of the son, and of the extraordinary tenacity of his uneducated but street-smart mother. Jennings has a memory for and eye for detail that is astonishing. Anyone who believes that homosexuality is a "lifestyle choice" should be convinced otherwise by this memoir, though some will be troubled by Jennings' brazen attitude during his Harvard years. My experience with teaching at a "private school" paralleled his -- not the place for a liberal-minded person with an independent streak. One has to admire the man Jennings became and appreciate the strength required to get there.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I started browsing through this book while waiting for a train and I'm glad I did. Even though outwardly I have nothing in common with the author, I could completely relate to his universal tale of feeling out of place in the world. The book is sad, but incredibly the writer makes it funny as well. He describes something I think almost everyone could understand regardless of their background.
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By Torrie on December 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thank you Kevin Jennings for a very important book about the gay experience. This book is unique because it also addresses the area of intolerance based directly on Fundamentalist Christianity. If you have been hurt by Fundamentalist finger pointing and judgement then this is the book to read. If you want a real example of courage and grace under fire, then this is the book to read.
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By Melissa Letos on March 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The writer kept me engaged until the very end. Great book, and very interesting life that makes you feel like you could do more with your own.
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By Charles J. Dale on March 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great book about growing up gay as a preacher's son. This is a must read for anyone growing up gay and trying to figure out how or if the religion of their childhood is still a factor in their lives of being gay. Painfully raw, tenderly emotionally and wonderfully honest.
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By Susan Tournour on December 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We decided to read this for our book club. I was not really excited by the title, but the more I read, the closer I felt to the author and his expereiences. It is a tremendous book filled with poignant insights into family life and the difficulty youth face coming to terms with their sexuality as children and adults. I hope people will read this book and consider how socio economic conditions and our perceptions of our parents lack of intelligence and compassion for their survival in difficult times impact the choices they make and how we view them and ourselves. I highly recommend this book to any reader.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though Jennings has become a very successful and well-known advocate for LGBT equality, he walked a long yet familiar road. Many readers will identify with the paradoxical situations posed by figuring out how to navigate the waters of faith and family in light of one's own sexual orientation. Jennings ability to share of his family and growing up experiences with clarity, honesty, and genuine love and reflection make this a must read.
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