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The Bishop's Daughter: A Memoir Paperback – May 18, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Having told the sad, extraordinary story of her maternal grandmother, the painter Margarett Sargent, in The White Blackbird (1996), Moore offers a painfully honest memoir of her father, Paul Moore (1919–2003), the Episcopal bishop of the diocese of New York from 1972 to 1989. Educated at St. Paul's and Yale, Paul distinguished himself in battle as a marine on Guadalcanal during WWII; fathered nine children by his first wife, the vivacious Jenny McKean; and became an activist in the liberal social movements of the 1950s and '60s. He also had numerous clandestine affairs with men. While Paul's bisexuality did little harm to his professional career, it took a heavy emotional toll on his family, notably Jenny, who up to her death from cancer at age 51 confided to only a few intimates the underlying cause of the unhappiness in her marriage. The author, a poet and playwright, draws on letters between her parents, the reminiscences of friends (including a male lover of her father's) and her own experiences as her parents' oldest child coming of age in the '60s to create an indelible portrait of a charismatic religious leader who could be insensitive or even cruel to those who loved him most. At the dramatic heart of this engrossing family chronicle is the ultimately triumphant struggle of the daughter, who suffered her own sexual confusion and years of therapy, to reconstruct her father's personal history in an effort to understand his behavior and thereby forgive. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Poet Moore explored key aspects of her intriguing legacy in The White Blackbird (1996), a biography of her artist grandmother, Margarett Sargent, but there was much left to tell, as readers discover in this galvanizing portrait of her famous parents. Heir to wealth, tall and charming Paul Moore Jr. became a radical Episcopalian priest devoted to social justice. He ministered to the poor in Jersey City, Indianapolis, and Washington, D.C., then became bishop of New York, preaching for two decades at St. John the Divine Cathedral. He and his equally ardent and brilliant wife had nine children. Born in 1945, Honor was the oldest, and felt more invisible with each sibling. Entwining candid reminiscences with the fruits of often unnerving research, Moore creates a dramatic family history that casts fresh light on the civil rights, peace, and women’s movements, and the corresponding evolution of the Episcopalian Church. But the blazing heart of the book is the revelation of her father’s secret homosexual affairs. As Moore struggles to recalibrate her understanding of her confounding parents, she revisits her own relationships with both men and women. The result is a generous and thought-provoking chronicle of public altruism and private betrayal, high ideals and forbidden desire, love and forgiveness. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (May 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393335364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393335361
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #733,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on May 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A memoir that is religious and sexual at its core -- this is the story that Honor Moore tells of her father, herself and their places in their extended families. A WWII veteran who was convinced that his near-death experiences pointed him into religious life of the Episcopal Church, he rose to Bishop of Diocese of New York. But he was tormented by his double life as a bisexual -- and in a generation, his own daughter would struggle with her own sexuality, starting with an abortion and a non-coversation with the possible father. The book is a brief bio of her father, then of herself, and then of truths coming home to the light of day. A wonderful and honest book for the reader to consume.
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Format: Hardcover
The author, Honor Moore, was born to very wealthy parents. It is no exaggeration to say that she was born with the proverbial "gold spoon in her mouth". Her father, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Paul Moore, the famous Episcopal Bishop who lived in New York, was a descendant of an aristocratic family, and her mother, Jenny McKean was an heir to a fabulous and old fortune. To quote the author:

"My father was born in 1919, the beneficiary of vast wealth. He was a grandson of William H. Moore, Palm Beach, where they lived in an Addison Mizner villa, Lake Worth on one side of the house and a wide ocean beach on the other." In addition, he owned a house in the Adirondacks by the lake, an enormous apartment in Manhattan on the eighteenth floor of a building on Fifth Avenue, with a view of Central Park, and a house in Connecticut by the Long Island Sound also.

Even though the book is titled "The Bishop's Daughter", it has a great deal of information, both pleasant and unpleasant, about the famous Episcopalian Bishop. The Bishop was wealthy, but he wasn't a happy man. His first wife considered him "the most unhappy man she had ever known." He was married twice, and he had nine children. And he had a lover named Andrew Verver also. Their secret romance lasted over 28 years. With a great deal of courage, compassion, affection, and understanding, the author describes the relationship and romance the Bishop had with Andrew. I was quite moved when I read the passages that desribed in detail their romance. After reading those passages I thought Andrew is a friendly, decent and lovable man.

The author was estranged from her father. But she reconciled after the Bishop became ill and he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, melanoma of the brain.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Martz on July 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Of the summer's two "gay Episcopal" memoirs -- the other being Gene Robinson's book -- I found Honor Moore's by far the more substantive. Nearly all of us wrestle with our parents, and the more charismatic and larger than life they are, the more likely it is that this wrestling will leave us wounded. Honor Moore courageously shows us her wounds (and her wonder) as well as her father's complexity and her mother's humanity.

Moore opens a window onto the significant social pressures Episcopal clergy once faced to sunder their sexuality from their spirituality -- conservative evangelicals take note -- and this alone makes her book a valuable contribution to church social history.

The real beauty of the book, however, lies in its depiction of two parents and their eldest daughter trying to live their lives as authentically as they can. This is difficult in any era, no matter what the current social prejudices, and if none of the three quite succeeds as much as we would have wished, their journeys are no less moving.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Yours Truly VINE VOICE on August 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Honor Moore could teach Freud himself a few things about family relationships. The first of nine children of a marriage between a privileged Episcopal priest and his well-born wife, Honor from an early age longed to get inside the dynamics of her parents' life together.

Coming as it does while the Anglican (Episcopal to Americans) church is in the midst of a controversy about the roles of gays and lesbians, her memoir is especially instructive about the way sex and gender play out in this ecclesiastical world. It is also a cautionary tale about the ripple effect of dishonesty nurtured in closeted homosexuality.

What makes this memoir so compelling, however, is not that Honor Moore outs her iconic father, Paul, the bishop, but her gentle but relentless search for the factual and emotional truth about her parents' multiple liaisons and her own. Meticulously, she recounts her childhood awe of her father's spiritual identity, separate from the one he assumed around the rectory. In his clerical garb, he was apart, but even more than she knew was hidden.

The years the family spent in Jersey City during the late fifties and early sixties in a ministry that involved all its members formed her character and created the image of her father as a dashing activist priest aware of the roots of racism and poverty. She speaks dispassionately of the huge family fortune that provided some respite for the family and enabled her father's ministry. He called it his cross of gold. She would say, I think, that the cross he and his family bore was of a different nature.

Aside from its political implications, this memoir is a deeply personal exploration of Christianity and the erotic and worth reading no matter what your sexual or religious orientation.
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