- File Size: 408 KB
- Print Length: 70 pages
- Publisher: The Atlantic Books (April 30, 2013)
- Publication Date: April 30, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00CLJAMII
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,398 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Denial: My 25 Years Without a Soul (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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It chronicles his early childhood recognition of a secret difference, an unknowable monster in his psyche that must be hidden from both himself and the world. He describes the elaborate structure of denials, the closet, which he created and maintained until he was 25 to preserve his secret and his sanity.
Rauch documents with startling honesty and insight how the decades he spent denying his nature to himself stunted his relationships with others and distorted his understanding of the world. Spoiler alert: there is a happy ending. He also describes the process of self-discovery that let him open the closet door to become an authentic and loving self.
I think that many straight people view the coming out process differently from what it usually is. They may imagine an adolescent suddenly discovering (or choosing) to be gay, and that coming out is simply deciding when to let everyone else in on the secret. A lot of blog comments on Jason Collins recent revelations seem to support this distorted view.
Gay people are not born in closets. They painstakingly build them themselves, board by board and layer by layer as a defense against a world that would mock and humiliate them. Discovering that you are "different" and "not normal" is a frightening paralyzing thing for a kid. Many, like Rauch, become convinced that they are not only different; but are unique and alone in their struggle with a hidden monster. LGBT suicide rates underline the seriousness of this struggle.
Jonathan Rauch is 1st a great reporter and 2nd a remarkably honest and self aware man. This short book describes the coming out experience with greater detail, self-knowledge and compassion than I have ever seen. Its not a long read. But categorizing Denial as a "Kindle Single" does not do justice to the amazing amount of thought and self analysis that was apparent on every page. Many of the thoughts John describes growing up I too felt but had long forgotten, or had imagined were mine alone. The difficulty he had fighting through the "kudzu" of self-denial to accept his authentic self is an experience that many gay people will relate to.
Rauch does not claim that his own journey is the same as that of all or any other gays. It certainly differed in significant ways from mine. Each of our paths is our own. However, I am confident that reading John's story will provide any GLBT person who struggles with coming out with increased self-awareness and a greater confidence that they are not alone and that there are pathways to the light.
The book is also a good choice for families, friends and loved ones who want to better understand what gay people who struggle with the closet may be going through and how to better support them.
I hope that our nation's rapid cultural change and increasing support for GLBT youth will someday make this personal memoir just an interesting relic of the past. We're not there yet. Thank you Jonathan for telling this most personal, honest and insightful story.
"Denial: My 25 Years Without a Soul" is a story of writer Jonathan Rausch's childhood, adolescent, and young adult years and what it was like to be gay without realizing one was gay. Rausch just believed that he was either asexual (or a heterosexual whose sexual feelings were just around the corner), and - smart as Rausch was - his brain ratioanlized his obsession with men's muscles as a strange case of envy. But meanwhile, where everyone else could feel romantic love, Rausch simply believed that that he was incapable of those feelings.
The book starts during Rausch's early teens, when he realizes - just like that - that he'll probably never get married. He just doesn't have feelings toward girls. We follow Rausch through his burgeoning obsession with the male (athletic) figure and, in particular, a bodybuilding friend named Paul. It literally doesn't dawn on Rausch that he is gay, because (he says) he doesn't have sexual thoughts about boys. He rationalizes his admiration for their bodies as a sort of envy of a scrawny awkward boy of his "betters." In college, the same, and when periodic friends suggested he may be gay, he very honestly denied it (again, because homosexuality was about wanting sex with men, different from what he felt). It was only in his twenties (for reasons I'll leave you to discover) that he realized he may be - and then was - gay.
I must reiterate - per Rausch's above quote - that this is not a memoir or even a story per se; Rausch is writing a psychological account of who he - this unsuspecting gay man, obsessed with his muscular friend Paul and convinced he was just abnormal and broken - was from childhood through adulthood. It is very well written, unflinchingly honest, Not a book you read if you just want a good story, but one you read if you really want to feel things you may never have felt before about a boy who exists but you've never known. This is what happens when a writer (given to self-analysis and -reflection) sruggles mightily with his sexuality and can put it into words for us.
This book, that may have seemed too egocentric had it been a full novel's length, was quite perfect at less than 100 pages. Rausch's writing is appropriately self-reflective (even if his prose CAN be grandiose at times, using phrases like "dear reader" a bit too much for my tastes.) In this short book, though, Jonathan Rausch gives us a very compelling portrait of a boy trying desperately and unsuccessfully to figure himself out and finally - finally! - doing so.
For straight folks, it provides an authentic view of how it can be for gay friends and family members; it should be required reading in every PFLAG chapter. There are difficult moments in the book: Not because of x-rated material, but because one is in the presence of someone sharing personal moments that most would keep hidden. As other reviewers have said, there are times when it's almost painful to read: It's that unsparingly direct.
It would have been easier to present those 25 years "without a soul" as unmitigated misery. But Rauch is too honest for that. He presents us with the seeming paradox of good times, of achievement and acceptance -- accompanied for so long by that great emptiness inside. His prose style is undramatic, humorous, personal. He draws us in simply by his willingness to disclose his humanity. There is no artifice here.
When, at the end, he recounts the moments when he was able to end the denial and affirm his sexual nature and claim his birthright, I wanted to cheer: For him, for me, for all the men who have gone down this path and found release from those very demons.
It also brought tears to my eyes and an ache in my gut: For all those men who never made it, and for those still on the road. Hang in there, brothers!
It's a short read, but you won't forget it easily. I recommend it without reservation.