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Oddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality Audible – Unabridged

4.4 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book succeeded on several levels. First and foremost, it's engaging and well written. I started with the Kindle sample, bought it immediately, and finished it in one setting. I think this will appeal to any parents who have watched their children struggle with being different, those who work in the education system, and people specifically interested in topics of sexuality and developing identity.

I was struck by the honesty of the author in telling his family's story. I wouldn't recommend reading this book in public like I did, because I teared up several times. The book is powerful in its truth and relatability. Even if you haven't been in this family's exact situation, anyone who grew up different or watched a child grow up different will resonate with the author's words.

In the book, the author interweaves his family's personal experience with research on sexual orientation with mixed results. The research touches upon historical, psychological, and legal domains. Sometimes the sudden rush of research jolted me out of the narrative, but it did deepen the educational quality of the book.

If you're familiar with the research on this topic, those aspects of the book are easily skimmed. The real worth comes from the family's narrative, especially the author's honesty about their failures as well as successes. For parents who need to advocate for their child in an education system, the experiences of the Schwartzs provide a helpful guide for what to do, and not do. Schwartz also acts as a voice of grace towards parents who "miss the signs". His own reflections on how it happened normalizes how hard it is for parents to know everything that's going on with their kid.

I liked that the author drew upon several voices to tell this story.
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Format: Hardcover
Full disclosure: I appear very briefly in the first few pages of the book as a college freshman, Jeanne's former boyfriend. I'm dealt with graciously -- perhaps too graciously -- so anyone reading this very positive review may find reason to dismiss me as biased for that reason. I'm alert, I think, to where my biases are, though, and so I don't think my review is biased for that reason, or even biased by the fact that I've known John Schwartz and Jeanne Mixon for 35-40 years, depending on how you count. They are my friends, and among my very best friends. And I know their older two children reasonably well, although I don't know Joe Schwartz from anything but this book.

Still, I don't write reviews for every friend who writes a book. I feel compelled to write one for this one, though, because of one bias I will admit to -- I strongly admire, and strive to emulate, loving parents who commit themselves to being advocates for their children, who commit themselves further to learning everything they can about how to be an effective advocate.

*If I were teaching a class about how to be as good a parent as one could be, I would put this book first on the reading list.* It's that good.

What makes it good? I'll list a few things: First, it has been designed and written by a very good reporter with a good reporter's insistence on getting the facts right and treating the facts fairly. In this respect, the closest book that comes to mind when I read ODDLY NORMAL is David Carr's THE NIGHT OF THE GUN, in which the author uses his journalistic skills to document a tough period in his own life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a brave and big-hearted book, one that could well be a life raft for any family coping with the experience detailed here -- lovingly raising a child who, in the eyes of conventional society, is "different."
But it would be a tragedy if "Oddly Normal" did not reach a much larger audience -- the vast population of people who help create the society that presents such obstacles to people like Joe Schwartz and his parents.
Wise people know that abolition frees both the slave and the master. Similarly, tolerance liberates both the bully and his target. And this book is a moving manifesto for tolerance, one that will enrich anyone who reads it -- and everyone should read it.
A universal truth of human society is that there is a constant tension between the security of "fitting in" and the adventure of "standing out." It takes different forms -- fitting into a gang culture or standing out as a scholar; fitting into a loving traditional family role or standing out through some demanding role outside the home; fitting into a supportive office society or standing out by being ambitious. Or, of course, fitting in by conforming to some middle-school notion of "a normal boy" or standing out by being oddly normal, whether that means being gay or a chess prodigy or a precocious reader or a klutz at sports.
This is a book for everyone who has wrestled with that "fitting in/standing out" tension or tried to help others in that struggle. In short, a book for all of us.
You can disregard any canard about "exploitation." The author makes it clear that this book would never have been written if young Joe, its hero, had not wanted his father to write it -- indeed, he helped his father to write it.
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