A New Book To Help Children and Parents Navigate Through The Coming Out Process

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Book Reviews

The Rest of the Way

by Enid Duchin Jackowitz
Create Space Publishing
Reviewed by:
Dave Parker, PFLAG National Board of Directors
Past President of PFLAG Transgender Network
Recipient of the Human Rights Campaign Legacy Award 2010

What a wonderful book!
The Rest of the Way refers to the Talmudic story many Christians think of as the Prodigal Son.  In the Talmudic version, when the king asks his son to come home, the son replies that he cannot travel that far.  The king responds, “Then come as far as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way.”
This book is about Ms. Jackowitz’ journey the rest of the way when her older son comes out to her as gay.
There are a number of books about coming out by gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender people telling their stories.  There are also a number of books by therapists and other professionals dissecting the struggles most gender variant people go through.  The Rest of the Way is more about how coming to terms with the author’s son’s gay identity leads the author toward much greater awareness of herself.
Like many of us, Ms Jackowitz’ life was constrained by her need to meet other people’s standards.  This need is deeply ingrained in all of us.  We learn from our earliest awareness that some actions and attitudes are accepted (or demanded) in our social environment while others are taboo.
Accepting her son’s reality meant giving up many of those acceptable attitudes and accepting many of those she was taught were taboos.
The Rest of the Way takes us along on her journey.  It is one those of us who love our children must also travel.  Our journeys require a great deal of thoughtful insight into our own needs and recognition that we cannot accept changes in someone else without changing ourselves.


The Rest of the Way: A Coming Out Story for Parents and Gay Children by Enid Duchin Jackowitz (2009; 230 pages)

About a year ago, this column featured a coming out book, Ready or Not…They’re Gay: Stories from a Midwestern Family by Paul and Hjordy Wagner. A simple, white-bread story of an “Ozzie and Harriet” family from Middle America, it was heartfelt, direct, and almost painfully bland. Yet, as a primer for parents just discovering their child is gay, it was a worthwhile, even necessary, book with a clearly positive message.

The Rest of the Way: A Coming Out Story for Parents and Gay Children is an equally valuable book, though quite different. When her eldest son, Michael, tells her, after his graduation from college, that he is gay, the author is thrown into a morass of shame and guilt. Michael had studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. However, a stopover in Paris and a chance Metro meeting with an “adorable blond guy” changed the lifelong denial of his gay feelings. This realization also ended his engagement to his college sweetheart.

Reluctantly, Michael broke the news to his parents. They had long wished him to find the perfect girl and give them grandchildren to love. His mother unconsciously harbored an ingrained Jewish homophobia. “Being gay was not something that was tolerated in a nice Jewish family.”

That was the starting point of her long, long journey toward full acceptance of Michael’s sexual orientation. By the time Enid was introduced to Shawn, Michael’s present life partner and another attractive blond, she was able to accept him wholeheartedly. Michael and Shawn met on a family cruise sponsored by Michael’s maternal grandmother to celebrate her 80th birthday. Shawn worked in the purser’s office. The autobiography’s title The Rest of the Way relates to the ten-year-long journey where Enid and Michael’s father, Syd, meet Michael half-way in their mutual effort to understand and affirm his sexual orientation.

Finally released from the “closet,” Michael, who had become a physician to please his parents and disguise his homosexuality, becomes (what else?) a musical theater director and producer in New York City. Michael gets his own chapter to tell his story. I only wish the book, like the Ready or Not, included family snapshots.

Completing her part of the journey to rebond her family is very hard for Michael’s mother. It has many setbacks and moments of despair through a myriad of college classes, sexuality workshops, therapeutic books, and personal encounters. Happily, Enid has the knack of recreating remembered scenes of great emotion and conflict, rendering them in fluent, credible dialog. You have the sense of being there and, in particular, of understanding the Jewish background of Enid and her family. There is even a Yiddish glossary where, if one did not already know, one can discover that fagele is a derogatory word for someone gay. The book also includes a helpful list of recommended readings, organizations, and workshops.

Now a practicing therapist specializing in gay and lesbian issues, the author goes beyond her own life experience to narrate the life stories of several clients. Though only one lesbian life is explored in some detail, other cases, of both young persons and seniors, give a feel for the diversity of coming out experiences. In addition, the author integrates vivid accounts of the many workshops she has attended, such as “Adventures in Intimacy,” “Getting the Love You Want,” “Speaking Out Against Homophobia,” and “Understanding Yourself and Others.” Her recreation of key moments at some of these events is so vivid that, frankly, I was moved to tears.

Of course, it is wonderful to see PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) given due notice and praise in this book. Aside from being a longtime member of PFLAG, Mrs. Jackowitz served on the Orlando Board of PFLAG for over 10 years and the Orlando Board of Directors of the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Community Center for three years.

Essentially, The Rest of the Way goes beyond the author’s coming to terms with her son’s gay identity. It also renders in moving detail how her son’s coming out has led to a greater awareness of herself and a fuller, richer life.

Review by John Boettjer

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