Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality
John Schwartz's memoir, "Oddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality" attempts to answer the questions a family might face when discovering that their child is growing up different. His son Joe Schwartz faced a series of trials as a boy that included coming out as gay and also as gifted and talented/learning disabled. As he grew, therapists and educators attempted to label Joe as disabled in order to diagnose him into an easily controlled label: Asperger's, Autistic, Bi-Polar, etc. The Schwartz family refused such treatment and instead began the journey of understanding their son as an individual facing unique problems. Bless them, they responded to Joe with patience, compassion and courageous love.
Mr. Schwartz is well educated in LGBT history. He has an acute understanding of the issues that Joe could face as a gay boy/man and a healthy respect for the struggle of the LGBT and disabled communities. Readers seeking advice in Schwartz's struggles will have a well-rounded range of topics to research. But please be aware that this is not a self-help book. This is only one way to attack the issues a gifted LGBT child may face. Schwartz presents an opportunity to arm oneself against the pitfalls of psychology and a well-intentioned educational system. There were times when the system failed Joe terribly so Schwartz wrote down his experiences to aid other's facing similar issues.
In response to Joe's differences, the Schwartz family became fierce advocates. They refused to let Joe be medicated for diagnoses that didn't fit Joe's symptoms knowing that some adults use drugs as a crutch. They wrote a care and treatment manifesto for Joe that they gave to his teachers at the beginning of each school year. Best of all, they raised Joe to be responsible for his needs when the adults around him were not. The Schwartz family was bravely accountable for their son in a world full of entitled helicopter parents.
Some may pigeonhole this memoir as the story of a man coping with his son's suicide attempt but it is so much more. "Oddly Normal" is the touching story of a man going out of his way to ensure that his son is loved not just by his immediate family (the people who are supposed to love you) but by the greater populace. To explain his drive, Schwartz uses a quote from the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Silence in the face of evil is evil itself... Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." By allowing Joe to be treated with less love and respect than he deserved, Schwartz would have allowed Joe to believe that he deserved less. People, all of us, have an intrinsic need to be loved. Joe has every right for the opportunity to be loved for his differences as much as the rest of us fully-abled Normals just as we have every right to be loved for our differences.
"Oddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality"
By John Schwartz