Gregory Martin's 'Stories For Boys'

11.16.2012

By Daniel Tehrani

Talking repression, masculinity, and the father-son dynamic with the memoirist, who can now say his gay father's 'heroic'

One of the hardest pills to swallow is the fact that our parents are not the superheroes we idolized in childhood, but are, in fact, very human—with flaws, scar,s and sometimes a secret. Gregory Martin, author of the memoir Stories for Boys, was wrestling with his two sons when his wife came in and handed him the phone. On the other end of the line was his mother with the news that would change his family dynamic, and his life, forever: “Your father tried to kill himself.”

When he recovered from his coma, Martin’s father revealed that, from the time he was 4 until he was 14, he had been molested by his own father and for the 39 years he’d been married, he’d been having anonymous sex in the park with other men. Martin’s moving memoir recounts Martin’s own personal growth as he grapples with his father’s painful past of denial and repression and struggles to form a new bond with the father he thought he knew.

Martin, who is an associate professor of English and director of the combined BA/MD degree program at the University of New Mexico, details his emotional progress and his acceptance of his father, which is an astounding feat chronicled with sensitivity, compassion, and skill. Unexpectedly relatable and gripping, Stories for Boys chronicles the healing and, most importantly, love within a family. We caught up with the author to discuss repression, masculinity, and the father-son dynamic.

Out: The subject matter is so sensitive and must be quite difficult to discuss, was and is it scary revealing so much to the world?

Gregory Martin: Totally. I didn’t want to do it at all. I stopped writing at one pint, which is something I did not enjoy, I need to write. I didn’t want to write about it but I kept going back to it, anytime I sat down to write this is all I could write about. I would sit down, I don’t have an agenda when I write but I would write about myself and it would turn to my dad. I had initially written the story as an essay in The Sun. It was pretty raw and it was me coming to grips with the fact that his dad had used him for sex, that he was an incest survivor. It was all to easy for me as a father of a young boy to feel for him. It all came flooding out of me, all the different emotions came out. I didn’t want to feel anything but loving and open and progressive and liberal.

How has the reception been on Stories for Boys so far?

I was worried about writing this as a straight man; I was worried that people would think “what do I know about the feeling of being gay?” Identity politics can be so intense, regardless of what it is but I am so thrilled and so happy that the reception has been quite the opposite. What is stunning to me is hearing people’s responses. I got this email from a gay activist Eric Marcus, his own father committed suicide in 1970 because he had been closeted as well. He related so much about secrecy and shame.

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