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Imitation of Life


When I started my new novel, Sing You Home, I was interested in why people who are opposed to gay rights feel that way. In particular, why is the Christian evangelical right so hell-bent on having a political agenda to prevent gay marriage, gay adoption, and gay parenting? When you travel as extensively as I do on book tours, it becomes incredibly clear how commonplace and accepted same-sex couples and families are abroad, or at least in other Western societies like England and Australia, where it's not even an issue. It's very apparent when you come back home that this is still an enormous issue here -- one that has polarized the country along religious lines'and I really wanted to dive in and tackle it.

I narrowed in on embryo donation as a theme because legally it's like the Wild West right now. Reproductive science has advanced so quickly, and the law has yet to catch up. So I started to come up with a storyline. Somewhere in the middle of that, my oldest son, Kyle, who was 17 at the time and was applying to colleges, showed up with his college essay and asked me to read it. I picked it up and read it'he was coming out in his college essay. Now I could tell you, and my husband could tell you -- we knew that Kyle was gay from the time he was 3. He just didn't know it. But I just had a gut feeling -- I think it's a mom feeling. He never showed an interest in girls, but they were always his friends. He was always the one who was dressing up and putting on little plays. He was into art; he was a quieter, gentler kid. He went out with a couple of girls in high school, but not for long, just a couple of dates. Nothing really happened, and I thought, Because you're probably not too interested in them. And, finally, when he came out, our reaction was, "We are so glad you noticed."

I'm very realistic about the fact I'm still his mom, and the things that worry me about him being gay have nothing to do with who he falls in love with. I don't care at all about that. He has a boyfriend who I adore to pieces. In fact, they just celebrated their one-year anniversary by going to New York City. But as a mom, I still worry that one day he is going to step off his little academic, bubble campus where it is totally cool to be gay, lesbian, or anything else, and someone in an airport is going to say something horrible to him because he's holding Kevin's hand. And that breaks my heart. It really does, because I can't protect him all the time. He knows that, and we've talked about it. I think most of my gay friends are hyperaware of that pressure and are much less likely to do something as simple as holding a partner's hand in public. Kyle is going to have to face it in his own time and in his own way, but I sure wish he didn't have to.

When you start thinking about this, it just makes your head whirl. And those are all the reasons that I wanted to write this book: the faces of all the teenagers now who are going, 'Where's my place in the world?' Because they know they are gay, or they're starting to assume that they might be gay. And that was really the impetus for me. All of a sudden, it wasn't a theoretical book'it became a really personal one. Because when Kyle is ready to get married and have a family, I don't want him to have to jump through a million hoops; I want it to be as easy as it was for me. And if I can change even a few minds with this book, then I know I've done my job in trying to make the world a better place for him.

Sing You Home is published by Atria Books.

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Jodi Picoult