Blogs & Columns
2 min

Oddly Normal: Coming out, suicide and The New York Times

It never ceases to amaze me how many gay people have tried to commit suicide. It's like this grotesque club that meets once a week, down the road, not across the street . . .

For those who are lucky enough to survive, a second chance often brings a new beginning and a new sense of purpose. When you survive death, hopefully, you learn something. And that's exactly what New York Times writer John Schwartz shares in his upcoming memoir, Oddly Normal, which chronicles his son Joe's coming out at age 13 and subsequent suicide attempt.

The book was written with the help of Schwartz's wife, Jeanne, who composed 120 pages of notes on her memories of the experience, which ultimately served as the foundation for the novel. Joe also contributed by reading the first draft and offering his thoughts.

Even though the book depicts a painful and personal time of his life, Joe was encouraging about sharing his story. "Before I even wrote up the proposal, I wanted to make sure that it would be okay with Joe," John Schwartz told Queerty. "I asked him one evening as we were driving around town — to a music lesson, I think. I described the book and what I hoped it would do: that it would provide a narrative thread of our family’s story with alternating chapters providing a greater context of history, culture, science and law. I told him it might help other families. He quickly said, 'You should do it.' I stepped back and told him that the book might be uncomfortable in some places and that I’d be talking about all kinds of things, including his suicide attempt and his time in the hospital. 'Do it,' he said."

As it should be for all modern families, their son's sexuality, which they saw expressions of from a young age, was accepted as simply his nature. "There was nothing to overcome as far as [Joe's] sexual orientation was concerned. What had to be overcome was our son’s unhappiness with himself, which my wife and I came to believe had a lot to do with [his feelings about] being gay and alone. His coming out was rocky at first, as I explain in Oddly Normal, but once he was past that important moment, a huge amount of the pressure he was living under seemed to melt away."

Oddly Normal is out Nov 8, and is available for preorder.