The One with the Gay Father

Christophe Honoré, Ton Père (2017)

We’ve already passed mid-January and I still have a slew of 2018 books to write about. Better late than never is my pragmatic motto of the day… The books I had the most feelings about took the precedence, and I’m left with titles for which I hum and haw, that were neither awful nor awesome, or that I feel inadequate to talk about.

But for one, that was exactly my point. I’ve read many blog posts by fantastic people who resolve to read harder, to make bold book choices, to venture into uncomfortable zones of literature, and it seemed like is always a good idea. I know for a fact (because I keep track of piles), that I don’t read many books by authors of color, by LGBTQ authors, or anything very diverse. I didn’t want to commit to anything systematic, but I wanted to try a book that would talk about homosexuality as a topic, about a gay father, written by a gay writer.

Christophe Honoré is more well-known for his movies (he’s a screenwriter and a director) than for his books, and I’ve enjoyed his movies. The book is called a novel, but most readers will consider it a thinly-veiled retelling of true facts. Parisian writers love auto-fiction these days. The narrator Christophe, a gay movie director and father of a tween girl, is shaken to the core when he finds a homophobic slur on his apartment door. Who has written this? Since apartments have restricted access, it must be someone close to him. A neighbor, an ex-lover… Christophe has never hidden his gay identity, but he considered himself safe, respected, established, among friends and among open-minded people. But apparently this is not true. Someone attacks him as a gay father, saying that he shouldn’t be allowed to raise kids. This reminds him of his growing up in Brittany, in a small town, with a conservative father and a sister full of contempt for him. When he moved to Paris he thought that he would be free of this prejudice and hatred, but becoming a gay father puts him on the spot with other parents, with maternity staff, and with some gay friends as well.

I was moved by the subject of this book, because of the odious and the cowardly attacks the narrator and his daughter were confronted to, but the writing himself felt a bit flat and indulgent, not really straight to the point. I could feel his discomfort and shock replaced by fear and outrage, but it was diluted by a lot of various thoughts and memories. Overall I’m glad I dipped my toes into this difficult subject, there is a lot more to explore.


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