Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son by Kevin Jennings
Review by Jessica Hron, Fall 2011
“Change is a process, not an event” (235), author Kevin Jennings writes this in his memoir Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son. Even though he wrote the statement in regarding the reunion of a loving relationship with his mother after years of disputing over his sexual orientation, I find it fitting for almost every challenge he faced throughout his life. This book exhibits several social injustices through Jennings’ experiences of growing up poor, gay and Baptist in Southern United States during the 1960’s. It does a good job of discussing classism, sexism, racism, adultism, religious oppression, and most of all heterosexism and homophobia. Jennings writes on his experience, while interchanging the other isms he faced growing up, as a child being bullied because he is homosexual. After undergoing plenty depression and self-hate starting at a young age, Jennings became disgusted by injustices, and started a political campaign, stating thereafter “[I was] well on my way to a life devoted to changing the world”. This was the path he took to becoming a social activist for LGBTQ students in schools.
Those who recognize the name, Kevin Jennings, identify the strong social activist who founded GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son reports the events or process of change over time, in which Jennings was able to establish the national organization. But it wasn’t easy. Jennings undergoes the coming out and closeting process over and over again in each situation of work, school, family, etc. to find that the “costs of the closet are always higher than the costs of honesty” (191). With teaching of the Civil Rights’ Movement in his classes and giving speeches at school assemblies, students and other school district individuals become conscious of his work and are motivated to both give support and help with the transformation to LGBTQ civil liberties.
Toward the end of the memoir, Jennings abridges his long journey in a way that gives the reader a sense of accomplishment for his goals and a sense of inspiration to similarly take challenges head on to achieve one’s own beliefs, as felt throughout the entire read.