Good morning all, and welcome to our second stop on the TLC Book Tour. Joining us today is Jane Rave, co-author of Conversations and Cosmopolitans (with her son, Robert Rave).
After moving from the Midwest to New York City at the age of twenty-one, Robert Rave finally found the resolve to mail a letter to his parents informing them that he was gay. Once Robert was “out,” both he and his mother Jane felt a newfound freedom to be more honest with each other. From the discrimination Jane experienced as a pregnant teenager in a small town, to Robert’s “manscaping,” almost no topic was off-limits in their conversations. Soon, Robert was creating a “gay glossary” so that Jane could understand the lexicon and Jane was giving Robert the same dating advice that she used to give Robert’s older sister (“men are jerks”).
Conversations and Cosmopolitans is a frank, funny, and heartfelt look at coming out from both a mother’s and son’s perspective, and an inspiring memoir about building family relationships based on honesty, openness, and acceptance.
“Why did I agree to write a book with my youngest son?”
by Janet Rave
It’s a question I’ve been asked quite a lot recently by everyone from other family members to friends to even a few reporters. The real truth is that I said yes because I was afraid that if I hadn’t my son may decide to put me in a nursing home when I got older. The thought of having to wear clothes that zip, shoes that don’t have laces, and a bad perm on my head was enough to make me put pen to paper. As a result, I’ve dodged the “retirement community” bullet for the time being.
Of course, I’m only joking. At least, I hope he doesn’t plan on sending me to the “home.” My first thought when he asked me to co-write the book with him was, Why would anyone be interested in what I have to say? I'm not anyone important, just an ordinary citizen, wife, mother of three and grandmother of six. I love my family more than anything else and above all I just want to live a happy life. Of course, I have many of the same worries as everyone else. However, for the most part life is good. This is hardly the making of a riveting, page-turning book. There is one thing that I failed to mention, my youngest son, Robert, is gay and the book begins with the letter he sent to my husband and I revealing his sexuality.
Still unsure of whether or not to write this book with him, Robert then made his case to me pretty convincingly. "Our crazy life and stories might help another family who is dealing with the coming out process," he explained.
I thought about it long and hard before agreeing. There's a great line I read somewhere that basically says something to the effect that our greatest gift is the gift of serving others and the greater good. As corny as it sounds, something clicked with me when I saw that. If it helped one parent understand their child a little better or if it gave one person from the LGBT community the courage to live as their true self, then sharing our story would be worth it. No matter how embarrassing or sad our experiences were, if it served a purpose to help others than I was in.
From my son’s journey into the New York City dating scene to body image issues, Robert reveals a lot…sometimes too much for this old lady. (Do I really need to know about manscaping at my age?) However, I share quite a bit about my own story that I hadn’t ever really talked about with anyone before. We learned a lot about one another. Sometimes we get so caught up in our lives we never stop to ask a family member questions about their life. It doesn’t have to be a huge revelation necessarily, but what a wonderful thing to be able to be truly authentic. That’s all people really want—to be seen for who they are and acknowledged.
I never thought I would speak out as much as I do for gay rights, but I am proud of my son. So writing this book has taught me a lot about my son’s life and even my own. I have learned to be stronger and more confident in who I am as a person. I also think that Robert got to know his mother a little better.
At the end of every chapter, my section begins with “Mama Says.” In this chaotic time of bullying, teen suicides, and rampant discrimination, I will leave you with this:
Mama says, “Stand up for your family, support them any way you can.”
(Hopefully after all of this, my future won't be a fuzzy perm or no-tie shoes in the Heritage Nursing Home.)
About Jane and Robert Rave