We: An Adoption and a Memoir
Ben Barnz Wyatt-mackenzie Publishing (NOVEMBER) Hardcover $18 (244pp), 978-1-948018-21-0
Ben Barnz’s partner has a theory that there is a major generational shift for gay people every five years. This book, then, is a memoir from almost four zeitgeist changes ago. Beginning in the week of the 9/11 attacks, We is a taste of queer history in a rapidly changing world. Alternately heart wrenching and heartwarming, Barnz’s story of the legal saga surrounding the adoption of their first child is a valuable contribution to the collective memory of how far we’ve come.
Wider narrative aside, We is also a solidly good read. Interspersed deposition transcripts from the adoption case infuse the story with a court drama–esque adrenaline that propels the story forward. Rooting for Barnz and his partner comes naturally, fostered by their portrayal as flawed, loving, realistic beings. Their partnership is aspirationally strong, yet they also exhibit the pressure of their situation, squabble under stress, and occasionally behave badly. Love and partnership persist not in spite of but because of this three-dimensional humanity that queer couples are so rarely afforded.
Every once in a while, things seem a little too LA. Sticking it out past the early descriptions of the couple in comparison to movie stars is worth it, though. Just about the time it becomes easy to get salty about the couple’s seemingly infinite resources to hire the best lawyers, for example, Barnz brings up his worries about finances, expresses his gratitude for their privilege, and throws in a discussion of the turmoil around masculinity and money to boot. This self-awareness pervades the book, bolstered by a sense of humor.
Warm humored, historically important, and pulling on all of the heartstrings, We is a work of truly standout storytelling. Not recommended for evenings you can’t afford to stay up all night reading. Highly recommended for times that call for reminders of the strength of the human spirit.