Businessman First: Remembering Henry G. Parks, Jr.
After successfully bringing his first book Businessman First: Remembering Henry G. Parks, Jr. into the spotlight, Maurice Dorsey has made his way to fiction writing. It was a courageous shift in genre. Nevertheless, such bravery has paid off quite well enough and has brought out his second book entitled, From Whence We Come.
Fictitious yet based on a true story, From Whence We Come touches different aspects of personal growth (self-acceptance, dignity, and self-esteem), of family (parent-child and sibling relationship, family conflicts, and individual interests), and of society as a whole (from religious/cultural mores to personal-against-social struggles). Maurice has made a compelling tale that hooks every reader with issues noticeable from then till now, and with the values that this world must surely have. Beyond just gender discrimination, this book might become an eye-opener for every religious doctrine that seem to be unfairly strict with its outdated traditional norms. For every family and society that needs to understand the value of personal preferences and the acceptance of every member as an individual who is more likely unique rather than abnormal.
For an overview of what the book is all about, the following are the synopsis and a book review:
Seymour Rose is an African American man who is gay. He was born to a father who is Catholic and accepts his son unconditionally and a mother who is born Methodist and is homophobic–but most of all, she tells her son throughout his life that she never wanted to have him.
Seymour reflects on three generations of his family history and often tells family stories to make sense of his years of emotional insecurity and feelings of being unloved and unwanted.
His mother is Estelle. She is a strong African American woman whose mother died when she was ten years old. Her father forced her to be surrogate wife and mother to her younger sister and brother. When the Great Depression of the late 1920s occurred and wiped out the family’s finances, they were forced into a life of destitution. Never having enough money, she lived and dreamed of growing up and having a job and money of her own.
Her dream of having a job was put on hold when she learns she is pregnant. She married and, within a year of the first child, she gives birth to a second child. She is angry with herself because she wanted to go to work before having children.
Just as soon as she gets the first two children in grade school and she can live her dream of having a job, she learns she is pregnant again. This child is Seymour, and she repeatedly tells him in her disgust and frustration, “Child, God wanted you here, boy— because I never wanted to have you!”
Seymour’s reaction to his mother’s persistent comments was to cling closer to his mother with hopes that, one day, she would tell him she loved him and wanted him. When he informs his mother that he is gay, this compounds her distaste for this child.
At the end of her life, Estelle reveals to Seymour her years of malcontent with her son, and he comes to terms with his mother and his family history.
This book is fictitious but based on a true story.
BOOK REVIEW by Dylan Ward
(The US Review of Books)
“Seymour was conflicted with Estelle. On one hand, she was the most generous person he knew; and on the other hand, she appeared unloving.”
Seymour Rose is born to a strong and loving father, Albrecht, and a proud and confident mother, Estelle, in the final years of segregation. Estelle, forced into motherhood at a young age following her mother’s death, imposes her father’s strict upbringing and morals onto her own family. Albrecht is a calm balance to the headstrong Estelle as they manage their somewhat dysfunctional family. Their oldest son, Aries, is rebellious with bouts of violence, and daughter, Claudia, excels in school while welcoming the onset of womanhood. Seymour, the third child, is unlucky as he is the one who Estelle “never wanted to have.”
Physical and sexual abuse is inflicted upon Seymour amid discrimination and strict Catholic indoctrinations coupled with his displays of “effeminate behaviors” and coming to terms with his sexuality. As he longs for acceptance from his emotionally distant mother, he grapples with the emergence of his identity against the odds in his young life to find eventual independence, success, and love in his adulthood.
Dorsey’s novel centers on the Rose family but largely belongs to Estelle and, ultimately, Seymour. It is a coming-of-age novel, and within it Dorsey parallels Estelle’s and Seymour’s character arcs, tracing each of their internal conflicts and emotional developments across decades. It feels autobiographical, and it is admittedly based on a true story that has been fictionalized. This is Dorsey’s first foray into fiction writing, having previously written a business book, and there is a noticeable lack of dialogue. In addition, more is focused on Claudia and Aries where it perhaps could otherwise be spent devoted to Seymour’s storyline. Despite this, Dorsey has written a touching novel with mature themes of family, relationships, identity, and social and cultural mores. It is an honest and realistic chronicle of a young gay and black man’s life, joys, and pain.