The Baltimore County chapter of PFLAG will present author Martha Johnson on March 26. She has written the novel “In Our Midst,” a story of two gay sons of a mid-Western community. This book is in the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel award competition, which had 10,000 entries. Johnson, a former director of the General Services Administration, will discuss the novel.
It is 1990, and Stanton, Ind., is a typical town with church youth groups, a bustling diner, a summer Wood Carving Festival and a busy mayor who also runs the mortuary. But, this is not to be confused with a Norman Rockwell setting. The Gulf War is breaking out, Ryan White’s family lives nearby and AIDS is sweeping the nation.
Despite all that, Stanton does not appear to have any gay or lesbian people, or so it seems to Victor Beck, who worries about himself because he is attracted to boys. He distracts himself with his photography and tries to push aside his mother’s interest in his social life. As high school life unfolds, Victor gets acquainted with a new girl in town and begins to wonder if he has it wrong. Could he like Bridget in “that way”?
For her part, Bridget is learning her way around Stanton, having just moved from Chicago with her mom and sister. She is mourning her father who died of cancer and has strong ideas about loyalty and compassion for friends, which are soon to be tested.
Meanwhile, a second and earlier story unfolds of a Korean War soldier, Vaughn Evanston, who died the day he returned home to Stanton. His grieving parents learn that he had a gay lover and their decisions about how to respond to that knowledge fuel the cycles of secrecy, love, grief and memories that propel the story forward.
The stories of Victor and Vaughn become entwined and the good people of Stanton have to wrestle with their history, their prejudices and their commitment to the health and welfare of their children.
“In Our Midst” is general interest fiction that exposes homophobia in our society. The book involves an ensemble cast of sympathetic characters who are recognizable to us all.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “Johnson is not gay. Nor is she the parent of gay children. So where’d the idea come from? Years of serving in her Presbyterian church, watching it struggle with the issue of gay ordination in the 1990s, and realizing that sexuality just isn’t a big deal.”
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and takes place at the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, 1710 Dulaney Valley Rd., Lutherville.