October 27, 2017 at 3:34 pm EST | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Sloppy editing mars touching LGBT family memoir
Straight Expectations, gay news, washington blade

(Image courtesy Kingsley Publishers)

‘Straight Expectations: the Story of a Family in Transition’
By Peggy Cryden (with Janet E. Goldstein-Ball)
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
183 pages

Always be prepared.

That’s not just a motto to wear on a badge; it could save you money, time or health. It might get you where you’re going faster or easier. Being ready for anything can you feel secure and safe, it can help you bounce back against any adversity and, as in the new book “Straight Expectations” by Peggy Cryden (with Janet E. Goldstein-Ball), it can make you a better parent.

Everything in her life, it seemed, had readied her for what was to come.

Adopted as a small infant, Peggy Cryden grew up with a father who was a genius, but was distant, and a mother with emotional issues and what Cryden indicates was probably mental illness. Cryden didn’t completely understand the latter until she was an adult and a working therapist and it took many decades for her to make peace with her mother’s legacy.

Before that, however, as children, Cryden and her brother were often left to their own devices. They woke themselves, prepared themselves for school, learned to swipe lunch money from their father’s pocket change and they tried not to be embarrassed by their mom’s antics, eccentricities or melt-downs. Untaught by her mother, Cryden learned resilience and basic skills from her grandmother, her grandmother’s black housekeeper and from a neighbor woman who obviously noted a child in need.

Though she was generally independent much earlier, Cryden moved out of her parents’ house when she was still in high school. Later, while attending community college, she met the man she would marry, although Cryden indicates that she sometimes felt she couldn’t “bond.”

That feeling extended to her firstborn child, a girl she named Julia.

She was a little better centered when her second child, a boy, Jay, was born.

Finally, Cryden had stability and the family she always dreamed of having: two children, a girl and a boy, and a supportive husband. Theirs seemed to be the perfect, TV-ready, typical family down the block until Julia, who was just a teen, confessed to her mother that he’d come to the understanding that he was really a boy. Shortly after this, fragile Jay, who’d always felt left out, came out to the family.

Though it has steel-strong messages of affirmation, unconditional love, acceptance and healing, “Straight Expectations” is a rough read.

Author Peggy Cryden (with Janet E. Goldstein-Ball, who offers pertinent information in her introduction) tells an absorbing story of childhood neglect and how she turned her own experiences into self-lessons on raising her two sons confidently. Readers will clearly see that there’s power in those words but there’s also repetition, often within the same half-page, causing the sentiment to wither like a pinpricked balloon. Add in an overabundance of choppy sentences and you’ve got a recipe for frustration. You want to finish the book but do you have the patience it will take to do so?

It’s worth a try. “Straight Expectations” contains is a basically good story plus resources, but it needed love with an editing pen. You may like it enormously — just be prepared.

Peggy Cryden, author of Straight Expectations. (Image courtesy Kingsley Publishers)

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