Did you see the interview with Diane Sawyer last night? Check out this Washington Post article for a summary or this Youtube video for 3 minutes of it. I think this counts as a cultural moment as well as a portrait of one human being at a point of no return.
Journeys. Confusion. Courage.
Jenner’s interview put me in mind of a book I recently finished – Mosquitoland, by David Arnold, a Young Adult crossover novel getting rave reviews. Mosquitoland tells the story of a 16-year-old runaway who travels from Mississippi to Ohio by Greyhound bus. She’s slipped away from her father and stepmother, who seem to be preventing her from seeing her sick and possibly dying mother. The story is often comic though sometimes for-real scary. I haven’t spent this much time in gas station bathrooms in a long time (we took lots of road trips in the conversion van when I was a kid). Mosquitoland reminded me of a few important things about growing up – and about being a good human. “[E]ven though honesty is hard,” our heroine concludes, “you really have to murder people with it if you expect to be a person of any value at all.”
That’s putting it pretty strongly, of course. I’m not generally opposed to a kind white lie, and sometimes it’s almost impossible to tell the big truths. But at the end of the day – Amen, sister.
And Bruce, I wish you the best.
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Thank you to the lovely Holly Conner for telling me I had to watch the Jenner interview.
Thank you to the lovely Grace at Parnassus for telling me I had to read Mosquitoland.
Thank you to my lovely parents for all those road trips, in which other important lessons were learned.
Jen- Do you have a photo of the state stickers affix to the back of the van? Caroline 🙂
Dear Caroline, you make me smile!! Of course you remember!! I asked my mother to send a picture. It’s a very early picture, when the bumper was still pretty clear. It looks a little strange to my eyes that way! I’m so happy to hear from you. xo
Thank you for this post. I believe the interview with Bruce was epic. A shift in societal thinking.
I couldn’t agree with you more. Like the Billie Jean King moment. Thank you so much for your comment! xo
Jennifer, thank you for introducing us to this book. The Jenner story reminded me of how little we truly know about what struggles anyone is going through at any given time. One of the interviewees last night said her mother told her it’s impossible to hate someone once you know their story. Thank you for your blog. It’s so entertaining and good for my underused brain.
Holly, you are so right. With each person, we’re generally just seeing the tip of the iceberg. I love your compassionate heart. xo
Jen, the Bruce Jenner interview has been with me all weekend. Those pictures of his unbridled joy at the Olympics when he’s narrating to Diane Sawyer what he was really feeling…how miserable and confused he was…and then his discussion of gender versus sexuality…so eye opening. What struck me is clearly how much his kids love him. And the fact that former wives wished him well in this journey. Even all the Kardashian crazy and facial surgery couldn’t prevent me from feeling what Holly mentions–the empathy you develop when you know a person’s full experience.
I smiled at Caroline’s comment–I remember you and your parents taking me to a State tailgate!
Mosquitoland is on my list, thanks to you. Your blog post title reminds me that we’re all on a long strange trip, and that some say there are only 2 kinds of stories that have ever been told: A man goes on a journey, or, a stranger comes to town.
Now I can’t get your final words off my mind!! Thank you so much, Lyn. Much love to you! xo
Hi Jennifer, thanks for your always insightful commentary on the human condition. I was never much of a traveler, except for our annual trip to Boston in June. For what it’s worth, my fondest childhood memory of traveling was our family’s annual sojourn to Cincinnati to visit my mom’s side of the family. I was prone to car sickness and the sharply curving PA turnpike didn’t help. Once, when my mom took the wheel to spell my father, to his everlasting regret, I started to toss my breakfast into a plastic bag my mom screamed at my father to hold for me. My dad who was bald and prone also to a weak stomach turned a gorgeous array of colors ending in purple, which I’m sure was not the inspiration for the title of that marvelous book, as he joined me in the bag. A family that throws up together, sticks together!
I did not have the chance to watch the Bruce Jenner interview, but I do hope this indeed exorcises his personal demons. However, seems the media was much more attentive to Jenner than to the thousand dead in Nepal.
My best to you and your many followers who like me look forward to your excellent posts and gracious replies. I certainly apologize to anyone here I might offended by regurgitating a fond remembrance of my you.
Karl, I love hearing from you! Oh my goodness. What a story! When are you publishing your collection of short stories?! xo