A little while ago, a friend that I hadn’t known for very long asked me if I was queer. I was completely taken aback by the question – no-one had ever asked me that before. I quickly replied that while I felt connected to the LGBTQI community, I was an advocate rather than a member.
My work often involves reviewing queer content, which was why my friend had asked. I have always felt drawn to reading books or seeing movies that focused on “forbidden” love, and a lot of that content just so happens to feature queer characters and storylines. Striving to showcase those stories is what led me to Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (Small Great Things). What I didn’t realize is that this book would inevitably change my life and the answer to my friend’s question.
At the beginning of Sing You Home, Zoe and her husband Max have been trying for a baby for 10 years. After several miscarriages, the marriage disintegrates and they separate. Zoe returns to work as a music therapist and meets Vanessa, the school guidance counsellor. Both women quickly and unexpectedly fall in love. The story is uniquely told from the perspective of each character, so we see through the eyes of Max, Zoe and Vanessa, which makes each character superbly three-dimensional.
Picoult’s writing has a unique way of sucking you in and her key to doing this is by creating relatable characters. This time, with this particular story, I was sucked in deep. From the beginning I felt overwhelmingly connected to the character of Zoe, and as I turned each page it became evident as to why.
I have always known that I wasn’t 100 percent straight. I didn’t suddenly discover that I was bisexual because I read Sing You Home and connected with a character. But this book, along with the question from my friend, made me realise that I would be okay if I said that out loud. And after I said it to myself, I was able to say it to other people.
Along with the realisation came an old familiar friend – fear. But Sing You Home helped me feel prepared in myself. Fear will always lurk in the background when you share a secret about who you are, and this is one reason I related to Zoe. She knew the impact her new found love would have on her family and ex-husband. Although she was scared, she decided to tell her truth anyway because she knew it would move her forward into happiness.
I kept coming back to this quote in Sing You Home and ended up highlighting it:
“The optimist in me wants to believe sexuality will eventually become like handwriting: there’s no right way and wrong way to do it. We’re all just wired differently. It’s also worth noting that when you meet someone, you never bother to ask if he’s right or left-handed. After all: does it really matter to anyone other than the person holding the pen?”
There will come a time when a writer claiming to be bi-sexual will be no big deal. It will barely ripple the pond even now. But a book that changes the way you feel about the world and how you look at your own life should be celebrated and shared with as many people as possible.
This is not to say that reading this book will help all those coming to terms with their inner truth. It will be different for everyone. But if you are struggling, I want you to know that there is a woman on the other side of these words who at one time felt as equally terrified as you. It wasn’t just one thing that led me to understanding myself, it was a combination of many things – and one of them was reading Sing You Home.
Each and every time I bared my soul to someone about this, I felt like I was coming home to myself. So, thank you Jodi Picoult for showing me the way. Thank you for sharing your art and beautifully conveying your character’s truth.
This is my art. This is my truth.