REVIEW: | She's My Dad | Iolanthe Woulff | Outskirts Press

She’s My Dad
Iolanthe Woulff
Outskirts Press (Nov 13, 2009)
6 x 9 Paperback cream, 469 pages
6 x 9 Hardback w/ jacket, 469 pages
ISBN13: 9781432743772

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What if rumoured statistics on the internet were true, that the ratio of gay people to heterosexuals is somewhere between 20% (1 in 5) and 33% (1 in 3) of the population? Now, suspend your disbelief and imagine that you can tap into the thoughts and see the private actions of everyone in your world: gays, straights, lovers and haters. Wouldn’t the experience mimic a world where everyone says what’s really on their minds, and everyone does what they really want to do? Personally, I think the result would be a world larger than life in practically every way; it would be the fictional world portrayed in the novel She’s My Dad by Iolanthe Woulff.

Nicholas “Collie” Skinner is the bastard son of a man who is now a woman—Nickie Farrell, the end result of a top-notch sex change program. Neither of them are aware of the connection. Collie’s mother has hidden the truth from both. Which is probably a good thing. Collie supports his drunkard, abusive father (who’s a detailed caricature of the white, racist good-old-boy) and his dying mother, Luanne. Due to his environment Collie struggles with prejudicial tendencies learned from the father he hates. Fortunately, he’s not alone: Collie has fallen hard for Robin, who’s a supportive, loving, church-going friend of his mother’s. The two women want Collie to learn how not to hate. Their message is clear: "Don't hate, Nicholas. Hate destroys everything. Don't let it destroy you..." Collie also hates his brother, who's back in town. Unknown to the family the brother is a homosexual in denial, who, with his wealthy partner, spends his time tracking down and beating up gays (men or women). Then there’s Collie’s sister who, rather than trying to live as a lesbian, hung herself. Quite a family to come from and still hope to be “normal,” isn’t it? And can you imagine what might happen when Collie learns that his biological father is transexual?

Let’s also throw in a crazed, racist billionaire who intends his last act to be the total destruction of the local university, which was founded with a mandate to grow as a tolerant, liberal and forward-thinking haven for learning. The place represents every person and thing he has hated all his life.

Then there’s the self-proclaimed dyke, Cinda, who aspires to be an investigative reporter. She’s very smart and such a narcissist she can’t imagine the damage she does when revealing that her English teacher, Nickie Farrell, is a T-girl (a man-made woman rather than a biological one).

Each of the people mentioned in this story (and there are more) are balanced or challenged by their opposites. For example: jaded Cinda rooms with a rich, beautiful, innocent, Barbie-like, positive thinker who is completely comfortable with Cinda being gay. Luanne has her pastor and her love child, Collie, to help counter the nightmare of her marriage. And so on...

If you toned down the over-the-top characters, Woulff’s book would resemble some of the old drama standards like Hotel, Wheels, Airport or Chiefs (updated for the times, of course). It’s a big, sprawling book filled with suspense and interesting people. On this level, She’s My Dad is a fun book to read. But something deeper happens when you look closer at the larger than life characters. You’ll find yourself thinking: “I know someone just like that.” or “I wish I could just let go and say what’s on my mind.” or “Could there really be this much hatred in the real world?” and “Is it possible that I’m part of the problem?”

Such questions and statements would suggest that She’s My Dad is, in part, about hatred and intolerance and the possibility of redeeming change. Hatred and intolerance tends to destroy both the victim and the hater. But being tolerant of people who are different from us doesn’t mean much if we turn a blind eye toward all the prejudice and hatred these people face. In reality, it make us part of the problem. More change is required of us.

She’s My Dad deals with this last issue as well... We see something of what it is to be gay, to be straight and have to deal with people who are gay, to be so evil as to revel in your hatred of people who are different, to be so good as to consistently support others with your love while also fighting evil face to face, to hide or flaunt who you are because it’s the only way you know how to survive and, most important, how opportunities always exit for change.

I think the way I would summarize the book is that She’s My Dad is about learning that all forms of hate and all forms of love are a choice, whether those choices are as difficult as learning to accept and love who you really are or as simple as insisting that an old black man retains his position in a line in your local grocery store.

Love, hatred and redemption. She’s My Dad is a book we could all benefit from reading.

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2010

Note: One improvement that could have made the book even better than it is would be making certain that all characters think and talk as per their education. There were a number of slips in this regard. High School educated people sometimes used words I had to look up in the dictionary. The errors pulled me out of the story a few times.

September 2010
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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, Clayton! @ClaytonBye


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