'Raising My Rainbow' a journey of discovery

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Posted1/24/2014 5:37 AM
  • "Raising My Rainbow" by Lori Duron (Broadway Books 2013), $15, 278 pages.

    "Raising My Rainbow" by Lori Duron (Broadway Books 2013), $15, 278 pages.

  • Lori Duron

    Lori Duron Courtesy of Rebecca Dever

One in a million.

That's the best way to describe your kid. Not that you're biased or anything, but it's true. He's smarter than other people's children, very definitely cuter and he has more talent in his left foot than most adults possess in their entire bodies.

No child can compare to yours, that's a fact. Author Lori Duron's son is absolutely, wonderfully fabulous, too, and in her new memoir "Raising My Rainbow," she'll tell you about C.J.

For the past four years, life in Lori Duron's household has been separated into two eras: Before Barbie (BB), and After Barbie (AB).

BB marks the time prior to a closet clean-out, when a collector doll was absently tossed on the bed. AB is what happened when Duron's 2-year-old son C.J. spotted Barbie and fell in love. AB, he discovered the "pink aisles of the toy department" at a discount chain, and was awed.

Understanding that her role as C.J's parent "was not to change him but to love him," Duron indulged her youngest son's choices. This was familiar territory, in fact: his love of all things girly reminded Duron of her gay brother. Throughout most of their childhood, she and Michael spent entire weekends building elaborate doll kingdoms and pretend-shopping.

She figured she "knew" what C.J.'s pink fixation meant. For sure, pinky-girly things made the little guy happy and Duron didn't want to quash that in her toddler. Her husband, a "guy's guy," and their oldest son, who's "all boy," also were supportive, though somewhat flummoxed.

The entire family, therefore, was relieved when Duron found a reason for C.J.'s boy-stuff aversion: he's gender nonconforming, and "slides on the gender spectrum at his leisure depending on the day, the outfit, and the occasion." There was a time when he wanted to be a girl when he grew up but today, he "self-identifies as a boy."

"Ten or 20 years from now," Duron says, "will I be the parent of two boys or one boy and one girl? I don't know." But for now, they're "going to be entering more of the unknown, and loving our son no matter what."

It took me awhile to understand what was going on in "Raising My Rainbow." Author Lori Duron seemed, initially, to complain a lot in her story. She describes how much work it was to keep others from finding out about C.J.'s love of "girl stuff," and exasperation fairly oozed from the pages.

That doesn't last, though. It's not long before she layers on the self-deprecating humor while she teaches readers about patience, acceptance and gender and its fluidity. We're also treated to a wonderful metamorphosis, as Duron turns from consternated parent to confident pillar. That's exactly what we need to see.

As it turns out, I was disappointed in one thing here: that this book ended so soon. Yep, I liked it a lot and I think you will, too, so if you know a gender nonconforming child, read "Raising My Rainbow." You'll find a million reasons to love it.

• Terri Schlichenmeyer, aka The Bookworm, has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.

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