Welcome to the TLC Book Tour for Conversations and Cosmopolitans
Robert Rave was just twenty-one years old when he struck out on his own in New York City after growing up in the Midwest, the youngest of three children raised by typical middle-class parents. He could no longer hide the truth of who he really was, so he wrote a heartfelt letter to his parents to tell them that he was gay. His mother and co-author of their delightful and moving memoir, Conversations and Cosmopolitans, refers to it as “the gay letter.” Upon receiving it, she immediately called his father home from work and pondered how to tell her husband, Ron, the news, while Robert nervously wondered what his parents’ reaction would be. After reading the letter, Ron simply looked at Jane and asked, “What’s the big deal?”
The big deal was, ironically, more in Robert’s mind than his parents’ hearts. He was young, self-conscious and convinced that he did not have the right physique, and trying to find where he fit into the New York City gay community. Working as a publicist for a theater, he wanted to meet “Mr. Right” and have a satisfying relationship. His parents just wanted him to be happy.
In each chapter, Robert provides his perspective on pivotal events and shares his journey to self-acceptance, self-confidence, and well-being. His remembrances are followed by sections entitled “Mama Says” in which Jane shares her own reflections.
Robert’s announcement of his sexuality is what he describes as the “jumping-off point” of the book and the details of his life as a gay man are certainly at the forefront of each story he relates. However, the book is about so much more, as he notes:
[S]elfishly, I never invested the time to get to know my mom and dad beyond their parental titles. At 21 years old, I arrogantly thought I would be the one teaching my mom who I was with my recent declaration. All of that changed when my mom began sharing her own very personal stories that I’d never known before. I quickly realized that I would once again be learning from her.
Cosmopolitans and Conversations is at its core about a parent and child getting to really know each other as adults and forging an unconditionally accepting relationship no matter who each discovers the other to be. It is frequently hilarious, especially when Jane describes the ways in which a housewife from the Midwest learned about her son’s Manhattan lifestyle. He took her to a trendy new restaurant, Cafeteria, and ordered her first cosmopolitan for her because the ladies of Sex and the City were drinking them. When joined by some of his urbane gay friends, Robert quickly finds his plainspoken mother the center of attention — and his friends’ admiration. He was extremely nervous about her first visit to the new apartment he shared with his then-boyfriend, frantically scrambling to make sure the house was clean and presentable. It was Jane who remained calm and utterly unflappable when she discovered a few embarrassing items a mother should never see hastily tossed into the linen closet. Still, like the wonderful mother she is, she set limits on the gay glossary Robert was determined to draft for her. After all, she is his mother.
The book is much more than just recollections of awkward and embarrassingly funny moments, though. It is deeply moving and the stories both relate frequently poignant and heart-breakingly honest, such as when Jane reveals to Robert that she knows more about discrimination and ridicule that he had ever suspected because she was not allowed to attend her senior year of high school due to the fact that she was pregnant. And Jane describes a couple of surprising encounters with homophobes that thoroughly endear her to readers. The first is with the new hairdresser who launches into a harsh and narrow-minded diatribe about her disagreement with Robert’s “choice” to be gay. Rather than storm out of the salon, Jane chooses to rationally and unemotionally confront the woman who, ironically, should be far more tolerant in light of her own long interracial marriage that caused her to suffer precisely the same kind of judgment and ostracism she would inflict upon members of the gay community. Likewise, when an old friend drops by to visit, Jane and Ron stand their ground with quiet dignity after he announces that he has “heard about” Robert and expresses his sympathy.
Mama says, “Stand up for your family, support them any way you can.”~ Author Jane Rave
Never preachy and thoroughly entertaining, Conversations and Cosmopolitans is refreshing in its honesty, and an emotionally rewarding read because neither Robert nor Jane ever take themselves too seriously. While Robert is the successful author of two novels, Spin and Waxed, Jane is not a professional writer and had to be coaxed by her son to participate in this endeavor. Nonetheless, Robert notes that it was Jane who encouraged him to dig deep into his emotions in order to give their writing purpose and meaning. The result is a primer for how parents and their children can come to terms with and appreciate each other as more than their ascribed roles. “In a time when bullying is rampant and suicides of gay teens have become all too common, the hope behind this book is that no matter who you are or what your sexuality is, whatever you might be going through, there’s always room for a conversation,” Robert writes.
Jane observes that “[s]ometimes we get so caught up in our lives we never stop to ask a family member questions about their life. It doesn’t have to be a huge revelation necessarily, but what a wonderful thing to be able to be truly authentic. That’s all people really want—to be seen for who they are and acknowledged.” Robert Rave is indeed a lucky man to have a mother as wise and supportive as Jane. And Jane is blessed to have a son as talented, devoted to and respectful of his family as Robert. The beauty of Conversations and Cosmopolitans is that they are each fully cognizant of the richness of their relationship and willing to openly share it with their readers. Conversations and Cosmopolitans would make a great holiday gift for someone special in your life with whom you would like to open an honest dialogue or express appreciation to for the supportive relationship you share with them.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Conversations and Cosmopolitans free of charge from the authors in conjunction with TLC Book Tours review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Enter to Win a Copy of Conversations and Cosmopolitans
Authors Robert Rave and Jane Rave have graciously provided one copy of Conversations and Cosmopolitans to be awarded to a lucky Colloquium reader!
Post a comment in which you answer this question: Have you ever had to reveal something deeply personal and potentially inflammatory to members of your family and, if so, what means did you use to deliver the message? Then submit your entry utilizing the Rafflecopter widget.
Bonus entries also available (see below).
Thanks to all who participated!