Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Good-bye, I Love You

from the diary: “9/21/88 Wednesday

“Has anybody been reading Pride & Prejudice? I haven’t. I’ve been putting it off because I’ve read it before – even tho’ I can’t remember much of the story – and because I have so godawful much else to read. [Our first English class assignment is to] analyze one of [William] Blake’s poems. As for Blake – we went on a field trip to the Tate Gallery to see some Blake originals – he was a painter as well as a poet. Was interesting for about ten minutes – we were there 40. [The professor] got us lost on the underground. We had to backtrack to find the correct station.

“I read tonight a good book: Good-bye, I Love You by Carol Lynn Pearson, a Mormon woman, poet and ex-wife (widow?) of Gerald Pearson. The book reminded me of Laura Hobson’s Consenting Adult. But it was a true story. Gerald died of AIDS. So the book was sad.” I was delighted to be able to read something “of my own choosing.” [emphasis in the original] The family had gone out; I was alone in the house. “I put ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon on the stereo and before I knew it was dancing.”

When I do a little research to help recover details about a book and its author I sometimes run across surprises. Carol Lynn Pearson has a play, “Facing East”, in San Francisco right now. And SFGate did a profile of her.

Although I read her Good-bye, I Love You in London and Pearson grew up (& married) in Utah, she’s currently living in Walnut Creek.

Here’s a bit from the SFGate article:

“Born a fourth-generation Mormon in Salt Lake City in 1939, Pearson was a happy and optimistic child ... By the time she graduated from Brigham Young High School and went on to Brigham Young University, she was immersed in theater and writing. She met Gerald, her husband to be, when they were both cast in a BYU production of Thornton Wilder's ‘The Skin of Our Teeth.’ It was during their engagement that Gerald first told her of his attraction to men.

"’This was 1966,’ Pearson said with a measured sigh. ‘We were so naive and so Utah. We accepted the promise that you just repent when you get off track and everything will work out.’

“[T]he couple married in Salt Lake's Mormon Temple on Sept. 9, 1966. Their first child was born two years later. By then, Pearson was something of a local celebrity. Her first book of inspirational poems, self-published with Gerald's prodding and a $2,000 loan, sold an impressive 25,000 copies. ‘Nobody but some outrageously gay man would decide to publish his wife's poems,’ Pearson said with a laugh. She has supported herself and for many years her entire family as a writer ever since.

“Pearson recalled her marriage as one of mutual devotion and fun – ‘in many ways a cut above the marriages of my friends.’ But, she added, ‘what Gerald had hoped would happen didn't.’ He still wanted to have sex with men. Apprehensive about her marriage ending at the heart of the Mormon world, Pearson proposed that the couple relocate from Utah to California. … ‘It was hell,’ she said, ‘the resentment, the anger, the confusion, the divorce. But we also remained close. He was a wonderful father.’ A small smile came and went, ghost-like, across Pearson's face. …

“After Gerald's AIDS diagnosis, and just a month before his death, Carol Lynn was facing a house payment she couldn't make. An 11th-hour sale of a Christmas story to a Mormon publisher saved the day and proved to be a major financial gusher in the years to come.”

Pearson remembers “her Mormon community rose to the occasion.” Her dying husband moved back in with her. “’It was always done, whatever it was - food, transportation, yard work,’ said Pearson. ‘There was no shunning of me or Gerald, not ever, not once.’ …

“In Pearson's own cosmology, 'we're all in the correct classroom, working out the story problems that we should be doing. And the answer to all of them is: "How much do you love?"'

She has published a new book for families with gay loved ones, No More Goodbyes. Most of the stories in it are from the Mormon community, apparently. Sadly, the Mormon Church remains a major obstacle to gay human rights, being a big source of funding for anti-gay ballot campaigns across the country.

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