Empty

I don’t like my parents. For a long time, I could keep myself quiet. I let them call my girlfriends friends. I let them treat my relationships as illegitimate because they were struggling so hard. I let them be mean.

Evangelical Christians are stuck. They want you to believe that they mistreat you because they are moral. They believe these black and white things and this is a gray world and that’s why they pour money into anti-equality legislation. That’s why they support reparative therapists. My father has written a series of Letters to the Editor advocating reparative therapy. Decrying gay rights. Talking about the moral decay of our society.

His own daughter. He would have me reprogrammed. He would have my family torn to pieces. He would call that saving my son.

My parents are unkind. And for a long time, I felt I deserved their unkindness.

This weekend, I stood next to some of my favorite kids and the girl said, “That’s my grandmother!” She was pointing to a jubilant woman marching with the Giant Ass Drum Corps. Dancing and beating a paint bucket. The thunderous battle cry of equality. On the coldest, rainiest Pride in recent memory, we were all celebrating our community.

I don’t get a mother like that. I don’t get parents like that. And in this society, people shift uncomfortably and tell you, “Well, they’re moral people and —”

No. They aren’t moral people. Moral people don’t attempt to destroy families. Moral people don’t make others feel illegitimate. Moral people love despite everything. Moral people realize that parents cannot define children. That we don’t have to approve of situations to accept them. Moral people believe in a constructive society. One where we build together. Moral people recognize and celebrate the humanity of all their brothers and sisters.

I don’t like my parents. And I used to pity them. Their angry god. But at some point, I’ve had to protect myself. I’ve had to separate from them. I’ve had to recognize that I never deserved their miserable treatment of me. They are free to believe as they will. But that is never a license to mistreat me. That is never absolution to work against my family and my happiness. You would think, if you believed that we’re all made in Christ’s image, it would be simpler to recognize the goodness in one another.

I believe you have a soul. I believe you are worthy of grace. I believe you are good. And can be better. I believe these things about you, and I believe these things about me. The radical message of redemption is that we are all worthy. Every fucking one of us. We deserve love.

5 thoughts on “Empty”

  1. “No. They aren’t moral people.”
    That is the damn truth. They are mean-spirited and dangerous. I’m tired of hearing how “well-intentioned” the churchgoing citizens are who block or dismantle my rights and damn me.
    Fuck ’em, Jill. You deserve to have ridiculously proud parents and you didn’t get them. Amoral, dispassionate Fate, not worthiness created that vacuum. And there are tons of people (as your readers will attest) that are happy to step up and fill the empty.

  2. Enita, you are lovely. Thank you. They are mean-spirited and dangerous. That’s a terrible thing to realize about your own parents. But it has taught me to be a better parent. I love him for all that he does well and all that he doesn’t. I love him. It’s effortless. Over time I’ve learned to love myself that way too. Grace is not supposed to be a sword.

  3. Your story resonated with me deeply. I grew up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and have struggled with those feelings of guilt, shame and feeling like I deserved everything I got. My father has told me that many times. I left when I was 18 and now at 33, I’m still unforgiven and alone. My son is their only grandchild and they’ve seen him 3 times in his 10 years. They ask me to send him down to them on a plane, I know they hope he is more pliable than I was. Your story made me sad because I know it is a common tale, but it’s one I wish none of us had to tell. Thank you for sharing, and you’re right, it’s important to protect yourself and your family. You’re doing a great job.

  4. Thank you Jill! Its comforting to know I am not alone. I love my parents but hate what the pour there hearts and money into. I know I deserve better.

  5. And Jesus said “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brother’s.. that you do unto me.”

    Just what part of that don’t they understand!

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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