The Glides of Fort Cloud, Wisconsin, are a Spectacularly Dysfunctional Family. Rusty and Judy did the best they could when raising their three children, yet nothing turned out the way they planned. The Glide parents have just about resigned themselves to the fact that their kids will never live up to their expectations -- when a ray of hope comes in the form of a new baby.
Judy's heart soars as Gretchen announces that she and her disturbingly hirsute boyfriend, Ray, are expecting their first child. But it soon becomes clear that Gretchen proposes to raise her child in her own way, absent any indication of its sex: no pink or blue nursery, no baby dolls or trucks, no -- to Judy's horror -- traditional male or female names. In order to be a part of their grandchild's life, Rusty and Judy must first come to terms with their daughter -- and to do that, they must look at themselves and their family with new eyes. Written with daring and humor and with the confidence of a seasoned novelist, Tenaya Darlington's debut is a funny, heartwarming, and insightful look at the real meaning of family.
The tensions and controversies surrounding gender-neutral parenting form the core of Darlington's quietly provocative debut. Former home-ec teacher Judy Glide doesn't understand why all her children drifted away from her: Henry gone to join a rock band, Carson to join a cult, Gretchen to somewhere in Chicago. None of them ever calls home. That is, not until Gretchen phones to declare that she's pregnant, filling Judy with dreams of homemade pink and blue baby outfits. But Judy is soon dealt a shocking blow: Gretchen and her partner, performance artist Ray, plan to raise their child in an underground gender-neutral community where children are brought up without a gender, without toys and wearing black clothing. Darlington carefully juxtaposes the futuristic, almost sci-fi, allure of this unorthodox community with the domestic details of the Glides' family dynamics, flipping back and forth between Judy's home in Fort Cloud, Wis., and bohemian Chicago. And she skillfully tracks how the unexpected development forces Judy and her husband, Rusty, to acknowledge the longstanding rift in their marriage and their still-painful disappointments in their children. Though the story has an earnest, activist feel to it (complete with ultra-optimistic ending), and the historical placement is a little shaky, this is a quirkily engaging suburban drama.