Barney Frank’s autobiography is a book I highly recommend for all who are interested in the political process and one gay man’s experience of struggling with the challenges of coming out as a public figure. He titled his book “Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage.” Frank makes it abundantly clear that political change in the U.S. democracy depends in crucial ways upon the input that citizens provide to their elected representatives. We see this unfolding currently with the public response to the recent Indiana law that opens the door for institutional discrimination against LGBTQ people – a response that has had far-reaching and dramatic repercussions nationwide!
Frank’s engaging wit along with his frank opinions and insights shine through brilliantly! There are several things about the book that to me are fascinating, not the least of which is learning about Frank’s life. He realized he was gay at the age of 14; at the same age he became passionately interested in the political process and realized that these two facts about himself were not compatible. He saw no way, at that young age, how he could pursue his passion for politics (a very public realm) with his gay identity. His way of coping with this reality was to determine to remain very closeted, pursued graduate study in political science, and cultivated key friendships and connections with friends and acquaintances who had some involvement in politics. He describes his process of coming out – a process involving many years well into his public life as a U.S. Congressman, and covering many years during which he was an avid advocate for LGBT rights.
Frank’s self-reflections about his personal struggles, as well as reflections about his judgments (both right and wrong) concerning his political battles, illuminate not only Frank as a person, but both the private and the public “gay” experience in America over the past half century. I gained a new and more optimistic understanding of the political process, and how important it is that each and every citizen become involved in advocating those causes that are important to us. Frank has little regard for public demonstrations and protests – he sees these as too often reversing the positive efforts that can result in positive change, even if the changes are incremental and slow to come. This is one point that I question (I believe we need all forms of activism in the direction of change), but I have a new appreciation and understanding of Frank’s point of view – one that he supports with specific evidence.
If you read only one book in the remainder of this year, let this book be at the top of your list! It is informative, helpful, interesting and inspiring!