Written by Don Lemon
Book Review by Dennis Moore
"Transparent," by CNN Anchor Don Lemon, is one of the most honest and self-revealing books that I have ever read! For Lemon to state: "I had played the part of being straight in high school and even occasionally dated girls, but deep inside, I knew the truth. Even though I am sometimes attracted to women, I'm a gay man. While living in New York, this realization became stronger in my mind and I sought counseling to help me accept who I am and what it means for me, for my relationships and for my life;" says a lot about him.
This multiple Emmy-award winning journalist, who volunteers extensively and teaches journalism at Brooklyn College, has a number of things to say in his book, from the aftermath of "Katrina," to the inauguration of Barack Obama. A lot of it is provocative, and certainly food for thought.
The handsome baby face CNN Anchor and former Today Show Correspondent Lemon has written one of the most courageously and shockingly honest memoirs ever. His heartfelt candor makes this book like no other. This blockbuster tell-all is about his life, career and more on his shocking revelations of being a victim of sexual abuse. Lemon takes readers behind the scenes of some of the biggest news stories of our time.
The author states in his book: "It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. And I figure if I am going to write a book about my life, I may as well tell all, so I approached it the same way I do journalism, there are no questions or subjects off limits. I tell family and personal secrets, and it is cathartic and no one can hold anything over me ever again."
Lemon's book is much more than about his sexuality! As a matter of fact, he states in his book: "To be completely honest, the need to come to terms with my sexuality was part of the reason I moved to New York City in the first place. I'm not sure how I would have managed to do it in Baton Rouge. New York's size and composition make it an accepting home for all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. It was, and still is, a place where honest self expression is encouraged and expected. I felt free to explore my identity in New York in ways I don't think I ever would have in Louisiana. I felt free to seek out professional help to delve into my past in ways that I never would have done if I'd stayed in Baton Rouge. I felt free to drop my guard and experience myself outside the tight boxes of 'home,' 'manhood,' 'culture' and 'race' that bound me in the South."
"Transparent" is about family, race, awareness, culture, politics, and so much more. It actually opens up a much needed conversation on humanity and a respect and appreciation for individuality. Lemon gives homage to his father and mother, for what they instilled in him, along with his sisters. The book is also about secrets, family secrets, a secret as to who his actual father was, along with the perpetration of sexual abuse against him by the son of one of his mother's best friends.
Lemon is very candid in his book, when he indicates that college wasn't the only learning experience that he undertook during his years in New York. He states: "Since I was knee high to a duck, I've known that I was gay, although it wasn't called that then. 'Faggot,' 'sissy,' 'punk,' 'funny' - those were the words people whispered in hushed tones when someone like me was around. Of course, sometimes they didn't whisper. They often yelled these words out at gay men, women and children, like weapons."
In the foreword to his book, the author states something contradictory, based on revelations made in the book, and I feel somewhat compelled to question. He states: "I believe that now is the time for all of us to acknowledge, once and for all, that God made some of us straight and some of us gay." Lemon seems to indicate through revelations in his book, that his being repeatedly molested as a young child by the son of a friend of his mother, contributed to his being gay. Otherwise, there would be no point in making that revelation. I do agree with Lemon on a subsequent statement made in his foreword: "I believe that now is the time for all of us to take a stand against the heinous behavior that far too many young people battle on a daily basis simply because of their sexual orientation."
Lest we get caught up in the salacious revelations being made by him in his book, we should consider his craft and the tremendous contributions that he has made in the field of journalism. Sure, there is the pain of being violated at such a young age, but his book certainly demonstrates how one overcomes such hurt and pain, along with disillusionment.
In further regard to the issue of the child sexual abuse that he experienced, Lemon indicates in his book that he probably wouldn't have addressed the whole issue of his own experience with childhood sexual abuse during the context of a news story, but for the accusations against a Bishop Eddie Long, and the things the members of his congregation said in his defense, triggered the author. It seems that Lemon had met Bishop Long two years before, in 2008, on a special panel discussion for CNN called "Black Men in the Age of Obama." The panelists included Lemon, Dr. Farrah Gray, and Bishop Eddie Long, lead pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a mega-church in Atlanta, Georgia. The conversation ranged from family values, to education, to economics and relationships. Most notable about that panel discussion, was that Bishop Long would later be alleged to have had inappropriate sexual contact with four young men, very young men, without their consent, and that when Lemon contacted Bishop Long, the Pastor declined an opportunity to discuss those allegations in an interview on CNN. Instead, Lemon interviewed members and former members of his congregation about the Bishop, the young men's allegations and their thoughts about the charges. The author seemed to have been taking personal interest in the allegations, for obvious reasons.
Significant in the author's book, is his coverage of Barack Obama's run for the Oval Office. Lemon states, as Bearing Witness to History: "If you understand just a little of my background, you know why covering the inauguration of Barack Obama was one of the high points of my career. The inauguration of the first African American President was a pretty big deal for all the journalists who had the opportunity to attend, and there were plenty of them. For me, as a person, as a Black American man, Mr. Obama's election had another important symbolism. The inauguration of the first president who is also a man of color, was a deeply personal and satisfying moment for me as an American." I am sure, just as in other regards in his book, these sentiments are felt by many.
Sticking to his "Transparent" theme, he indicates in his book that there is more to it. He states in regard to his being described as "The Hardest Working Man in Broadcasting;" "I feel uncomfortable with resting too long. There are a lot of stereotypes about black men in my profession that I'm constantly rebutting. There's still an idea among some out there that 'black talent,' the on-air personalities that you see on television, aren't 'real' news people. That we aren't serious journalists. That we're empty-headed 'tokens' that networks have to hire to satisfy affirmative action requirements or signal to viewers that they respect 'diversity.' That stereotype casts all black broadcasters as less qualified and less hard-working. All we have to do is show up, read the words on the TelePrompTer and stay black. I resent this."
This book, is a very profound work, for it tugs at the fabric of human consciousness in such a way, as to give hope and encouragement to everyone. In his book, Lemon gives "A Lesson on Gratitude," A Lesson on Persistence," and "A Lesson on Facing Fear."
On a personal note, the author has gotten me to revisit my own family closet, a closet in which there has been allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated against members of my immediate and extended family. If he has done nothing else in his book, Lemon has opened up our eyes and mind in a way that we will never be the same. I thank him for it!