THE BOOK: Two Natures
PUBLISHED IN: 2016,
THE AUTHOR: Jendi Reiter.
THE EDITOR: Ellen LaFleche (https://winningwriters.com/people/ellen-lafleche) and John Ollom (http://ollomart.com/) were my indispensable beta-readers. Don Mitchell and Ruth Thompson of Saddle Road Press worked with me on final edits and book design.
THE PUBLISHER: Saddle Road Press. http://saddleroadpress.com/
SUMMARY: Two Natures is the coming-of-age story of Julian Selkirk, a fashion photographer in New York City in the early 1990s. His faith in Jesus helped him survive his childhood in the Atlanta suburbs with an abusive alcoholic father, but the church’s condemnation of his sexual orientation has left him alienated and ashamed. Yearning for new ideals to anchor him after his loss of faith, Julian seeks his identity through love affairs with three very different men: tough but childish Phil Shanahan, a personal trainer who takes a dangerous shortcut to success; enigmatic, cosmopolitan Richard Molineux, the fashion magazine editor who gives him his first big break; and Peter Edelman, an earnest left-wing activist with a secret life. Amid the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and the racial tensions of New York politics, Julian learns to see beyond surface attractions and short-term desires, and to use his art to serve his community.
THE BACK STORY: The book’s theme arose from the ongoing conflict in contemporary Christianity over equality for LGBTQ people. I was active for many years in the Episcopal Church, which has been at the forefront of this debate since they ordained an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2004. The issue tore apart some of my Christian friendships and prayer circles, including the writing group where I was working on the earliest drafts of this novel.
I was raised by two mothers in New York City in the 1970s-80s. Because of work and personal problems, they had to remain closeted, so we were cut off from gay culture during a pivotal era of community-building, activism, and artistic expression. Writing about gay New York is a way for me to connect with that history now and imaginatively live the alternate life I wished for.
WHY THIS TITLE: “Two Natures” refers to the dual nature of Jesus as both fully divine and fully human—the miraculous paradox at the heart of traditional Christian belief. It’s a symbol for Julian’s struggle to integrate the sacred and the erotic, which his bigoted religious background has split apart. As the book developed, the title also turned out to describe the practical problem of an “opposites attract” love affair. Julian and Peter face the challenge of letting their differences complement and educate one another, instead of driving them apart. This journey continues in my current novel-in-progress, Origin Story, told from Peter’s perspective.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Julian says: “Hot guys, fabulous clothes, and very irreverent jokes!”
Peter says: “To learn empathy for a marginalized community and join us in our struggle for justice!”
“Southern boy Julian Selkirk brings an outsider’s wry and engaging sense of humor to his quest to make it in the New York City fashion world. His romp through gay men’s urban culture also holds suffering, grief, pathos, and an ongoing struggle with the God of his childhood, as he comes of age during the height of the AIDS crisis. Though he gets distracted along the way—with politicians, preachers, drag queens, activists, Ironman gym buddies and sex, lots of sex—he never stops looking for real love to redeem him. An entertaining novel and a pleasure to read.” —Toby Johnson, author of Gay Spirituality and the novels Secret Matter and The Fourth Quill
“If you want to know what life is like in Nineties New York, when Style has become God, sex has become a contact sport, and jobs, money, and survival are always around the corner someplace else, then this late coming-of-age novel is a good place to start.” —Perry Brass, author of the Amazon bestseller The Manly Art of Seduction; The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love; and the Ferro-Grumley finalist novel King of Angels
“It’s rare to discover within a gay love story an equally-powerful undercurrent of political and spiritual examination. Too many gay novels focus on evolving sexuality or love and skim over underlying religious values systems; but one of the special attributes of Two Natures isn’t just its focus on duality, but its intense revelations about what it means to be both Christian and gay.” — Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review
AUTHOR PROFILE: Jendi Reiter’s writing is guided by their belief that people take precedence over ideologies. In exploring themes of queer family life, spiritual integration, and healing from adverse childhood experiences, their goal is to create understanding that leads to social change.
Reiter is the author of the novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, 2016), the short story collection An Incomplete List of My Wishes (Sunshot Press, 2018), and four poetry books and chapbooks, most recently Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree, 2015). Their awards include a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship for Poetry, the New Letters Prize for Fiction, the Wag’s Revue Poetry Prize, the Bayou Magazine Editor’s Prize in Fiction, and two awards from the Poetry Society of America. Two Natures won the Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction and was a finalist for the Book Excellence Awards and the Lascaux Prize for Fiction. Reiter is the editor of WinningWriters.com, an online resource site with contests and markets for creative writers. For literary news, readings, and reviews, visit JendiReiter.com and follow @JendiReiter on Twitter.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: Having been assigned female gender at birth, I was surprised that it felt so natural to write “autobiography” from a male perspective. In the first few years, I struggled with imposter syndrome, and had to rethink what really makes a voice masculine or feminine. Though there are differences in how men and women may approach intimacy, broadly speaking, this is complicated by internalized sexism/homophobia, which pressures men of all orientations to seem tough and independent when deep down they need loving connection. My characters became more relatable when I let them show the vulnerabilities that at first I was afraid would expose me as not a real man.
This new introspection about gender, coupled with my discovery of diverse identity labels as I did research in LGBTQ communities, made me realize that I’m actually not female but nonbinary/transmasculine! Life imitates art…or something.
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