That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10
So, this is my first shot at writing a book review.
I recently had the pleasure of reading Donald Dorman's Then I am Strong.
Although this is not strictly a book about same-sex attraction, Dorman does touch on a lot of issues regarding the development of masculinity and the things that can stunt it's growth. Even by the very title, Dorman alludes to the very essential male question of strength.
At its basic core the book is really a memoir of someone who, by his own admission, has led a relatively ordinary life and by most accounts has achieved the "American Dream." This is not a life without struggles nor without pain but one that nonetheless leads to personal triumph in a subtle and quiet way.
Indeed the entire book reads like that. If you are expecting a great tragedy or or some sort of a major issue overcome, you will probably not find that here. Yet, Dorman's documentation of his life growing up in a small, closely-knit southern town in Mississippi still manages to resound with the human heart.
In both setting and tone, it reads with the flavor of the classic coming-of-age novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The reader feels immersed in the town of Myrtle, Mississippi. Like the aforementioned fictional novel, the reader treated to a variety of characters which are rich, real and multifaceted.
It is easy to see how this town and its citizens shaped Dorman's character and made him the man that he is today. Although he no longer lives there, it has clearly left his imprint on him and as he notes many times in the book. Throughout the many stages of his life, he carries a little piece of Myrtle with him wherever he goes.
The book is also a tribute to a quieter, simpler time that has, unfortunately, long faded into the pages of history. Well before the the Internet or even television, Dorman presents a richness of life that is uncommon if not impossible to attain in today's technologically driven and frantic society.
Dorman's account isn't all roses, however. He does not gloss over the painful chapters of his life and development. Particularly noteworthy is his contemplation of suicide in his early years. Obviously he doesn't go through with it (thank God!), but his thoughtful reflection about why he even considered it in the first place will leave readers a bit unsettled as to the very normal misunderstandings which caused him to even go down this dark path of thought.
Without being preachy, Dorman's story really underscores the old adage that suicide is a "very permanent solution to a very temporary problem". On a broader scale, this episode and many others in the book really demonstrate how important it is that our youth (especially boys) have adult connections to help them navigate through life and how isolated adolescents sometimes feel, whether real or imagined.
Besides this foray into his personal struggles, Dorman also explores historical moments which shaped his life, including the turbulence of the civil rights movement in the South and the assassination of President Kennedy.
Overall, the book has something for every reader. The history buffs will certainly enjoy this firsthand (and very detailed) memoir of southern, small-town America and the companion website.
Although It is sometimes easy to get lost all of the minute details of Myrtle and the personalities within, Dorman's overarching themes strike universal chords as he delves into his personal faith journey with all of its ups and downs and shows how that faith matured with him and sustained him throughout his life.
Then I am Strong is the journey of a boy's search for strength and identity that he ultimately finds within himself as truly revealed by those around him and his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I know Donald Dorman would agree that in Him, we are all strong, regardless of where we come from or what we have done.
The book is available through Dorman's website or amazon.com.