“Sum of Two Mothers” shows the struggle of a family due to homophobia

Lisa Herdman

Outlining a life with two mothers and the struggles faced every day, “Sum of Two Mothers” is a compilation of poetry by Dennis Etzel Jr., an English professor at Washburn University.

I think that the style of poetry was right for this book, and gave it the uniqueness it deserved. The imagery without the confines of sentence structure made it possible for strong lines that packed a big punch.

One part says, “the new neighbor asks how my aunt is feeling/ I stop/ how would she know my aunt, as we never see her/ and it is my other mother who is sick/ she questions as if my mothers are two sisters.” I was really amazed and affected by this part, as the lines of poetry lead me to the slow realization Etzel must be coming to about his neighbors not realizing his two mothers are together.

My favorite thing about this series of poetry was its short and to the point attitude. It is very powerful to read his short poetry, since it is so packed with imagery and ideas of what a family should be.

He mentions other powerful moments, one being extremely emotional when Etzel’s neighbors yelled slurs at him and he realized they couldn’t possibly know how amazing his mothers truly are.

Etzel gives his audience powerful realizations of what it must be like to grow up with two mothers in a society that has not yet fully accepted the idea of two women raising a family.

The way he outlined these important moments in the first three sections of the book was breathtaking. I liked to be thrown into these specific stories and not just given a monologue about what he went through.

The last two sections of the book were focused on Etzel growing up and trying to find ways to explain the relationship his mothers have and what it meant to him.

He says he has to “use gates to keep my sons safe” from his own father, who he has contacted little by little after many years.

Eztel described what he learned as a child as being valuable to him as a father now. The parallel he outlines between his childhood, and what he hopes for his children really brings the book together.

I am glad that instead of going for a full memoire, he chose to go for these critical moments of his life. The criticism from his neighbors, the bridge built between him and his father leading to what he learned about wanting to be a father, and how to create a family.

I think this is an important read for people today, and is perfectly in line with the events surrounding the legalization of gay marriage and the ongoing battle couples and families face.