Finding An Identity - A Book Review
On this Easter Sunday and the Second Day of the Jewish Passover, I thought I would reflect on a favorite memoir of mine. On its fifth anniversary, it seems The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew by Sue William Silverman might be an appropriate book to talk about on this weekend of joint observances of faith. In particular, I am impressed with some of the ironies that come from Sue’s reflections on her life in this captivating collection of essays.
Sue Silverman is well known for her memoirs on a childhood fraught with abuse, abuse that came from her Jewish father. Her courage in telling of her past has helped me deal with my own experience of abuse. I would bet many others have gained from Sue’s honest telling of her stories.
This essay collection addresses experiences in Sue’s life such as travels in and out of the country, a trip to Israel, three marriages, all in the quest to find her identity. But the primary thread is a childhood fantasy of having Pat Boone, White Anglo Saxon Christian and 50s entertainer, adopt her and become her father. He had four daughters. He was a Christian. Surely, he was a safe haven. Not like her father. Linda Joy Myers, abuse therapist, tells it this way. “People who are abused find solace in fantasy.” Ms. Silverman writes. “By my believing in that constant image, he did save me, without my being adopted, without my even asking.” Somehow, in Sue’s consciousness, Christian became safe. Jewish not so much.
I find irony in that it was the image of Pat Boone that saved her until she could grow mature enough to see more clearly. Having read Mr. Boone’s memoirs myself, I recall he mentioned any number of challenges he faced in his life. Balancing the fantasy image Hollywood made for him, temptations of other women, dealing with faulty financial decisions. But he was, in fact, our image of the all American perfect male.
Sue managed to be in the presence of her idol on three occasions. The last encounter happened in 2003 when she attended the Pat Boone Christmas Concert in western Michigan. She tells us, “I was wearing a jacket with an embroidered flower on it and, pointing to it, and referring to my childhood, he said that I “reminded him of a flower growing up through concrete.” Sue exclaims “He had seen me! He heard my voice – unlike my real father!” In some unexpected way, Sue had found an identity by meeting with her fantasy father. One that was, ironically, there all along.
Mr. Boone, in his description of Sue, is actually paraphrasing a passage in Isaiah 53.2 about Jesus. “For [the servant of God] grew up before Him like a tender plant, and like a root out of dry ground:…On the way to finding herself, Sue discovers Pat Boone claims a connection to Judaism and Israel. He calls himself an “adopted Jew” because, he says, “everything we hold sacred as Christians has come out of biblical Judaism.” Sue says, “Ironically, this was all I really needed from him. I was now able to move forward and discover my own true self…who is, yes, a Jewish self.”
On this weekend celebrating my Christian faith and Sue Silverman’s Jewish identity, I am wondering why I didn’t think of having Pat Boone adopt me when I struggled with my father’s abuse as a child. Though not Jewish, I could have used a shelter.
I’m revisiting The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew this week. You might want to give it a look. Find it on Amazon or in your local bookstore.