My Father’s Scar, the 1996 novel from American Michael Cart, explores the inner thoughts of Andy Logan, and is told in two different timelines. First, the reader is taken to an undefined time where Andy is a university student and feeling defensive about accusations of being attracted to the much older Professor Hawthorne. The story is given some context in terms of how Andy came to be at university and how his parents and community reacted to his sexuality as a teen.
Andy is an introverted child who is abused by his alcoholic father and indirectly by a mother who will not come to his defense (or her own). The community he lives in is a very religious town where the authority of the Protestant pastor looms large. His uncle is chastised by Andy’s grandmother for being useless, no good, for writing for a career and not being a blue-collar type of laborer. When he dies suddenly, Andy is dismayed when his hostile, domineering grandmother throws away his uncles book collection and also whips Andy’s father into submission with her words. The scar that Andy’s father bears on his cheek is a metaphor, too, for an existence deprived of dignity, leading to his addiction and mistreatment of his son and wife.
In Andy’s uncle’s death, he finds an identity in being an intellectual dissident and grows more confident in this role. The one surviving book Andy finds from his uncle’s collection has a passage his uncle has highlighted, which quotes “The heart has its reasons which the mind cannot know” (p. 66). He finds a role model and first love in a boy named Evan who stands up to the church and pastor by announcing he is gay and stating there is nothing wrong with that, which has disastrous consequences in a life-threatening attack on Evan, instigated under the minister’s guidance. Andy continues on the introverted path and does not get attacked by his community, but it is whispered and insinuated that they know he is gay. He makes one good friend in a girl named Patty upon his confession (p. 151), but she is the only non love-interest support after the death of his uncle. Evan disappears but leaves Andy angel wings and a note telling him that he loves him, his best attempt at showing a gesture of love and support for Andy.
Coming out only happens in interpersonal relationships for Andy, unlike Evan’s public coming out. Andy is supported by the close friends he tells, and is approached by his next boyfriend, a popular jock named Billy. The morning after graduation, he tells his parents that he is gay. His mother denies it all because she cannot handle anything more, and his father staggers around saying “Jesus, faggot, out” (p. 193), an order Andy complies with, never to return. He also leaves Billy, who operates on a simpler emotional wavelength and just wants Andy to be happy but not intellectually stimulated. This leads Andy to university, where he begins to consolidate the past of his hometown so that he can move forward in a relationship with a Teaching Assistant who expresses interest in him.
In My Father’s Scar, the main issue explored in the coming out dynamic is that all of the oppressors in the story have been victims of child abuse and misunderstanding on some level. The pastor plays a major role in destabilizing the community and its inhabitants so that his own ego is satisfied. The message of hope for the coming out experience is that one has to follow one’s heart and be responsive to what it needs for true happiness.
Cart, M. (1996). My father’s scar: A novel. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.