Have I mentioned how much I am absolutely loving Gil Scott-Heron's latest album, I'm New Here? If not, I should have. It's definitely one of the best albums of 2010 thus far and, I think, has the potential to become one of the best albums I own. His voice and lyrics are glorious; the music is spectacular and some of the most inventive and amazing hip hop and electronic sounds I've heard in ages.
All of it is extremely good and you should check it out, but the first track is the one that really hit me hard: On Coming from a Broken Home. It starts with a sample from Kanye's Flashing Lights, those strings, and then he contemplatively discusses his view of his childhood in comparison to what others perceived. That has some resonance for me. The killer combo is this bit:
and I was full grown before I knewWhen I was about 8, my parents went to a teacher-parent evening and the teacher, on finding out my parents were divorced, was shocked - "I didn't know she came from a broken home - you can't tell." Or words to that effect. My mother told me several years later when I was reminiscing about how much I'd liked my primary school and that teacher in particular - she pulled a face, and eventually I pried the insulting memory out of her.
I came from a broken home
That was the first time I ever remember that term being applied to my familial situation. According to this teacher, bright achieving kids who were well-adjusted didn't come from "broken homes" - it didn't happen to people like us (the class-based snobbery was supreme). But my home wasn't "broken." I had two extremely loving and supportive parents; I had an incredibly stable routine in which my parents always rang when they were supposed to, always came to my various musical performances, parents' evenings, sporting events and so on. You couldn't play one parent off against another because they put their differences aside to talk about things and make joint decisions about us. I have friends who grew up in far less emotionally well-off households with parents who were superficially arranged in the "optimal" way but, in fact, made each other miserable and their children tense. Of course my childhood wasn't perfect, but I had no idea until my mother told me about that parent-teacher meeting, several years later, that someone might consider it actively bad for me. And so, whenever people use raising children in a nuclear, hetero-parent family as the "norm" and the reason to deny gay couples a family, it incenses me, because for years people have assumed that divorce = automatic child-rearing failure and yet my parents did a bloody good job.
Anyway, I love this album. I love Gil Scott-Heron. And I love my parents for the job they did. They're great.