When V. Gene Robinson was made bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire he wore a bulletproof vest to the ceremony. The first openly gay bishop in a major Christian denomination reads from his new book, “God Believes in Love,” at the Brattle Theatre on Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $5.
BOOKS: What are you reading currently?
ROBINSON: I discovered a new author for me, John Green. Someone recommended “The Fault in Our Stars,” which is just fantastic. I liked it so much I researched him and found out his books are for young adults. I also read his “Looking for Alaska,” and now I’m reading “Paper Towns.” He creates wonderful young women and older girl characters.
BOOKS: What other novels do you like?
ROBINSON: “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein, a book that is told in the voice of a dog who lives with a race-car driver who’s particularly good at driving in the rain. It’s a metaphor for living your life when it goes terribly wrong. When you say it’s in the voice of the dog, you think it’s going to be maudlin, but it’s brilliant and funny.
BOOKS: Do you also read nonfiction?
ROBINSON: Yes. The last nonfiction book I read is “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt, who is a moral psychologist. He explores why people vote against their own best interests.
BOOKS: Is that typical of the nonfiction you read?
ROBINSON: Yes. I read David Brooks’s last book, “The Social Animal,” not just because I think he’s the most thoughtful conservative out there but also because it contains so much research about why we think the way we do. In retirement I’m hoping to do a lot more reading like that.
BOOKS: Any books that were pivotal for you as a gay man?
ROBINSON: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, with its message of standing up for what’s right, withstanding social pressure, and having integrity. That was really formative for me. It’s still so profoundly relevant.
BOOKS: Did any book play a role in your coming out?
ROBINSON: John Fortunato’s “Embracing the Exile.” Ostensibly it’s about what is a proper relationship between religion and psychology, about navigating these very difficult waters. This is the book that made me realize I had to come out and be who I was.
BOOKS: Any authors who offered you guidance once you had?
ROBINSON: There weren’t that many when I came out 26 years ago. “Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?” by Letha Scanzoni and Virginia R. Mollenkott was one of the few books that attempted to assist people of faith in coming to terms with who they are in light of the scriptures. When it came time to come out to my daughters, who were then 4 and 8, I couldn’t find anything published in America, so I had to buy a Danish book. I found this astounding picture book about a man and his daughters and the man’s partner. It had pictures of them all cleaning and cooking together.
BOOKS: Once you became bishop, what reading inspired you?
ROBINSON: The two authors that I read a lot, not because it was about being gay but because it was about staying connected to god, were Desmond Tutu and Henri Nouwen, a brilliant Canadian theologian who wrote many books. He was gay but never came out. Frederick Buechner is another person I read a lot.
BOOKS: You were an American studies major. Do you still read about history?
ROBINSON: No, but I have the textbook I used in 1965 for a history of social and political thought class, everything from Plato to Machiavelli. And it’s on my bookshelf and will be the first thing I’m going to read when I retire this January. I want to refresh my mind as to what shaped our thinking. I’m so looking forward to it.
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