Since her first collection of poetry, Memoir (1988), Honor Moore has drawn on personal experience in her writing. In The Bishop’s Daughter (Norton), an excerpt of which was published in The New Yorker, she reveals that her father, the late Bishop Paul Moore, was gay.
What was the research for this book like?
I had letters between my parents, and my father’s letters home from the war and some other letters of his. I had their letters to me, my letters to them–a lot of them. I had my father’s papers, which are in the archives of the Episcopal Church. I had my father’s three books and my mother’s memoir. I had tried relentlessly for twenty-five years to write about my father–mainly because he noticed that I wrote about my mother all the time and he would once in a while say, “Uh, hello?” He’d say things like, “Are you finished with the Jenny material now?” I knew it was a kind of emotional failure in me that I couldn’t get to it.
Do you hope that this book will be a kind of lesson?
One of the reasons I write is I’m saying, Don’t you understand? Everything I write is to try and make whoever the reader is feel the experience that I’m writing about. One of my sisters said when she read the manuscript, “Thank you for writing it. For me it’s not what Pop did or didn’t do in his life–it’s that I don’t have to keep a secret anymore.” So yes, I would hope that it would demonstrate what a secret did to one family, and one father-daughter relationship and one mother-daughter relationship. I would hope that it would extend the conversation within the Episcopal Church about inclusion. I went to this event at Town Hall for Matthew Shepard. Most moving to me was Judy Shepard, his mother. She said, It’s unacceptable that everybody shouldn’t be accepted and loved for who he or she is. And it made me think of my father, who couldn’t really accept and love himself for who he was. And you know that moment in the therapy scene when he’s talking about going around the country for his book? People come up to him saying, You’ve had such an extraordinary life, and he says, If only they knew the truth. It’s just not acceptable to me that any person should ever have to feel that way for one second. Of course, I held that value before writing the book. But somehow writing the book has made me absolutely implacable. I have a kind of fury about it.