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Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family

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When Joel Derfner's boyfriend proposed to him, there was nowhere in America the two could legally marry. That changed quickly, however, and before long the two were on what they expected to be a rollicking journey to married bliss. What they didn't realize was that, along the way, they would confront not just the dilemmas every couple faces on the way to the altar—what kin When Joel Derfner's boyfriend proposed to him, there was nowhere in America the two could legally marry. That changed quickly, however, and before long the two were on what they expected to be a rollicking journey to married bliss. What they didn't realize was that, along the way, they would confront not just the dilemmas every couple faces on the way to the altar—what kind of ceremony would they have? what would they wear? did they have to invite Great Aunt Sophie?—but also questions about what a relationship can and can't do, the definition of marriage, and, ultimately, what makes a family.            Add to the mix a reality show whose director forces them to keep signing and notarizing applications for a wedding license until the cameraman gets a shot she likes; a family marriage history that includes adulterers, arms smugglers, and poisoners; and discussions of civil rights, Sophocles, racism, grammar, and homemade Ouija boards—coupled with Derfner's gift for getting in his own way—and what results is a story not just of gay marriage and the American family but of what it means to be human.


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When Joel Derfner's boyfriend proposed to him, there was nowhere in America the two could legally marry. That changed quickly, however, and before long the two were on what they expected to be a rollicking journey to married bliss. What they didn't realize was that, along the way, they would confront not just the dilemmas every couple faces on the way to the altar—what kin When Joel Derfner's boyfriend proposed to him, there was nowhere in America the two could legally marry. That changed quickly, however, and before long the two were on what they expected to be a rollicking journey to married bliss. What they didn't realize was that, along the way, they would confront not just the dilemmas every couple faces on the way to the altar—what kind of ceremony would they have? what would they wear? did they have to invite Great Aunt Sophie?—but also questions about what a relationship can and can't do, the definition of marriage, and, ultimately, what makes a family.            Add to the mix a reality show whose director forces them to keep signing and notarizing applications for a wedding license until the cameraman gets a shot she likes; a family marriage history that includes adulterers, arms smugglers, and poisoners; and discussions of civil rights, Sophocles, racism, grammar, and homemade Ouija boards—coupled with Derfner's gift for getting in his own way—and what results is a story not just of gay marriage and the American family but of what it means to be human.

56 review for Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family

  1. 4 out of 5

    John

    Joel is incredibly funny and clever, who sounds like a wild friend to have, but I'm glad he's not my husband! Then again, like his spouse, I'd prefer to go on the vegetation trip on Curacao than swim with dolphins. What to expect: mostly, it's the story of a neurotic, self-deprecating gay spouse-to-be's angst about agreeing to marriage, and the details of ceremony planning. There's also historical research (which I'd bet was interspersed with plenty 'o' online shopping, but let's not digress) pr Joel is incredibly funny and clever, who sounds like a wild friend to have, but I'm glad he's not my husband! Then again, like his spouse, I'd prefer to go on the vegetation trip on Curacao than swim with dolphins. What to expect: mostly, it's the story of a neurotic, self-deprecating gay spouse-to-be's angst about agreeing to marriage, and the details of ceremony planning. There's also historical research (which I'd bet was interspersed with plenty 'o' online shopping, but let's not digress) presented regarding the history of marriage and related cultural aspects. While the book does stand alone, I'd suggest reading Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever first, so that one comes to this story with a grounding on where Joel's coming from. Definitely recommended, although I was left wondering whether some aspects were exaggerated for effect - surely, no one can be that neurotic 24/7? At times, I was reminded of a production I saw where Uncle Vanya was played as a short nebbish.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Drew Humberd

    I read Joel's other memoir-style book, Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever, and enjoyed it immensely, so I eventually got around to picking this up and read it in the course of a morning. The thing that really captivated me about Swish is that Joel manages to blend self-deprecating humor and thoughtful commentary in a way that never stops in the gross middle ground of schlock. He flows between a trip down Hookup Memory Lane and some deep soul-searching about what his hookups meant wi I read Joel's other memoir-style book, Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever, and enjoyed it immensely, so I eventually got around to picking this up and read it in the course of a morning. The thing that really captivated me about Swish is that Joel manages to blend self-deprecating humor and thoughtful commentary in a way that never stops in the gross middle ground of schlock. He flows between a trip down Hookup Memory Lane and some deep soul-searching about what his hookups meant without pausing for gross moralizing. Lawfully Wedded Husband, in my opinion, only improves on this tactic. The 30-day countdown to his wedding is one part research into Judeo-Christian marriage concepts (spoiler alert: that doesn't mean what you think it means), one part a quest to fill out 5,000 index cards in an attempt to win an HGTV contest, and one part a painfully honest and hilarious account of the stress leading into a marriage. The Appendix, "A Brief and Highly Biased Legislative History of American Marriage Equality with Respect to Sexuality," is far more comprehensive than the title might suggest. Derfner is the child of civil rights workers and it shows--he's compelled to both understand his circumstances and the reason for them. It's highly educational, and although I hesitate to use a trite phrase, should probably be required reading for anyone seriously interested in the subject. Joel Derfner makes a fantastic case for marriage equality (because we're married, not gay married, right?) and I couldn't recommend this book more.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joyfully Jay

    This review was originally written for Joyfully Jay Reviews. 4.75 stars When I picked up Lawfully Wedded Husband, I realized I was already familiar with Joel Derfner. No, it wasn’t from his previous books (Gay Haiku and Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever) but from the cringe inducing reality show he mentions in his story, starting with the Introduction. Yes, I watched that show he and his best friend were a part of, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, filmed in 2010 for the Sundance C This review was originally written for Joyfully Jay Reviews. 4.75 stars When I picked up Lawfully Wedded Husband, I realized I was already familiar with Joel Derfner. No, it wasn’t from his previous books (Gay Haiku and Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever) but from the cringe inducing reality show he mentions in his story, starting with the Introduction. Yes, I watched that show he and his best friend were a part of, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, filmed in 2010 for the Sundance Channel. The author had, along with his best friend Sarah, and his then fiance Mike, appeared on the show which filmed their marriage in Iowa. It had that stilted, painful feel to it that low budget reality shows can have. And I ended up feeling bad for everyone who appeared on it, including Joel, Mike, and Sarah, who later bore the brunt of vicious comments due to the editing by the director who seemed to have her own agenda. Read Melanie's review in its entirety here.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tricia Lawrence

    Somewhere in the book Joel makes a comment about marriage being for society. Maybe I don't care enough of what society thinks. I think Joel's definition of marriage is brilliant and all encompassing and OF COURSE I think same sex couples should have the same rights as everyone else. I just don't see why any human would want to get married at all. It seems such an outdated concept and with over 50% of marriages ending in divorce, is it really that important of an institution? I think people can c Somewhere in the book Joel makes a comment about marriage being for society. Maybe I don't care enough of what society thinks. I think Joel's definition of marriage is brilliant and all encompassing and OF COURSE I think same sex couples should have the same rights as everyone else. I just don't see why any human would want to get married at all. It seems such an outdated concept and with over 50% of marriages ending in divorce, is it really that important of an institution? I think people can commit to each other and be "family" to each other without a legal contract. In the end, though, I don't judge others for how they want to live their lives and I am thrilled about Joel's happy ending. The stories about the wedding planning were hysterical.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    I received Lawfully Wedded Husband as part of a Goodreads giveaway. Part (mostly) memoir, part political/social musing, Joel Derfner relates his relationship and eventual marriage to his husband Mike. From the couple's less-than-promising early dates to their engagement, wedding planning, couples' counseling, and beyond, Derfner's irreverent sense of humor, make this an engaging and moving read. What struck me most as I read was that despite the author's clear (and logically laid out) support for I received Lawfully Wedded Husband as part of a Goodreads giveaway. Part (mostly) memoir, part political/social musing, Joel Derfner relates his relationship and eventual marriage to his husband Mike. From the couple's less-than-promising early dates to their engagement, wedding planning, couples' counseling, and beyond, Derfner's irreverent sense of humor, make this an engaging and moving read. What struck me most as I read was that despite the author's clear (and logically laid out) support for marriage equality, the book was more about marriage and less about "gay marriage" as a political concept. He details the highs and lows of his and Mike's relationships and doesn't gloss over the rough times, an undeniable part of committed romantic relationships. Highly recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    I was very excited to read this book. Not for the reasons you may be thinking, though. I was excited because I won the book through a GoodReads giveaway and I *never* win anything. This is a good read for those who want to brush up on gay marriage history, read about neurotic boyfriend fights, and those who just want a heartwarming laugh. Joel puts a lot of thought into this piece about his marriage and the events leading up to it. I love that he is so candid about his thoughts and feelings. It I was very excited to read this book. Not for the reasons you may be thinking, though. I was excited because I won the book through a GoodReads giveaway and I *never* win anything. This is a good read for those who want to brush up on gay marriage history, read about neurotic boyfriend fights, and those who just want a heartwarming laugh. Joel puts a lot of thought into this piece about his marriage and the events leading up to it. I love that he is so candid about his thoughts and feelings. It really makes him relatable and the story all that more sincere. I can't wait to read more from Joel.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Not QUITE as funny as Derfner's first two books, but makes up for that with a rather astonishing depth. Derfner not only presents a cogent argument in favor of same sex marriage, but does so by presenting some interesting historical, religious and political facts that are hard to dismiss. Intertwined is his own fascinating story of getting his partner of seven years to the altar (... or chuppah actually!) and all the mishaps along the way ... let's just say that though there is no doubt that Mik Not QUITE as funny as Derfner's first two books, but makes up for that with a rather astonishing depth. Derfner not only presents a cogent argument in favor of same sex marriage, but does so by presenting some interesting historical, religious and political facts that are hard to dismiss. Intertwined is his own fascinating story of getting his partner of seven years to the altar (... or chuppah actually!) and all the mishaps along the way ... let's just say that though there is no doubt that Mike and Joel love each other, they are more Lucy and Ricky than the ideal poster children for marriage, gay or otherwise.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5 I loved this book. It's sarcastic, hilarious and thoughtful, often at the same time. Derfner's musings can transition from the history and definition of marriage to the search for the perfect ketubah and the perfect attire for his wedding veer off into something completely different. It's a wild ride you shouldn't miss. For my full review, visit http://wp.me/p220KL-1VO on 1/20/2014. For all of my reviews and thoughts on writing, visit http://scatteredthoughtsandroguewor Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5 I loved this book. It's sarcastic, hilarious and thoughtful, often at the same time. Derfner's musings can transition from the history and definition of marriage to the search for the perfect ketubah and the perfect attire for his wedding veer off into something completely different. It's a wild ride you shouldn't miss. For my full review, visit http://wp.me/p220KL-1VO on 1/20/2014. For all of my reviews and thoughts on writing, visit http://scatteredthoughtsandroguewords...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa The Novel Approach

    As you can tell, there’s quite a bit of humor involved throughout this memoir. And… I thought my family was sick and twisted. I’m still snickering over the word fertilizer. So, with that in mind, and the fact that someone had the ability to stir up some of that gray matter called my brain, and they reminded me again why I’m still married, I’m giving this one 5 Stars See the entire review at The Novel Approach: http://thenovelapproachreviews.com/20... As you can tell, there’s quite a bit of humor involved throughout this memoir. And… I thought my family was sick and twisted. I’m still snickering over the word fertilizer. So, with that in mind, and the fact that someone had the ability to stir up some of that gray matter called my brain, and they reminded me again why I’m still married, I’m giving this one 5 Stars See the entire review at The Novel Approach: http://thenovelapproachreviews.com/20...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Joel Derfner tells us the story of his relationship and marriage as a "same-sexer" (rather than gay or lesbian; equal doesn't mean different, he points out) in a way that's humorous (a la David Sedaris), engaging, researched and thought-provoking. The points he makes are good, persuasive even, and I couldn't wait to loan this book to a friend. If you are interested in the "same-sex" marriage issues (see Joel, I got it right!) or are open to being interested, put this at the top of your list. Lea Joel Derfner tells us the story of his relationship and marriage as a "same-sexer" (rather than gay or lesbian; equal doesn't mean different, he points out) in a way that's humorous (a la David Sedaris), engaging, researched and thought-provoking. The points he makes are good, persuasive even, and I couldn't wait to loan this book to a friend. If you are interested in the "same-sex" marriage issues (see Joel, I got it right!) or are open to being interested, put this at the top of your list. Learning should always be this fun.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karen Miles

    I won this book from Goodreads. It was a funny and thoughtful memoir concerning the topic of marriage equality and the author's own experiences leading up to his marriage. I would highly recommend this book. It would be interesting to find out his thoughts on the reversal of DOMA. Maybe that will be in a future book! I won this book from Goodreads. It was a funny and thoughtful memoir concerning the topic of marriage equality and the author's own experiences leading up to his marriage. I would highly recommend this book. It would be interesting to find out his thoughts on the reversal of DOMA. Maybe that will be in a future book!

  12. 5 out of 5

    willowdog

    Delightful read. Learned a lot about marriage, culture of marriage, history of marriage, Jewish customs, arguments for same-sexed marriage while laughing.

  13. 5 out of 5

    V K

    Among the funnies, there were some great thoughts in here that are definitely worth thinking about. A great read!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jerry

    An ability to explore his neuroses on a variety of subjects provides insight and humor.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Justin Charles

  16. 5 out of 5

    Heather Jones

  17. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Alex Finkelstein

  18. 5 out of 5

    OkayKim

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jerene Good

  20. 4 out of 5

    John Simon

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  22. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jess

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Black Agency

  25. 5 out of 5

    Renee Thompson

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Diachenko

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Jacobs

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gillik

  30. 5 out of 5

    Annette

  31. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  32. 5 out of 5

    Lee Weiser

  33. 5 out of 5

    Nick Myers

  34. 4 out of 5

    Joel Derfner

  35. 4 out of 5

    Susan MacNeal

  36. 4 out of 5

    Roof Beam Reader (Adam)

  37. 4 out of 5

    Kristen McConnell

  38. 5 out of 5

    Kris

  39. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

  40. 5 out of 5

    Drew

  41. 5 out of 5

    Kim Coomey

  42. 4 out of 5

    Rosanna

  43. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Gates

  44. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Griffin

  45. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  46. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

  47. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Zitsch

  48. 4 out of 5

    Emilie Titchen

  49. 5 out of 5

    Larry

  50. 4 out of 5

    Kristopher Oliveira

  51. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

  52. 5 out of 5

    Jd Guinn

  53. 5 out of 5

    Ella

  54. 5 out of 5

    Terri Fairchild

  55. 4 out of 5

    Max

  56. 5 out of 5

    Sue

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