Southern Indiana native J. Patrick Redmond was born in a small town. He was educated in a small town and taught the fear of God in a small town. He used to daydream in that small town, and that’s how he ended up far, far away in Miami for 16 years after graduating high school.
This spring, Redmond published his first novel, “Some Go Hungry,” which is a fictional account of his experiences growing up in Vincennes, Ind., working at his family’s restaurant business while also questioning his sexual orientation. He recounts the struggles of finding his identity as a gay man and working hard to keep it hidden through the protagonist in the story, Grey Daniels, who returns home to a small Indiana town from Miami to help out his family’s restaurant business.
The storyline also touches on an incident that affected Redmond as a young adult — the murder of a gay classmate in the ’80s, which to this day remains unsolved.
Redmond, who now resides near Evansville with his partner, will be in town Thursday, July 7, at Play Dance Bar to talk about his book and help raise money for the Fairness Campaign. Insider caught up with the author to talk more about his experiences growing up in the area and embarking on his first novel.
Insider Louisville: How much of your real-life experiences helped shape the storyline for this book?
J. Patrick Redmond: What I tell readers is that “Some Go Hungry” is part roman à clef and part fiction, and it’s up to them to decide which is what. The story is most certainly inspired by my family having been in the restaurant business for 55 years and me having grown up in the business in rural Southern Indiana, as well as a classmate of mine who was perceived to be gay who died under incredibly mysterious circumstances after innocently attending a local party rumored to be “homosexual in nature.”
Most folks in my hometown believe he was murdered. The community’s reaction to the crime was utter apathy. It was as if collectively they said, “Oh well, it was just a gay guy.” Folks must remember and take into consideration that it was 1986 and our country was in the throes of the national AIDS panic, and they were listening to all the misinformation being televised and pumped into homes across the land by news broadcasts and televangelists and how homosexuality was being viewed through that particular lens. Locally and regionally, my classmate’s death got lost in the scandal and salaciousness of the community’s need to find out who the local homosexuals were and who was in attendance at the party.
IL: What inspired you to want to share this story with the world?
JPR: It took me six years to write “Some Go Hungry.” I wanted to make sure I got everything right. And by that I mean, I wanted to ensure the story was told in such a way that it wouldn’t simply be labeled an “LGBT story” or “LGBT fiction,” that readers from all walks of life would be able to identify with the “otherness” in the story — the longing and searching for one’s community.
At one time or another, everyone has felt like “the other” — perhaps when moving to a new town or beginning a new career or even attending a new house of worship. We’ve all had that inner voice inside saying, “Will they like me? Am I wanted here? Will I be accepted?” What must that longing and searching feel like in terms of one living in their own hometown?
IL: What was the adjustment like growing up in Southern Indiana and then moving to a place like Miami the first chance you got?
JPR: Moving in the late ’90s from my small hometown to Miami Beach and then Miami was certainly a culture shock. But at the same time, it was the diversity I was longing to be a part of. I wanted something other than where I had been raised. I wanted something new. Something exotic. Something outside of my comfort zone. I grew into myself in Miami. And by that, I mean I became the person I wanted to be. I was able to live my authentic life there and be celebrated for doing so.
In middle America, I was raised listening to the condemnation and malice regarding homosexuals and homosexuality in my church, my school and my community. In Miami, there was not only a sense of anonymity but also a community that, for the most part, minded its own business while also being incredibly accepting of its LGBT citizens.
IL: And what brought you back to Indiana?
JPR: My partner and I live in a small foursquare farmhouse he inherited. It allows me to pursue my writing full time. I loved the 16 years I spent living and teaching in Miami, and I knew wonderful things would happen for me there and they did.
But I was also ready to return to my Midwestern roots and the seasons and a slower, less chaotic life. There really is such a thing as Hoosier hospitality in spite of what our state’s elected officials and their ignorance and bigotry portray to the world. The Hoosiers I know, especially now, are kind and loving and compassionate. They understand we are all just one big human family. People can change over time. I certainly did, and many, many folks in my Southern Indiana neck of the woods have changed, too.
IL: What do you hope people take away from this story?
JPR: For me, writing “Some Go Hungry” was incredibly cathartic. It was healing on both an emotional and spiritual level. My hope is people will recognize a bit of their own experiences, their own struggles to live in truth and with authenticity, and recognize it’s not a gay or straight thing — it’s about finding one’s community. Finding that place where one is not only loved but also celebrated for being who they’re meant to be.
There is a universality to “Some Go Hungry,” and I think readers will be pleasantly surprised to discover they share and have quite a bit in common with the main character, Grey Daniels.
Redmond will be joined Thursday by his publisher, Kaylie Jones, and fellow author Barbara J. Taylor. The event is free and runs from 5:30-8 p.m. A percentage from the book sales will go to the Fairness Campaign. Play is located at 1101 E. Washington St.