Novelist Michael Lowenthal's "The Paternity Test" Explores the Evolution of Gay Culture, Away from a Swing-Your-Partner-Kind-of-Life to One of Surrogacy, Midnight Feedings and Baby Strollers

Novelist Michael Lowenthal Greets Gay Parents A remarkable aspect of author Michael Lowenthal's writing is that he artfully and empathetically delves into lives he has not experienced himself. This is the case with his latest novel, The Paternity Test, about a gay couple looking to enrich their lives and, perhaps, even save their relationship by trying to have a child through surrogacy. On Cape Cod, no less, far from the hectic and exhilarating life the book's characters, Jewish airline pilot Stu and WASP technical writer Pat, used to live in Manhattan. But, when asked, Lowenthal will tell you that, even though he knows he Cape well and is gay, "surrogacy is not a plot in my life." He said he became interested in the subject as he watched gay culture go from the swinging life of 'no responsibility' to one of  'all responsibility' while raising children.

"Each of his novels opens a new world, and his research sits remarkably well in the book," commented novelist Sue Miller in her introduction of Lowenthal, whom she had invited to speak  for The South End Writes. She described his earlier work, Charity Girl, which focused on a young woman during a period in US history during World War I when the US government incarcerated and quarantined 15,000 young women who had been infected with venereal disease. A previous book, Avoidance, mines the conflicts between individual needs and those of the community in a devout Amish community where the main character, a Harvard graduate student, befriends a banished Amish woman. Lowenthal's first novel, The Same Embrace, centers on the same issue, but from the point of view of twin brothers, one who comes out as gay, the other who turns to Orthodox Judaism.

Novelist Sue Miller, Tending to Lowenthal Book Sale

For The Paternity Test Lowenthal, a Roslindale resident, said research took five years and included, among other efforts, observing the surrogacy experiences of close friends, talking to surrogates and making 'cold calls' to surrogacy agencies. "And I lurked around 'surro' message boards," he confessed. "People opened up."  When asked about his writing habits, the author said the short answer was, 'bad' but that both the Roslindale and West Roxbury branches are places where he goes through 'uncountable drafts' of his work.

Authors coming up next at the South End Library are listed below. The South End Library is fully handicapped accessible. Seating is limited. The author's books will be available for sale and borrowing. In the next few months, the library will host:

Tuesday, March 18:

Max Grinnell, otherwise known as The Urbanologist. Grinnell’s focal point is the urban condition. He teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Boston University, where he helps students learn about urbanism, architecture, planning, and related topics.

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Tuesday, April 1:

Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times foreign correspondent and bureau chief in Berlin and Instanbul, among other places, will talk about his most recent book, The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War. It details the lives of 1950s secretary of state John Foster Dulles  and his brother Allen Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency in that same era. "Anyone wanting to know why the United States is hated across much of the world need look no farther than this book," wrote the New York Times last November.

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Tuesday, April 8:

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 Poet  Colin D. Halloran, who served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in 2006.  A former public school teacher, Colin works with students and teachers to find ways in which poetry can inform the media’s and historians’ portrayals of war. His debut collection of poems, Shortly Thereafter, won the 2012 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award.

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 Tuesday, April 29:

 Anita Shreve, award-winning author of numerous books of fiction, including the international bestseller The Pilot’s Wife, which was made into a movie of the same name and was an Oprah Book Club selection. Her new novel, Stella Bain,  has just come out to excellent reviews in the Boston Globe.

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Wednesday, May 14:

Pablo Medina, an acclaimed Cuban-American poet (The Man who Wrote on Water) and novelist, whose latest book, Cubop City Blues, just came out in paperback.  The South End resident has received fellowships from the Oscar B. Cintas Foundation, state arts councils of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He is a professor in the Department of  Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College. 

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 Tuesday, May 20:

 South End author Wendy Wunder (The Probability of Miracles) will return to talk about her latest novel, due out in April 2014, called The Museum of Intangible Things. She teaches writing at the non-profit writing center, Grub Street, and yoga at various locations in the Boston area.

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 Tuesday, June 10:

 William Landay, award-winning author of crime fiction including the New York Timesbestseller Defending Jacob, The Strangler and Mission Flats.