The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue was a pleasant surprise. It’s about a family with two sets of parents and seven children in Toronto. The parents aren’t step-parents, but co-parents. You see, there is one set of dads and one set of moms. The seven kids were either artificially inseminated or adopted. While one of the moms was at the hospital delivering the first child, a boy named Sic, the couples stumble upon a lottery ticket. It turns out the lottery ticket had the winning numbers. Since they didn’t buy the ticket, it takes awhile for the lottery authorities to clear them as the rightful winners since no one claims to have misplaced the ticket.
Thus, the Lottery family is born. The two couples decide to legally change their last names from what they were to Lottery. Since they now have a ton of money, they decide to spend it in, my opinion, a very wise way: buying a huge house and filling it with kids.
One of the dads known playfully as Popcorn has an 82 year-old Scottish father living in Yukon. The two haven’t spoken in a very long time; in fact, the kids don’t even really know they have another grandfather. The reason for the distance in relationship is because Popcorn is gay.
Nearly all of the seven kids are named after trees. The chunk of this story is taken from Sumac, the adopted nine-year old whose accountant parents decided before her birth to not keep her. While the story is told in third-person omnipresent, Donoghue focuses on Sumac.
Since there are seven kids and four parents, the homeschooled children get to do projects “one-on-one” with the parents. Sumac and Popcorn were supposed to do a “one-on-one” about Mesopotamia and the Sumerian language. However, Popcorn gets an urgent call concerning his father that requires him to travel to Yukon. Sumac decides to tag along, hoping for a fun excursion. Instead, she gets a shocker.
Ian, Popcorn’s father, has developed dementia. Popcorn decides with the other parents to bring Ian back to “Camelottery.” Sumac is less than thrilled about this news because Ian isn’t a cuddly grandpa. In fact, once Ian gets to Toronto, the other kids coin him as Grumps (side note: I actually love this nickname so much that I think once I have grandchildren I will be called Grump-ma, not because I think I’ll be a grumpypants, but it’s just cute).
The rest of the book is about how Ian and the Lotterys become a real family. The Lotterys are, yes, “hippy dippy” as Ian calls them with disgust. One of the younger Lotterys, 4 year-old Briar, actually wants to be called Brian and to be identified as a boy. They are homeschoolers who appear to be using the unschooling method. They walk or use the bus and are super into taking care of the environment. Some may consider this to a barrage of all alternative stereotypes in one, but I know plenty of families, albeit not with four parents, that are like this.
So if you as a person dislike the idea of introducing to your children or to other children the idea of gay parents or dislike hippies, this book probably isn’t your cup of tea.
But, as with everything, there is so much more to this story that makes it a pleasant surprise.
I haven’t come across a character with whom I identify (well the younger me) so much in a long time. But Sumac and me are almost duplicates. She doesn’t want to deal with these ill feelings she has for Grumps. But she can’t help but dislike the guy who isn’t nice or grateful at all to her family and who even has to take over her own room! He is pretty rude toward her and Sumac, over the course of the book, tries to make Grumps leave Camelottery, something she resents because who wants to be that mean. Will she succeed? How does she feel about what ends up happening?
The only thing I don’t really like about the book is Brian. Not because she wants to be a boy, but it is her lack of speaking in full sentences. I know different children develop differently–and you learn later on that the youngest Lottery is developmentally delayed for being an adopted shaken-baby. But, Brian doesn’t appear to be so and nearly all 4 year-olds speak using verbs. If she was a 3 year-old, maybe I could see it.
So where does this book fit in with MRAs? And, what is the MRM?
MRA is short for Men’s Rights Activist. The MRM is the Men’s Rights Movement. It’s purpose is to give attention to the misandry in our current society. A Voice for Men is an on-line group that posts regularly on this topic and, while not speaking for all MRAs, as not all feminists speak in the same way, here is their policies and values. This article is a good introduction as well. I highly recommend you read them and you watch The Red Pill, a documentary I accidentally came across by Cassie Jaye.
As Cassie explained in her documentary, there is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to MRAs and feminists. So much so there is always shuffles at MRA events by radical feminists who won’t listen to what the MRAs are actually trying to say.
This lack in communication, largely in listening to the “other,” is what struck me in listening to The Lotterys Plus One. I keep thinking, Jeez Sumac, you think your grandpa is being rude for not listening to you and your family, then what does that make you for not being open to seeing things in his way?
Likewise, radical feminists or even feminists on the wayside discredit MRAs because of “what they already know.” They feel that men have all the power and make the most money so they can’t possibly have any problems. In fact, these feminists don’t need to listen to the issues MRAs bring up because they aren’t real issues and don’t stop men from having “great lives.” They can’t stop and just listen to the issues that really do face men more than women (or ones that exclusively face males), such as:
- Higher suicide rates
- More likely to be diagnosed with “ADHD”
- Higher likelihood of being criminals
- Perceived to be the only domestic violence perpetuators
- Only 16% of child custody being granted to them
- Not given a choice when it comes to circumcision
- Not having more of a say when it comes to rightfully and legally producing a child, i.e., Father’s Rights are limited
My point is simple this: when Sumac finally tried to see things from Ian’s perspective (and something her family was doing all along but she failed to attempt), she grew up. She realized that somebody outside of herself has legit views and she needs to try to meet that person at least half-way. You don’t have to compromise your beliefs but by simply listening and honestly attempting to see things from the other person’s perspective is a life skill we all desparately need.
What about Ian and his bigotry? Don’t you know, he warms up to the family and enters into it, just like most of us do when we get to know other people who differ from us. Feminists could too with the MRAs if they listened; Cassie Jaye did this so they can too.
Even though both this book and the MRM can be controversial, I find both enlightening. It’s good to challenge yourself and hear from other people whose beliefs may differ with you.