Tag Archives: Uncomfortable Labels

TBRainbow Alert: Memoirs

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden

40046084Acclaimed literary essayist T Kira Madden’s raw and redemptive debut memoir is about coming of age and reckoning with desire as a queer, biracial teenager amidst the fierce contradictions of Boca Raton, Florida, a place where she found cult-like privilege, shocking racial disparities, rampant white-collar crime, and powerfully destructive standards of beauty hiding in plain sight.

As a child, Madden lived a life of extravagance, from her exclusive private school to her equestrian trophies and designer shoe-brand name. But under the surface was a wild instability. The only child of parents continually battling drug and alcohol addictions, Madden confronted her environment alone. Facing a culture of assault and objectification, she found lifelines in the desperately loving friendships of fatherless girls.

With unflinching honesty and lyrical prose, spanning from 1960s Hawai’i to the present-day struggle of a young woman mourning the loss of a father while unearthing truths that reframe her reality, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is equal parts eulogy and love letter. It’s a story about trauma and forgiveness, about families of blood and affinity, both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful.

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Naturally Tan by Tan France

40174034In this heartfelt, funny, touching memoir, Tan France, star of Netflix’s smash-hit QUEER EYE, tells his origin story for the first time. With his trademark wit, humor, and radical compassion, Tan reveals what it was like to grow up gay in a traditional Muslim family, as one of the few people of color in Doncaster, England. He illuminates his winding journey of coming of age, finding his voice (and style!), and how he finally came out to his family at the age of 34, revealing that he was happily married to the love of his life–a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City.

In Tan’s own words, “The book is meant to spread joy, personal acceptance, and most of all understanding. Each of us is living our own private journey, and the more we know about each other, the healthier and happier the world will be.”

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Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope by Karamo Brown

43253544When Karamo Brown first auditioned for the casting directors of Netflix’s Queer Eye, he knew he wouldn’t win the role of culture expert by discussing art and theater. Instead he decided to redefine what ‘culture’ could — and should — mean for the show. He took a risk and declared, ‘I am culture.’

Karamo believes that culture is so much more than art museums and the ballet — it’s how people feel about themselves and others, how they relate to the world around them, and how their shared labels, burdens, and experiences affect their daily lives in ways both subtle and profound. Seen through this lens, Karamo is culture: His family is Jamaican and Cuban; he was raised in the South in predominantly white neighborhoods and attended a HBCU (Historically Black College/University); he was trained as a social worker and psychotherapist; he overcame personal issues of colorism, physical and emotional abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, and public infamy; he is a proud and dedicated gay single father of two boys, one biological and one adopted. It is by discussing deep subjects like these, he feels, that the makeovers on the show can attain their full, lasting meaning. Styling your hair is important, but so is figuring out why you haven’t done so in 20 years!

In this eye-opening and moving memoir, Karamo reflects on his lifelong education. It comprises every adversity he has overcome, as well as the lessons he has learned along the way. It is only by exploring our difficulties and having the hard conversations—with ourselves and one another—that we are able to adjust our mind-sets, heal emotionally, and move forward to live our best lives.

Karamo shows us the way.

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Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer by John Glynn

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“‘We were sun children chasing an eternal summer.’ This boisterous chronicle of a summer in Montauk sees a group of 20-something housemates who’ll grow to know, to love, and care for one another. They work hard during the week, party hard on weekends, and each will face heartthrob and heartbreak. A coming out story told with feeling and humor and above all with the razor-sharp skill of a delicate and highly gifted writer.” -Andre Aciman, New York Times bestselling author of Call Me by Your Name

They call Montauk the end of the world, a spit of land jutting into the Atlantic. The house was a ramshackle split-level set on a hill, and each summer thirty one people would sleep between its thin walls and shag carpets. Against the moonlight the house’s octagonal roof resembled a bee’s nest. It was dubbed The Hive.

In 2013, John Glynn joined the share house. Packing his duffel for that first Memorial Day Weekend, he prayed for clarity. At 27, he was crippled by an all-encompassing loneliness, a feeling he had carried in his heart for as long as he could remember. John didn’t understand the loneliness. He just knew it was there. Like the moon gone dark.

OUT EAST is the portrait of a summer, of the Hive and the people who lived in it, and John’s own reckoning with a half-formed sense of self. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, The Hive was a center of gravity, a port of call, a home. Friendships, conflicts, secrets and epiphanies blossomed within this tightly woven friend group and came to define how they would live out the rest of their twenties and beyond. Blending the sand-strewn milieu of George Howe Colt’s The Big House, the radiant aching of Olivia Liang’s The Lonely City, OUT EAST is a keenly wrought story of love and transformation, longing and escape in our own contemporary moment.

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Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson

39348536Critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants—described as having “hints of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five” (School Library Journal)—opens up about what led to an attempted suicide in his teens, and his path back from the experience.

“I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.”

Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him.

A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality.

Thankfully Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge, and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.

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Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

42837514In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.

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Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman by Laura Kate Dale (July 1)

“So while the assumption when I was born was that I was or would grow up to be a neurotypical heterosexual boy, that whole idea didn’t really pan out long term.”

In this candid, first-of-its-kind memoir, Laura Kate Dale recounts what life is like growing up as a gay trans woman on the autism spectrum. From struggling with sensory processing, managing socially demanding situations and learning social cues and feminine presentation, through to coming out as trans during an autistic meltdown, Laura draws on her personal experiences from life prior to transition and diagnosis, and moving on to the years of self-discovery, to give a unique insight into the nuances of sexuality, gender and autism, and how they intersect.

Charting the ups and down of being autistic and on the LGBT spectrum with searing honesty and humour, this is an empowering, life-affirming read for anyone who’s felt they don’t fit in.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones (October 8th)

43682552From award-winning poet Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power.

“People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The ‘I’ it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, ‘I am no longer yours.’ ”

Haunted and haunting, Jones’s memoir tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his mother and grandmother, into passing flings with lovers, friends and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.

Blending poetry and prose, Jones has developed a style that is equal parts sensual, beautiful, and powerful—a voice that’s by turns a river, a blues, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one of a kind memoir and a book that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time.

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A Wild and Precious Life by Edie Windsor (October 8th)

43263541A lively, intimate memoir from an icon of the gay rights movement, describing gay life in 1950s and 60s New York City and her longtime activism which opened the door for marriage equality.

Edie Windsor became internationally famous when she sued the US government, seeking federal recognition for her marriage to Thea Spyer, her partner of more than four decades. The Supreme Court ruled in Edie’s favor, a landmark victory that set the stage for full marriage equality in the US. Beloved by the LGBTQ community, Edie embraced her new role as an icon; she had already been living an extraordinary and groundbreaking life for decades.

In this memoir, which she began before passing away in 2017 and completed by her co-writer, Edie recounts her childhood in Philadelphia, her realization that she was a lesbian, and her active social life in Greenwich Village’s electrifying underground gay scene during the 1950s. Edie was also one of a select group of trailblazing women in computing, working her way up the ladder at IBM and achieving their highest technical ranking while developing software. In the early 1960s Edie met Thea, an expat from a Dutch Jewish family that fled the Nazis, and a widely respected clinical psychologist. Their partnership lasted forty-four years, until Thea died in 2009. Edie found love again, marrying Judith Kasen-Windsor in 2016.

A Wild and Precious Life is remarkable portrait of an iconic woman, gay life in New York in the second half of the twentieth century, and the rise of LGBT activism.

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A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham (October 15th)

41716923For as long as they can remember, Cyrus Grace Dunham felt like a visitor in their own body. Their life was a series of imitations–lovable little girl, daughter, sister, young gay woman–until their profound sense of alienation became intolerable.

Beginning as Grace and ending as Cyrus, Dunham brings us inside the chrysalis of gender transition, asking us to bear witness to an uncertain and exhilarating process that troubles our most basic assumptions about who we are and how we are constituted. Written with disarming emotional intensity in a voice uniquely theirs, A Year Without a Name is a potent, thrillingly unresolved meditation on queerness, family, and desire.

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In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (November 5th)

42188604A revolutionary memoir about domestic abuse by the award-winning author of Her Body and Other Parties

In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.

And it’s that struggle that gives the book its original structure: each chapter is driven by its own narrative trope—the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman—through which Machado holds the events up to the light and examines them from different angles. She looks back at her religious adolescence, unpacks the stereotype of lesbian relationships as safe and utopian, and widens the view with essayistic explorations of the history and reality of abuse in queer relationships.

Machado’s dire narrative is leavened with her characteristic wit, playfulness, and openness to inquiry. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek, and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction. The result is a wrenching, riveting book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.

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Wild Life: Dispatches from a Childhood of Baboons and Button-Downs by Keena Roberts (November 12th)

Roberts_WildLife_9781538745151_HCKeena Roberts split her adolescence between the wilds of an island camp in Botswana and the even more treacherous halls of an elite Philadelphia private school. In Africa, she slept in a tent, cooked over a campfire, and lived each day alongside the baboon colony her parents were studying. She could wield a spear as easily as a pencil, and it wasn’t unusual to be chased by lions or elephants on any given day. But for the months of the year when her family lived in the United States, this brave kid from the bush was cowed by the far more treacherous landscape of the preppy, private school social hierarchy.

Most girls Keena’s age didn’t spend their days changing truck tires, baking their own bread, or running from elephants as they tried to do their schoolwork. They also didn’t carve bird whistles from palm nuts or nearly knock themselves unconscious trying to make homemade palm wine. But Keena’s parents were famous primatologists who shuttled her and her sister between Philadelphia and Botswana every six months. Dreamer, reader, and adventurer, she was always far more comfortable avoiding lions and hippopotamuses than she was dealing with spoiled middle-school field hockey players.

In Keena’s funny, tender memoir, Wild Life, Africa bleeds into America and vice versa, each culture amplifying the other. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, Wild Life is ultimately the story of a daring but sensitive young girl desperately trying to figure out if there’s any place where she truly fits in.

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Fave Five: Queer Autistic Rep, Round 2

For the first round of queer autistic MCs, click here.

Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West (contemp romance)

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (sci-fi)

Blood-Bound by Kaelan Rhywiol (fantasy)

No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll (fantasy)

Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman by Laura Kate Dale (memoir)

Bonus: In short fiction, check out “A Curse, a Kindness” by Corinne Duyvis in Unbroken!