Tag Archives: Memoir

5 Stars for Blue Days, Black Nights: A Memoir of Desire by Ron Nyswaner #MM #Memoir

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Title: Blue Days, Black Nights: A Memoir of Desire
Author Name & Publisher: Ron Nyswaner (Lethe Press)
Publication Date & Length: May 12, 2016 – 206 Pages

Synopsis

In the years immediately following his Academy Award nomination for Philadelphia, screenwriter Ron Nyswaner fell through the rabbit hole. This gripping, intimate, and darkly comic memoir chronicles this period in his life, a period where a raging drug addiction collided with an obsessive and almost fatal love affair. A wrong turn down a one-way street in the shadow of the Sunset Strip’s Chateau Marmont leads Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Ron Nyswaner on a journey that will nearly drown him in the intoxicating, impulsive, maddening, tragic, and transformative nature of love. Despite the success of his latest film, Ron has been fighting depression and contemplating self-destruction. ”I don’t want a mediocre, empty life,” he tells his psychiatrist-acupuncturist-herbalist after halfheartedly attempting to hang himself with a belt. Then, on a trip from his home in upstate New York to Los Angeles, Ron meets and falls for world-weary Johann, a Latin-quoting, leather-clad hustler with a vague, European accent. In the next year Johann will teach him many things: how to make a crack pipe out of a soda can, how to come down from a crystal meth binge, how to walk down a city street as if he owns it, how to beg in Hungarian, and how to lose oneself utterly in reckless passion. If he can survive it, loving Johann might be Ron’s salvation.

”This beautifully honest tale of the author’s doomed drug-ladden love affair with a hustler is also a beautifully written page-turner.” — The Advocate

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Review

FiveStars

Nyswaner’s memoir is captivating and beautifully-written. He’s a Hollywood screenwriter of some success. At the time this was written he was mostly known for “Philadelphia.” The memoir, though, is not about Hollywood, but about gay prostitutes and drugs. Nyswaner explores his relationship with Johann, which might be love or might be denial, simultaneously with his attempts at therapy and coping with his family.
It’s lush in detail, rich with cultural references and observations, and drops a few names. Mostly it’s a private journey. Nyswaner seems likeable and thoughtful. I’ve read other addiction memoirs, like Augusten Burrough’s “Dry” and Danny Wylde’s “The Wolves that Live in Skin and Space,” and this one is far more palpable. I found myself reading of Nyswaner’s existential crises and crystal meth while nodding along, pleasantly interested, and devouring it straight through.
C. E. Case

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4 stars for Out — A Courageous Woman’s Journey by Lou Anne Smoot #FF #NonFiction #Memoir

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Title: Out — A Courageous Woman’s Journey
Author Name & Publisher: Lou Anne Smoot (Sapphire Books)
Publication Date & Length: May 1, 2016 — 294 Pages

Synopsis

Lou Anne fell in love with Karen in 1956 when they were both 17 and freshmen at Baylor University. Her parents told her the relationship was sinful and unacceptable. Seeing no other option, she followed their direction, married, and remained faithful to her husband for 37 years.
At age 60, after an incident in her Baptist Sunday School class, Lou Anne could no longer pretend to be straight. Her struggles to reconcile her faith with being gay take her into the depths of depression. After divorcing and ?coming out,? Lou Anne remained in her Baptist church for an additional fifteen years both to be true to her faith tradition and as an example of a gay Christian. She emerges as an outspoken advocate for gay rights.

This story of a retired teacher, mother of four, grandmother of six is told in an unprecedented, brutally honest manner.

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Review

FourStars

A very honest account by an extremely brave lady. Written in such a forthright and genuine way it read almost as a conversation.
The letters between the author and her children brought tears of utter respect to my eyes. I feel this book will be appreciated and help all christian’s  who may be having personal difficulties in coming to terms with their own sexuality.
I found the letters sent to the author asking for her help at the end of the book particularly meaningful and poignant.
I can almost acknowledge how perplexing it must have felt for Ms Smoot to comprehend some section of the church and it’s complete ignorance regarding homosexuality. As a non practicing christian I can’t possibly understand how she was treated in such a way by supposed Christians.
There were some parts that I could not comprehend or grasp, like her fear of having a daughter and the length of time her acceptance of herself took. I appreciate this might be due to my lack of knowledge or awareness of such a religious fundamentalist community.
Certainly a thought provoking and sincere book well worth reading.
~Chris

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5 Stars for Hiding in Plain Sight by Zane Thimmesch-Gill #Memoir #Trans

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Title: Hiding in Plain Sight
Author Name & Publisher: Zane Thimmesch-Gill (Riverdale Avenue Books)
Publication Date & Length: September 9, 2015 – 298 pgs

Synopsis

“Homeless queer kids – and they are legion – too often find themselves ostracized and silenced. In Zane Thimmesch-Gill they have finally found a strong, clear voice.”

–Riki Wilchins, author of Read My Lips, GenderQueer and Queer Theory, Gender Theory

In the memoir, Hiding in Plain Sight, this transgendered author describes in graphic and harrowing detail a homeless teen life on the streets that was marked with constant violence. Amidst the daily struggle to survive, she slowly came to the realization that she hated her body just as much as everyone did. When she was honest with herself she’d always known that she was meant to be a boy.

Despite the intense pressure of street life and having to come to terms with the fact that she was a transsexual, Kali never used drugs or alcohol, never committed a single crime, and never gave up on her dreams to make something out of her life. While the rest of the street kids were escaping into addiction, she figured out how to put herself through college and finance a sex change.

Life slowly improved as Kali became Zane and started settling into his body. He eventually found work at a shelter for homeless youth and started to make friends. But his euphoria was short lived. A resident at the shelter knew that he was a transsexual and became obsessed with making sure everyone found out. A few gang members who were living in the program confronted Zane, and when he was too scared to admit the truth, they decided to get their boys together late one night and prove him wrong.

Hiding in Plain Sight is a transformative and ultimately inspiring story of survival against all odds, of pursing and accomplishing your dreams in spite of enormous and often seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

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Review

FiveStars

Wow… This was just… amazing… and heartbreaking.
There were so many times that I wanted to cry and give up for the main character while reading, I can only imagine what it was like for him. Life is hard for most folks, but the author really shows us just how ugly the world is out there for those who don’t fall under ‘normal’ in some people’s books.
I have to say that this is one of those books that everyone really needs to read to not only see how hard it is for someone who is transexual, but just to see how horrible people can be. There are so many things that could’ve gone differently for the author if there would have been people to help in a productive, supportive way. Although I still am thankful that there were people out there that were willing to help the author when he was still in high school even if things didn’t enough out well, it was better than him having stayed with his biological family.
Through it all, the author somehow managed to stay strong and never stop looking toward the future which is amazing. Really inspiring for those of us who don’t have it as hard as he did, but still need the reminder that not only could things be worse, but that tomorrow will come and things will get better as long as we keep trying.
Very well written memoir. Thank you for sharing your story with the world.
Renee

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3 Stars for Mind Your Head: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Suicidal Queer Christian Missionary Kid by Jordan Cosmo #NonFiction #Memoir

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Title: Mind Your Head: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Suicidal Queer Christian Missionary Kid
Author Name & Publisher: Jordan Cosmo (Lulu Press)
Publication Date & Length: September 17, 2015 – 400 pgs

Synopsis

What happens when a homosexual is brought up in a homophobic religion?

In Mind Your Head, the author shares her unforgettable transformation from Jordan Callow, a suicidal anorexic, self-mutilating drug addict, to Jordan Cosmo, a healthy, enlightened, and empowered queer feminist.

Born into the family of conservative Christian missionary parents, Jordan was raised to believe that she must obey God above all else, and that homosexuality had no place in His kingdom.

But Jordan knew she was queer. She didn’t feel like a normal girl on the inside. And she didn’t look like a normal girl on the outside. Despite compulsively praying that God would correct her, she continued to look like a boy and think like a lesbian.

Honest, thought-provoking, and revolutionary, this story will change the way we relate to our queer youth, and more specifically, whether or not we continue to allow religious entities to brainwash them towards self-destruction.

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Review

ThreeStar

I tend to read the memoirs of my heroes.  The stories of people who have done great things.  It was a change to read the memoir of a very ordinary woman.  Jordan Cosmo’s experiences will resonate with anyone who grew up inside the world of Fundamentalist Christianity.

In many ways, Cosmo’s recollection are both uncomfortably familiar and unsettlingly mundane.  The lives of Christian kids in the 90s were intensely structured and involved repetitive routines.  The author recollects these details well, but she needs a good editor to select highlights and prevent the story from becoming tedious.

Cosmo avoids sensationalising her experiences.  She doesn’t vilainize her repressive family, finding victims where others might find bullies.  The result is that much of this story is a slow, year by year recount of a vaguely unremarkable life.

I say unremarkable because Cosmo’s story isn’t any different than those of the many bloggers chronicling their journey from fundamentalism.  I remember crying when I first read Jonny Scaramanga’s blog some years ago, but there is now a large and growing community of adults writing about recovery from the same sort of spiritual abuse Cosmo recounts in her memoirs.  I struggled to find Cosmo’s unique contribution to a busy and complicated dialogue.  

At one point, a girlfriend challenges Cosmo, asking her why she is so miserable when other people survive much worse with more cheer.  I couldn’t help but agree.  Cosmo emerges as a dreary, miserable character.  Her move away from Christianity is grueling and angst-filled.  I know from a sibling’s experience that fundamentalism is even more awful for LGBTQ kids, but it feels like Cosmo spends much of her early life (and much of the story) choosing to cloak herself  in misery.

I really fell out with Cosmo when it took a psychedelic trip induced injury for her to finally move away from her Christian past.  Most of us ran away as soon as we could and didn’t look back.  We didn’t need shrooms, just common sense.  I empathise with the mental health problems faced by so many of the Focus on the Family generation as adults – but I know it isn’t just LGBT survivors who suffer with the guilt and shame issues Cosmo highlights.  We were all screwed up and I’m not sure that wallowing in difficult memories is the most helpful way to move on.

I found Cosmo’s early story most interesting.  Chilling references to ACE style education, the Christian music industry and entrenched misogyny were real and difficult to read as a fellow survivor of fundamentalism.  I didn’t always find myself engaged by Cosmo’s narrative and I didn’t always like Cosmo’s narrative voice.  Adults in their thirties who remember Petra and Michael W Smith, Sparks and Pathfinder girls, Promise Keepers, The Head of the Household and Purity rings will find this a familiar, if disturbing read.

Sarah

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5 stars for Anything for Amelia by Andrew C. Branham @anything4amelia #MM #Contemporary #Memoir

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Title: Anything for Amelia
Author Name & Publisher: Andrew C. Branham (First Edition Design eBook Publishing)
Publication Date & Length: September 21, 2015 — 222 pages

Synopsis

A true story of the challenges endured by two gay men who had the desire to adopt a child.

When Andrew and DJ decided to adopt and bring a child into their lives, little did they know what they were about to endure; yet never did the thought cross their minds to give up. The horrific, pitilessly, and beyond comprehensible hoops one woman would make them jump through demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that little Amelia was going to be much better off in the loving home that Drew and DJ could provide her. Just when you think, how can two people survive such a nightmare and the journey is just about over when little Amelia is born and will be safely in the arms of her loving dads, Sandi decides to pull one more shenanigan that could change their lives forever.

More than 10 million adults have been adopted or fostered in their childhood. Along with spiraling increases in adoptions comes a growing need to disclose the significant flaws in adoption laws that open the doors to fraud, manipulation, and abuse of the system. AMELIA is the first book to explore this dark side of the adoption process through the true story of one couple’s journey through hell. Called “the most difficult adoption in U.S. history” by adoption experts, the book appeals to nearly all families (traditional and non-traditional) interested in adoption, foster parenting, or surrogacy.

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Review

FiveStars

This was a such a amazing but at the same time sad story of everything two men had to go through with one horrible woman to adopt their daughter.

Yes I would call what this woman did to them beyond horrible.. As a mother it makes me sick reading about another mother this evil who would treat her children this horribly and sees nothing wrong with what she was doing. The abuse, the lack of care she gave her children honestly made me cry. Why would a woman treat her children like this. That is not even going into what this woman did to Andrew and DJ.. All the manipulation the running them around and draining them dry just to further herself because from what I got from this book none of what she asked for was for her children only for her own selfish self. Sorry for the rant but woman like this make me honestly sick and after what she did to not just Andrew and Dj which was horrible but to her own children ugh.. I just have no polite words to say about this woman other then I truly hope someday she gets help and her children get a family who will care for them and love them like they deserve to be loved!

I want say how awesome these two men were to stick through everything they did and give Amelia a real chance at a family with two men who will love and care for her.

I thought this book was beautiful that these two men finally got to take their daughter home. But at the same time it was so sad to read about everything that Sandi did and to know as hard as it is to think about there are more woman or men out there who treat their children like the way she did her children but worse too. It really breaks my heart to think of all the children out there who are going through what Sandi’s children are. I thought the author did such a good job portraying these two men’s struggles and everything they went through to get to their light at the end of the tunnel. Their happily ever after with Amelia their daughter.

Kara

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4 Stars for Babette: The Many Lives, Two Deaths and Double Kidnapping of Dr. Ellsworth by Ross Eliot – #Trans #Memoir

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Title: Babette: The Many Lives, Two Deaths and Double Kidnapping of Dr. Ellsworth
Author Name: Ross Eliot
Publication Date & Length: January 6, 2014 – 345pgs

Synopsis

This narrative spans a period from 1998 until 2002, during which in his early twenties, Ross Eliot relocates to Portland, Oregon and eventually moves into the pantry owned by Dr. Babette Ellsworth, an arcane history professor.

Her strange life unfolds in stories, about the 1928 kidnapping in Eastern Washington carried out by a mysterious French woman named Germaine Bonnefont, about life in occupied Europe during World War II, about the Czarist assassin of Rasputin, East Indian soldiers who fought for Nazi Germany and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, whose cult perpetrated a 1984 bio-terror attack in Oregon.

In between travels with Dr. Ellsworth, Eliot befriends many unusual people within Portland’s diverse subcultures. These relationships lead to dance parties at historical monuments, Scrabble games with a nocturnal jazzpunk and perilous encounters with a beautiful sex scam artist. Eliot cares for his professor until her tragic final death in 2002. However, Eliot has only begun to uncover the layers of Babette’s story and he delves into Dr. Ellsworth’s complicated lives exposing murkier secrets than ever suspected. From gender and sexuality to religious theory and existential philosophy, it’s an unorthodox love saga between pupil and mentor, yet also an ode for the city of Portland where they live.

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Review

FourStars

While I’ve read a few memoirs in my time, they aren’t my favorite thing to read. However, I picked up this one because it sounded interesting.
At first I’ll admit that I had a very hard time getting into the story. It seemed like fragments of someone’s life just sort of thrown together and it wasn’t all that great since there wasn’t really a whole lot of explanation as to where the story was, why it started there or who the people were that we were reading about. There were many tense changes that I didn’t particularly care for either.
Then we meet Babette. I absolutely adored every word of her story. I loved that she was crazy, but incredibly knowledgeable at the same time. Her story is hard to believe, yet not so hard to believe. I laughed many times at her antics while wondering why she was the way she was. The deeper Ross got to know her and the more she told him, the more I wanted to know.
Until we started getting into too much of Ross’ life, while not completely dull, it wasn’t about Babette, the woman who had sucked me in. The one who had me turning pages as fast as I could. While at times I understood why we were meeting these other people outside of Babette and Ross’ relationship, I also felt that they slowed the story. I hate to say it, but I wanted to know about this woman with so much confusion and twisted tales surrounding her. I did find some happiness that we found that Ross wasn’t all that met the eye at first either (aka he has experiences with both genders), but the relationships sort of were just thrown in there at random times it seemed. Even at the end we have no idea what became of any of the relationships Ross had with anyone in the story even though it has been years since Babette.
There is many questions left unanswered, but I think that’s how life is. You take what answers you can get and have to let the rest stay as speculation. Boy do I wish I’d known what Babette’s deal was with the convent or the erratic changes in her behavior were from… Oh the list goes on. I absolutely loved Babette and her story and was sad to see it end.
Renee

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AuthorBio

Ross Eliot is a writer and commercial fisherman based in Portland, Oregon and Sitka, Alaska. He is best known as publisher and editor of the critically acclaimed counterculture gun politics magazine American Gun Culture Report from 2006-2011.

He has been featured on National Public Radio and Restore the Republic Radio as well as in periodicals including the Oregonian, Portland Mercury, The Sovereign, Street Roots and Skanner newspapers.

Ross Eliot served as keynote speaker at the 2010 Liberal Gun Club Annual Convention in Chicago and has also testified before the Portland City Council on Second Amendment issues.

A longtime Northwest political activist, he has worked with diverse organizations from the Portland May Day Committee to Portland Pink Pistols and Portland War Resistance League. In Spring of 2010 he organized “Might: Not Just for the Right,” a convention uniting all major 2nd Amendment advocacy groups in Oregon, from right wing usual suspects to those more leftist, anarchist and GLBTQ oriented.

For two years Ross Eliot as DJ Stiefel hosted a radio show featuring subculture music and local bands called “Sentimentale Jugend” on the Portland Radio Authority.

In 2013, wishing to continue writing about gun politics, he started “Occupy the 2nd Amendment,” a weblog more directly focusing on leftist perspectives than AGCR’s general counterculture overview.

January of 2014 saw the unveiling of Babette: The Many Lives, Two Deaths and Double Kidnapping of Dr. Ellsworth, Ross Eliot’s first book.

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