Waldron’s account of life as a gay dad in Arizona.
The author’s engaging debut memoir opens with a protest rally against illegal immigrants in Phoenix. Seeing a young Hispanic boy on his father’s shoulders, Waldron reflects on his journey as a single, gay parent. When he fell in love with the charming smile of a 3-year-old boy, he had little understanding of the child’s intense anger simmering below the surface. After helplessly witnessing one memorable tantrum, Waldron sought a series of nannies to care for his child and teach him Spanish, as well as give himself some much-needed breathing room in his suddenly hectic life. Beginning with fun-loving Paulina, several Mexican women not only cared for his son (and later second child), but also showed Waldron how to appreciate the smaller, day-to-day triumphs of parenting. The women’s undocumented status and their ties to family in Mexico meant that their connections to his young family, while strong, were sometimes short-lived. While the women are idealized in their portrayals and treated like family (a far cry from The Help), the narrator is forthright about his own shortcomings and fears. Parents, especially single parents or those of adopted children, will relate to his worried comparisons to wealthier parents, his fears that his son might be taken away, his frantic juggling of work responsibilities and his musings about the lasting effects of his son’s difficult pre-adoption years. Early on, he confronts his own prejudices about the women he comes to depend upon who live in modest, sometimes sketchy, neighborhoods. He’s also quick to defend them from the unfounded accusations of his neighbors or his father’s concerns about strangers raising his grandchildren. A natural storyteller, Waldron offers a universal tale. He occasionally touches on issues specific to being a gay parent, including being advised to lie about his orientation or being offered harder-to-place children. More personal than political, this memoir’s conversational style, with its short chapters, lively bits of dialogue, candid observations and steady action, makes for enjoyable reading.
A timely, compelling story that challenges the traditional definition of family.
Birch’s candid new memoir recalls her punishing adolescent boyhood and the difficult pursuit of self-realization.
Birch never felt right in her body. She remembers a detailed, harrowing dream of retreating into the forest to commit suicide. Readers are catapulted to Birch’s boyhood as Jacob Mathewson, a quiet, awkward boy born with ambiguous genitalia. Tormented by his peers at school and by his mother at home because of his “birth defect,” Jacob explores his “female side” by dressing in girls’ clothing. College was “the time when I first realized how much Jessie could help me. I would come home from school and lock myself in my room, dress as a girl, put [makeup] on, and magically my homework assignments became much easier to complete.” And so Jacob sets out as Jessica on a path to discover where the feminine tendencies lead. Over the course of her journey, Birch continually seeks approval from others. She has a bad habit of imprudent attempts at friendship. Most troublingly, she develops an obsession with her therapist, sending her anonymous, unwanted gifts and unnerving letters. This fixation and her inability or unwillingness to see its inappropriateness has a climactic, disturbing outcome. Captivated yet confounded by her own thought patterns—she constantly worries that she’s going insane—Birch goes on to describe her struggle later in life, as she comes of age and contends with her own sexual and emotional immaturity. She interchangeably uses the terms “intersex,” “transsexual” and “transgender,” which might irk some contemporary LGBT scholars and activists, but Birch’s sincerity and enthusiasm are undeniable. Framed as a plea for absolution from family, friends and God, this memoir reads as an extended explanation and apology for the hurtful, misguided decisions she’s made over the course of her transition. “If through my actions, I’ve hurt anyone intentionally or unintentionally,” she says, “may I be forgiven?”
An honest, heartfelt memoir about coming out and transitioning.
Set in the modern-day Channel Islands and Dresden, Germany, Davy’s neonoir mystery follows a transgendered (female to male) man investigating the disappearance of a famous actress’ grandmother during World War II.
Arty Shaw, a genealogist working for a television show called Roots that uncovers the family histories of celebrities, is no stranger to delving through family trees and old records to piece together the truth in a person’s past. He gets more than he bargained for, however, when tasked with helping Helen Valentine, a luminary of the London stage, discover why her grandmother seemed to abandon her mother in the 1940s. For some reason, though, a few dangerous people don’t want him to reveal the truth to the world. Meanwhile, Helen becomes cagey when Arty repeatedly confronts her with questions about why it’s all of a sudden so important for her to learn whether her grandmother had run away or been sent to a concentration camp by Nazis. Davy, in his debut, spins an engrossing mystery that shines a light on a lesser-known aspect of World War II history. The straightforward story allows the reader to follow Arty’s process every step of the way—reminiscent of Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time (2011)—which grants the story authenticity and humanity. Arty’s examination of Helen’s family history comes to parallel his coping with his own past while dovetailing elegantly with the novel’s Holocaust themes of persecution. Davy’s personal experience with gender reassignment comes through in the dignity and grace with which he matter-of-factly depicts his protagonist’s own experiences of gender reassignment. It’s rare to find a novel that blends genres so well, with such a fully fleshed-out, distinctive protagonist at the center.
An extremely satisfying read, as thrilling as it is humane.