A searing coming-of-age account about sexual extremes.

MY LOVE IS A BEAST

CONFESSIONS

A debut essay collection charts a man’s development from closeted Christian kid to liberated sex writer.

There was nothing about Cheves’ early life that hinted at his future career as the sex columnist for Out magazine. The adopted son of Evangelical Christian parents, the author was raised in rural, conservative Georgia. “They knew nothing about the woman who birthed me,” he writes of his parents, “except that she was described in the adoption papers as a dancer, a 1992 code word for prostitute, or so I’ve always believed.” His parents worked in Zambia as medical missionaries, where the young Cheves saw the ravages of AIDS firsthand. Back home in Georgia, he learned that gay sexuality was sinful according to the teachings of his Baptist congregation, and his father insisted that the author’s sexuality was the work of evil spirits. At college, Cheves was diagnosed as HIV-positive, only a couple of years after entering the gay dating scene for the first time. After initial panic and depression, the author came to accept his diagnosis and see himself within the continuum of HIV-positive artists and activists. With this collection, Cheves recounts his struggles to come to terms with himself as a young man caught between the rigid intolerance of his childhood and the exciting but sometimes dangerous world of adult sex. He learned how to date with his diagnosis, discovered his numerous—and often wild—kinks, and explored his ever evolving relationship with God. From the barns of rural Georgia to the sex dungeons of San Francisco, the newsrooms of Los Angeles, and the pride parades of Atlanta, the author tracks his own development through a series of lovers, relocations, hardships, and experiments. Easy answers are rare and difficult to come by, but Cheves’ life never ceases to offer test cases in the many different ways to find the limits of pleasure and pain.

The author’s prose style seems to hold nothing back, mixing stark admissions with arresting gallows humor: “My first Christmas as an HIV-positive man was rough. I was suicidal, and to make things worse, I worked at a restaurant. I attended the host desk; I was a host in so many ways. Whenever an unhappy guest complained about their table or the atmosphere, I was tempted to say, ‘You’re the reason I won’t be alive tomorrow, and I want you to live with that.’ ” Cheves excels at portraying sex and place, but more than anything he is a perceptive and shrewd writer about people. He approaches the characters who populate these pages with a generous helping of empathy, which makes the sometimes-extreme behavior he describes feel unexpectedly accessible. Although there are moments when the writing feels slightly self-indulgent—the author includes in full a poem he wrote as a college student—he makes up for it by consistently delivering poignant insights and shocking moments of beauty. While perhaps not for the most squeamish readers, the book presents an unapologetic vitality that will linger long after the covers are closed.

A searing coming-of-age account about sexual extremes.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9913780-3-6

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Unbound Edition Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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