A writer and former WNYC radio producer's lovingly crafted memoir about growing up with her gay poet dad in San Francisco during the 1970s and ’80s.
Abbott, her mother, Barbara, and her father, Steve, lived an unconventional but happy life in Atlanta until the night when Barbara was killed in a car accident. The author, 3, was inconsolable, and her bisexual father was “so distraught over [Barbara’s] death that he turned gay” (as her young mind conceived of it at the time) and never had a relationship with another woman again. With nothing left in Atlanta, Steve took his daughter to San Francisco to begin a new life. The pair moved into the bohemian, gay-friendly Haight-Ashbury district. In between doing odd jobs to support himself and his daughter and falling in and out of love with the wrong men, Steve became editor at the influential poetry journal, Poetry Flash. He also turned to Zen Buddhism to help him recover from drug and alcohol dependence. Meanwhile, the increasingly self-conscious author struggled to come to terms with being the child of a gay parent whose queerness “became my weakness, my Achilles heel.” Then, just as Steve began to find recognition as a poet and peace in the troubled relationship he had with his now-collegiate daughter, he developed AIDS. Deeply conflicted, Abbott returned to San Francisco from New York to take care of her father, who died a year later. What makes this story especially successful is the meticulous way the author uses letters and her father’s cartoons and journals to reconstruct the world she and her father inhabited. As she depicts the dynamics of a unique, occasionally fraught, gay parent–straight child relationship, Abbott offers unforgettable glimpses into a community that has since left an indelible mark on both the literary and social histories of one of America’s most colorful cities.
A sympathetic and deeply moving story.