Friends, lovers, and a few celebrities form the author’s logical, though not biological, family.
Fans of Maupin’s stories of gay life in San Francisco (The Days of Anna Madrigal, 2014, etc.) will find some familiar themes in this warm memoir. The son of a racist, homophobic conservative, the author grew up hiding his homosexuality, knowing the “revulsion, shame, disbelief,” and rejection that he would face. Yearning to win his father’s love, he became a staunch conservative himself; as a college student in the 1960s, he “railed against Socialists and peaceniks,” defended segregation, and enthusiastically spoke out against “radical social agitators.” He went to law school to follow in his father’s footsteps but was so bored that he dropped out only to pursue another of his father’s dreams: to see him in the military. Maupin recalls with affection his stint in Vietnam, where he became chief of staff to a sympathetic commander. His father, “who always said that God created a war for every generation of men in our family,” felt proud. His parents worried about his determination to be a writer, just as they worried about their son’s “lifestyle” choice, which they could not confront. Maupin’s professional breakthrough came when the San Francisco Chronicle commissioned him to write a five-day-a-week series of stories featuring a motley, eccentric, and appealing collection of characters, gay and straight, young and old, living in the author’s adopted city. The first installment of “Tales of the City” appeared on May 24, 1976, and changed his life. “The public was hooked on ‘Tales’ before the year was out,” he recalls. Collections of the stories were published and eventually turned into a miniseries starring Laura Linney (a cherished member of Maupin’s logical family). Loving remembrances abound—not least of his compassionate mother—as the author celebrates the many people who enriched his life; most famous among them are Christopher Isherwood, Ian McKellen, and Rock Hudson, with whom Maupin became “buddies with occasional benefits.”
Engaging reminiscences from an ebullient storyteller.