MAGGIE & ME by Damian Barr


Coming Out and Coming of Age in 1980s Scotland
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Memoir of the difficulties of growing up poor and gay in Margaret Thatcher’s Scotland.

Luckily, journalist Barr (Get It Together: A Guide to Surviving your Quarterlife Crisis, 2005) had a strong intelligent streak, a great love of books and a series of true friends. The author never had an awakening to his homosexuality; he, and everyone around him, just knew he was gay. The collapse of his parents’ marriage when he was 8 threw him into a difficult situation with Logan, the “wicked stepfather.” When his mother had a cerebral hemorrhage and spent six months away recuperating, Logan showed his true colors, poisoning the author and trying to drown him. While seeking to avoid Logan for all those months, Barr was desperately afraid to report him for fear of retribution against his sister. Ultimately, school became his saving grace, even with the taunting of schoolmates. He joined any club that would keep him after school for extended periods of time (“I’m on every team at Brannock High School that doesn’t have anything to do with throwing, catching, or kicking a ball”), and he also ended up at the top of his class in just about every subject. In addition to his personal story, the author follows the effects of Thatcher’s economic policies, as she canceled the free school milk, beat back the coal miners and closed the steel mill where his father worked. If ever a prime minister was hated, it was in the council houses of Britain; her name couldn’t be uttered without an expletive. Few readers will blame the author or anyone else angered by her methods; she massively cut social programs and suggested taxing the poor due to the fact that there were more of them.

While it should be heartbreaking, Barr tells a wonderful story, demonstrating the remarkable resilience of a child not only surviving, but succeeding in such a grand way.

Pub Date: April 8th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62040-588-8
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2014


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