The Advocate's Bookshelf: Memoirs

A roundup of what to read.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

September 13 2011 4:00 AM ET

Just as the late James Lord’s WWII memoir My Queer War hits paperback it’s clear that 2011 has become the year of the LGBT memoir. Already making headlines were a spate of coming out memoirs from Cher’s son Chaz Bono’s Transition to actresses Meredith Baxter’s Untied and Geri Jewell’s I’m Walking as Straight as I Can, and country crooner Chely Wright’s Like Me.

The headline making Big Sex, Little Death (Seal Press, $24.95) from queer sexpert Susie Bright is currently making for big book sales and riveted readers with her bold, unflinching yet carefree recollections of her naughty early years. The book moves from her teenage involvement with notorious high school radicals The Red Tide to origination of On Our Backs, the first erotic lesbian magazine that was at the center of the 1980s sex wars, in a memoir every lesbian or bisexual woman should put on their must-read list.

A much different autobiography comes from Hollywood power couple Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine who talk about their 50-year relationship in Double Life: A Love Story from Broadway to Hollywood (Magnus Books,  $24.95). Shayne is a former actor, casting director, and producer (and most famously, president of Warner Brothers TV for a decade) while Sunshine is an illustrator, painter, and ad agency VP (who created one of the most quoted lines in advertising history: “What Becomes a Legend Most?”). Between them, the stories of old Hollywood as well as it’s ‘70s heyday help fill in a story about two men struggling to find themselves, come together, and eventually come out. A timeline of the growing acceptance of gays and lesbians, there’s something in the book to interest everyone from TV anecdotes (Shayne insisted on Linda Carter for Wonder Woman) to stories about celebs (like Rock Hudson, Marlon Brando, and Bette Davis) and Shayne’s first spouse — Jacqueline T. Babbin, a lesbian television producer who won an Emmy Award for Sybil, and was one of the first women head producers. (Ironically, when she died at 80, her obit mentioned Shayne but none of her female partners, essentially closeting the duo even in death.). 

Transparently: Behind the Scenes of a Good Life by Lisa Salazar (self-published, $15.99) is a tale of the usual things young people go through (starting a family, fear of failure) wrapped into a first-person transgender-coming-into-her-own narrative. The book was inspired by the author’s answers to her friends’ many questions about her transition.

Two more gay books are worth a gander, as well: Sea a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody (Little, Brown and Co., $24.99) by Bob Mould and Black Battle, White Knight: The Authorized Biography of Malcolm Boyd by Michael Battle. Mould, the founder of Husker Du, one of the most influential punk bands of all time, had a solo career, fronted the indie rock band Sugar, and even tried his hand at pro wrestling. Now he’s a middle age bear and gay icon who is part of the wildly popular DJ collective BLOWOFF. In the book Mould talks about his psychologically abusive childhood (he was sexually abused and had an alcoholic parent), his career and relationships and struggle to come to self-acceptance.

Meanwhile, Black Battle (Seabury Books, $30), published on Boyd’s 80th birthday, chronicles the life of the gay celebrity priest whose name is synonymous with anti-war and civil rights movements. Boyd, whose partner is former Advocate editor Mark Thompson, is the center but Battle, a straight African American man bound to Boyd by religion, incorporates his own experiences and perspectives on the man who was on 60 Minutes in thee ‘60s, and who penned the ever popular Are You Running with Me, Jesus?.

Tags: Books

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