Gay Catholics, Suicidal Moms, and the Polymorphous Perversity of Madonna’s Big Toe

With a fat gay Catholic kid, a suicidal, closeted mom, and essays on the perceived perversions of everything from Trekkies to Madonna, this week's books have plenty to offer readers who think truth is stranger than fiction.


  UPDATED: May 14 2012 1:01 AM ET

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson X300 | ADVOCATE.COMWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (Grove Press, $25)

Esteemed author Jeanette Winterson tells stories of her life in a memoir that is as powerful as any of her novels (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry, etc.). She declines to say how much of Oranges (which was turned into a film, below) is autobiographical, but she paints a portrait of growing up in an environment just as terrifying as the one in that novel, with a fanatically religious, “flamboyant depressive” mother who stays up all night to avoid sleeping with her husband, locks her daughter out of the house or in the coal bin as punishment, and frequently says “The Devil led us to the wrong crib” when discussing Jeanette’s adoption. Mrs. Winterson, as the author always refers to her adoptive mother, provides the book’s title as well; that was her response to Jeanette’s disclosure that she was happily in love with a woman. Winterson documents her escape from this household, first to a supportive teacher’s home, then to Oxford University, and skips over the middle of her life to a compelling story of her recent years, marked by an emotional breakdown and a search for her birth mother. This is a beautifully written, sometimes disturbing, consistently riveting memoir. ( Ring 

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