Fall books 2022 roundup 4: memoirs & non-fiction

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday October 4, 2022
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Fall books 2022 roundup 4: memoirs & non-fiction

In a concluding section to our Fall books roundup, we present several new and upcoming memoir and nonfiction titles of note. Shocking and surprising autobiographies from local talent Blue Bailey as well as from notorious whistleblower Chelsea Manning, and some mindful reflection on the legacy of Prince, queer disability, and life in LA.

"Blue Movie" by Stephan Ferris, $29.95 (Unbound Edition Press)
Complete with its own accompanying Spotify soundtrack, Ferris, a Bay Area attorney and adult performer (aka Blue Bailey), lays bare the raw details of his life in this unfettered, hedonistic, and often shockingly graphic memoir. A self-described sexual outlaw, Ferris considers himself "lucky to have survived" the experiences he chronicles and recounts his life from adolescence right into his battles with disease, drug addiction, alienation, and sexual compulsion.

Recounted in 77 dramatic scenes, Ferris is masterful at recalling the mood and the motives behind his sexual liberation as well as his downward spiral into dark depression and self-harm. Memoirs as direct and outspoken as this are extraordinary to read as they leave no dark dingy corner unexplored and never gloss over the unsavory details. A work that's obviously been cathartic for the author, this soul-bearing confessional is a triumph on many levels and succeeds in drawing the reader deep into the trenches of compulsion, violence, self-destruction, mental collapse, and sexual escapism. Don't miss this one.

"Some New Kind of Kick" by Kid Congo Powers; $29 (Hatchette Press)
Co-founder of the punk group The Gun Club, author Powers details his life as a queer Mexican-American beginning in the 1970s when, greatly influenced by The Ramones, he was drawn into the druggy, sex-heavy early punk scene. By his 20s, he was street smart and gritty, yet still yearned for his break into the live music scene.

With encouragement from a variety of notable rock luminaries, Powers' ascent up the rock 'n' roll ladder included stints with The Cramps and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds before settling back into his own band, the David Bowie-inspired Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds. Rock fans who remember the early days of the punk scene will find this memoir a bit rough around the edges, but a forthright, immensely entertaining throwback into the genre nevertheless.

"README.txt" by Chelsea Manning, $27.49 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Activist and infamous whistleblower Chelsea Manning details her experience in the US Army in 2010 as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. She illegally smuggled out thousands of classified military records on her digital camera and was subsequently charged with unauthorized possession and sentenced to thirty-five years in military prison in 2013.

Manning diligently and passionately describes her decision to transition soon after her conviction as well as the days leading up to and following President Obama's commutation of her sentence and prison release, which became a swirling media scandal; certain to inspire heated debate and critical discussion among readers and political enthusiasts alike.

"Crybaby" by Cheryl E. Klein, $17.99 (Brown Paper Press)
Subtitled "Infertility, Illness, and Other Things That Were Not the End of the World," lesbian author Klein's problematic navigation of the childrearing process begins with her struggles with open adoption after discovering she's developed infertility issues. Stacked upon that stressful and emotionally taxing set of circumstances is the temporary separation from her wife and diagnosis of breast cancer, for which she would soon begin exhaustive chemotherapy treatments.

The end result is an emotional rollercoaster of raw, palpable anger, loss, regret, frustration and finally, relief and excitement when there is a hopeful chance for the couple to adopt a baby boy. Anyone struggling with a cancer diagnosis or the desire to have children but find bureaucratic red tape or physical limitations blocking the path will share Klein's journey into and out of each process enlightening, solidaric, and empowering.

"Savor: A Chef's Hunger for More" by Fatima Ali, $28 (Ballantine/Penguin Random House)
Queer Pakistani-American executive chef Ali won a James Beard Foundation Award for her essay in Bon Appetit magazine on living with Ewing sarcoma, a type of soft tissue cancer that would ultimately take her life in 2019 at age 29. Her posthumous memoir is a moving, delicately written journal of her life and culinary career beginning with a keen interest in food as a child and well into school days as her mother encouraged her to pursue cooking professionally.

As the first Pakistani woman to win Food Network's "Chopped" competition, Ali went on to establish pop-up restaurants with aspirations of opening her own eatery. A cancer diagnosis, a hopeful remission, and a terminal recurrence in 2018 are somber and sobering to read, but Ali's inspiring thoughts and encouraging anecdotes coupled with passionate essays from her family make this one unforgettable.

"Brown and Gay in LA: The Lives of Immigrant Sons" by Anthony Christian Ocampo, $28 (New York University Press)
Sociology professor Ocampo explores his history as a queer Filipino American as well as the experience of being a queer person of color in America today. The book compiles a series of interviews with men ranging in ethnicity from Mexican and Latin American to Filipino, all of whom the author considers as sons of immigrants.

These are coming-of-age narratives, so they are inclusive not only of the journey each man has taken to embrace their separate identities, but also of the dreams they hold for themselves to be successful in America; a hope also held by their parents. The book also dives into sociological themes of manhood, cultural compliance in queer White spaces, and how queer men of color struggle to fit in but also strive to develop communities and distinct voices of their own.

"Queer Silence: On Disability and Rhetorical Absence" by J. Logan Smilges; $24.95 (University of Minnesota Press)
This important study probes the nature and the ramifications of silence on differing aspects of queer culture. As a sixteen-year-old victim of conversion therapy, Smilges harnessed the power of silence as something that could be imminently "transformative" and even "world-building."

Turning the tables on what was formerly construed as acquiescence and surrender in many queer spaces, the potential for silence to disarm homophobic politics and embolden disabled populations is examined with thoughtful, compassionate, scholarly, and colorful consideration throughout this thought-provoking and empowering report.

"The Future is Disabled" by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha; $19.95 (Arsenal Pulp Press)
This urgent essay collection from award-winning Seattle-based author Piepzna-Samarasinha seeks to destigmatize the theory of disability justice and spotlights the plight of disabled people during the isolated pandemic times of Covid-19 or through the damaging presidential administration of Donald Trump.

In this insightful, important book written over the course of two years (while the author was in "disabled isolation"), they include informative illuminating essays and share perspectives on the criticality of disabled community building, interdependent care, survival strategies, and how familial networks can have life or death implications for the disabled community at large.

"My Pinup: A Paean to Prince" by Hilton Als, $11.95 (New Directions)
In this diminutive yet powerful ponderance on the power and influence of Prince, Pulitzer Prize winner Hilton Als ruminates on how his sexuality commingles with an obsession with the superstar. A unique braiding of memoir and essay, Als gushes over backstage encounters with the star at numerous concerts, particularly during the 1988 "Lovesexy" tour at Madison Square Garden where Prince "was showing his ass again, and everyone in the audience could taste it."

He also dissects the influence Dorothy Parker had on Prince's music as well as on his own identity. Through prose that's witty, clever, and unapologetically frank, Als exhibits sheer frustration at many Black artists (Prince paramount among them) who pander to record industry producers and white audience expectations and surrender themselves to career directions that are based on revenue rather than on creative inspiration.

Coming in at just 48 pages, don't be fooled by its brevity. This is an outspoken, exacting work of observation and conclusion on Black brotherhood, racism, and celebrity fandom.

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