Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fairyland by Alysia Abbott

This book is a memoir written by a woman in the hopes that she can recover the memory of her father and his innocence, because his innocence was the first thing that came to her mind when she thought of him. Alysia's mom and dad were a couple, got married, had the author and then Alyia's mother died in a car crash. Once she did, Alysia and her dad moved to San Francisco, where Alysia began to realize that her father was gay.

Steve Abbott, Alysia's father, began to move through the peripheries of the San Francisco poetry scene in the sixties and seventies. He came out during the age of Harvey Milk and he was able to finally find his voice during that time period. During that time period, Alysia was right by his side - he was her only parent. The part of her memoir that struck me the most was how she chronicled the seeming loss of innocence that occurred between the age of the Beats, the onset of AIDS and the death that it wrought before people became educated about it. What also struck me was the constant tension between the need to write and find one's voice and the need to support the family - even though Steve was constantly publishing and writing and reading, the small family constantly struggled to make ends meet.

It is also about Alysia and her coming of age during a time when people like Anita Bryant vilified gay men and lesbians, when Harvey Milk was gunned down at point blank range because he was gay and when people she knew and loved were dying because of a disease that people thought they deserved because they were gay. As an adolescent, a teenager and a young college student living in NY, France and then back at home, she struggled mightily with the fact that her dad was different. She called him weird at one point and made the comment that she didn't want to be on the weird side anymore, leading meto the conclusion that this was a coming of age memoir as well. She has been tremendously successful - she lives in Cambridge, MA with her own family and seems to have come of age well.

This is a novel that is a personal account of an historical period. She draws on the letters that her father sent to her as well as his journals and her own journals, so in that sense it's not a bad personal and historical accounting of what happened and the impact that it had on her life. It's well written and moves fast. It's heartbreaking while also fun in parts. Definitely a must read.

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