Pride Month: Memoir Spotlight

Memoirs pull back the curtain on a person’s life, providing a look into certain experiences that shaped the person they’ve become. They help readers find solace, knowing that someone has similar experiences, interests, or circumstances. Even if you can’t exactly relate to a person being a television star, or growing up with 19 siblings, or working on Human Rights campaigns, most will be able to identify with being left out, feeling disconnected from peers, and trying to figure out who they are. These LGBTQ+ memoirs tackle heavy topics but are important reads in better understanding facets of LGBTQ+ experiences, building empathy, and learning about someone who may be different from yourself. They also provide necessary representation for those in the LGBTQ+ community that haven’t seen themselves in books. 

I’m sure you’ll recognize some of the names on the selections here, and there are certainly many more to explore! 

Tomorrow Will be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride 

“In her first book, activist McBride (national press secretary, Human Rights Campaign) shows self-awareness and purpose. Cognizant of the many positives in her life—supportive family, friends, and coworkers—McBride has devoted her career to ensuring equal rights for LGBTQ people. By sharing her own story of coming out, the author illuminates the pain that can come along with that process, and how she has arrived at accepting (and living) her life. She writes movingly of her experience transitioning from a man to a woman, and her political activism, along with falling in love and then losing her love to cancer. Statistics about the marginalization of and discrimination against the LGBTQ community, especially those who are transgender, are brought to life by her voice. The importance of telling these experiences in order to combat demonizing stereotypes is stressed by the author’s experiences in passing civil rights legislation in Delaware, as well as her activism nationwide. The pressing need for broad antidiscrimination protection for the entire LGBTQ community is made clear. All readers will find this book enlightening. Those struggling with gender identity, and their families and friends, will find hope in McBride’s words.”

-Library Journal, vol. 143, issue 4 

Unprotected: A Memoir by Billy Porter 

“Television and stage star Porter opens his soul in this memoir about his life and career, from his childhood in Pittsburgh, to his recent award-winning roles in the stage musical Kinky Boots and on the FX series Pose. Porter writes candidly about growing up Black and gay, his current fears about living during the time of Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic, and how his own hard work, luck, and the generosity of others provided the stepping stones for his current success. Reflecting on the title of the book, Porter tells of moments in his life when he felt unprotected, as both a child and an adult. His fearlessness in discussing the darker parts of his past (including sexual abuse by his stepfather and being diagnosed with HIV) is remarkable, but equally as impressive is the narrative of his decades-long dedication to hone his talent and make a space for himself in a racist and homophobic entertainment industry and society. This memoir, as exceptional as Porter himself, should please not only devotees of the actor and his work but readers interested in a story of perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds.”  

– Library Journal, vol. 146, issue 10 

Love That Story: Observations from a Gorgeously Queer Life by Jonathan Van Ness 

“Known for his tasteful grooming counseling on Queer Eye, Van Ness moves past the triple trauma of publicly acknowledging his HIV-positive status, surviving sexual abuse, and overcoming drug addiction to explore ways to cultivate personal happiness. Despite support from fans who had experienced similar struggles, some of that support came with massive amounts of transphobic vitriol. The author offers advice on navigating the ever critical social media platforms, writing about grief, family matters, hometown pride for Quincy, Illinois, confronting and vanquishing internalized shame, and the surprisingly precarious professional and social politics of hairdressing and stand-up comedy. He also authentically tackles hot topics like the vilification of marijuana, body-shaming, homophobia, transphobia, and, in a section that will resonate with many readers, gender dysphoria: “I’ve always known I didn’t feel completely male or female, but in those early days of having gay men reject me because of my femininity, I learned fast to masculinize.” In lighter moments, Van Ness gushes over his role on Queer Eye and shares humorous behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the show. His ebullient sense of humor and his passion for LGBTQ+ rights and social justice for an increasingly marginalized transgender population inform with spirited ease. The narrative is equal parts anecdotal whimsy and social criticism, and Van Ness remains reflective, sincere, and cathartic throughout, reiterating that “the darkness I’ve survived doesn’t define me.” Rather, it motivates him to “process the noise” and “grow and be a better person.” Inspirational motivation and counsel primarily for fans who can’t get enough of the Van Ness experience.”  

-Kirkus Reviews 

Black Boy Out of Time by Hari Ziyad 

“Racebaitr editor-in-chief Ziyad merges astute sociopolitical analysis with soul-baring honesty in their striking debut memoir. Drawing on their family’s strong religious beliefs and the traumas of growing up poor in Cleveland as a young Black queer person, Ziyad charts their search for self-understanding and liberation from their guilt-ridden first experiences with boys in high school, to moving to New York City for college, to their early career as a screenwriter and essayist. Along the way, they extrapolate on how each of their experiences has roots in colonialism, white supremacy (“were raised in the same America. The America that demonizes all Black children”), and capitalism. The idea of “misoafropedia” (or “the anti-Black disdain for children and childhood that Black youth experience”) is a unique framework from which they analyze their youthful attempts to assimilate into whiteness at school, the carceral logic that led them to punish other Black children for the crime of being “ghetto,” and their relationship with their own inner child. With its candidness and sharp prose that doggedly links the personal to the political, Ziyad’s tale is engrossing and necessary.”  

-Publisher’s Weekly vol. 267, issue 47 

-Linnea 

Review of You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson

You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Janina Matthewson and Jeffrey Cranor book cover and RRPL catalog link

Miriam grows up during the Great Reckoning, an apocalyptic war that destroys nations, displaces thousands of people, and kills millions more. Later, when civilization slowly begins to function again, the nascent New Society government concludes that tribal loyalties, including familial bonds, are to blame for the Great Reckoning. As an adult, Miriam perfects a technique that helps children to forget traumatic memories, and the New Society uses it in ways she never intended to create the Age Ten Protocols. The government takes babies from their families and raises them in child care centers, then erases those memories when they turn ten years old, destroying those dangerous family ties. Now an elderly woman, Miriam writes a memoir of her extraordinary life in the new novel You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Janina Matthewson and Jeffrey Cranor.

This book is a companion novel to Within the Wires, an audio drama podcast written by one of the writers of Welcome to Night Vale, Jeffrey Cranor, and writer and voice actor Janina Matthewson. Longtime listeners of Within the Wires will certainly find breadcrumbs of new information to chew over, as this novel provides much backstory to the world of the podcast. As a standalone novel, it is a stark dystopia that may confuse readers not aware of its extensive audio drama roots. I have listened to Within the Wires since its first episode, and as I read, I found myself preferring the podcast and the intimacy with which we get to know the characters. In this novel, the narrator is carefully writing her own memoirs in a New Society that will not publish anything too radical, so there is a substantial distance between Miriam and the reader that means we never really get to know her as a person.

However, the authors explore intriguing philosophical questions throughout the course of the novel: in a post-apocalyptic society, what lengths are too far to go in trying to prevent another worldwide war? Are family ties and tribalism truly the root of all war and conflict? Is it ethical – and if not ethical, then necessary – to erase memories and destroy families in the pursuit of peace? With Miriam as our unreliable narrator versus the New Society’s narrative, who is telling the truth? Fans of Within the Wires and new readers who are intrigued by this unique concept for a dystopian novel should check this one out. If you like the book, make sure to listen to the podcast in your favorite podcast app!

Release date: December 7, 2021

Thanks to NetGalley for the Advance Reader Copy!

10 Recommended Funny Books by Women

Are you in need of a good laugh? I’m sure most of us are seeking humor more than usual during this difficult time and one of my favorite ways to be heartened is cozying up with a hilarious book. I just finished Shit, Actually by Lindy West, a collection of scathing and laugh out loud funny reviews of popular films, which was exactly what I needed this past week.

If you are interested in women’s comedy, which has long been a prime spot for women to talk back and break taboos in mainstream popular culture, join us tonight on Zoom for Pretty/Funny: Women Comedians and Body Politics at 7 pm Eastern. This sure to be engaging virtual program with Linda Mizejewski, Ph.D, Distinguished Professor in Ohio State University’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Department, is an overview of women’s comedy beginning with Mae West and ending with the new generation of women comedians such as Tina Fey, Wanda Sykes, and Ellen DeGeneres who flout the pretty-versus-funny dynamic, targeting glamour and in some cases making it clear that in popular culture, “pretty” almost always means “white.” Click here to register!


There are a plethora of fabulous titles out there by my favorite funny women, and I’ve selected ten of my top choices for you below.

Hop on over to our Overdrive catalog to snag one of these fabulous titles now, or request a print copy, and let the laughter begin! Happy reading all.