on reflection (ix)

Weekly updates and mini reviews of two LGBT memoirs: Sarah McBride’s Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality and Charles Blow’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones.

This week I happily was able to finish all the books I had on my weekly list, and I even had the chance to write about most of them. Earlier in the week I reviewed Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner and Sean Strub’s Body Counts, and next week I’m planning to consider David Sedaris’s collection of holiday stories.

I began the week on a high note with Sarah McBride’s memoir, which I can’t recommend highly enough, and ended with Charles Blow’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Next week I’ll be pivoting from LGBT memoir to history, and to that end I’ve already started reading John D’Emilio’s biography of Bayard Rustin, alongside some of the activist’s own writings.

fullsizeoutput_2c83Succinct and affecting, Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality recounts activist Sarah McBride’s experience of coming out as a trans woman. The memoir is roughly divided into three parts: McBride’s transition process as a college student, her role in advancing groundbreaking trans legislation in Delaware, and her romance and marriage to her first love, who tragically died of cancer in 2014. Unlike some readers who found the second part to be a slog, I thought the memoir was consistently compelling. McBride writes simple, clear prose that seems designed to be accessible to anyone, and her observations about LGBT politics are insightful and intersectional, if not especially groundbreaking. McBride has a bright future in politics, and her life story is well worth checking out.

fullsizeoutput_2c6fThe debut memoir from longtime New York Times columnist Charles Blow, Fire Shut Up In My Bones examines the author’s coming of age in rural Louisiana. Early chapters focus on Blow’s impoverished childhood and his strong bond with his mother, whereas later ones detail his college years at Grambling State University; his ambivalence about his sexuality and his relentless ambition tie the two parts together. The language is polished, the characterization solid, the pacing measured. The memoir is well written, if conventional, but Blow rarely lets his guard down, the trajectory of the narrative feels rigid, and the commentary on gender and sexuality feels underdeveloped.

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