I’ve read my share of celebrity memoirs in the past (maybe, embarrassingly, more than I’d like to admit), so when I was given the opportunity to score an advanced reader copy of Alan Cumming’s memoir I jumped on it.
Past experiences had left me with the expectation of a read that would be either a string of personal vignettes that aren’t very connected or emotionally engaging to funny but impersonal and on to the extremely narcissistic. Asking for this book, I hoped for something closer to the first variety, maybe examining the journey of a man coming in to his bisexuality and fame. What I never expected at all was the almost immediate punch in the emotional gut that was this memoir.
Cumming really dashed my expectations (and I’m glad for it). While his sexuality was present (bisexuality is named once and his former marriage to Hilary Lyon and his husband Grant Shaffer are both important components of the story he shares), this wasn’t a memoir that lingered with any real focus on that, or on the vagaries of his fame.
Instead we have a deeply personal, and deeply engaging, exploration of Cumming’s relationship with and understanding of his deeply abusive father set amongst his personal journey to better understand a familial mystery set around his maternal grandfather and his mysterious death in post WWII Malaysia.
As a man who has also spent his entire life in a complicated non-relationship with an abusive father, this book drew me in like no other.
The absolutely frank discussions of his father’s abuse, of the inner mind of an abused child, of his depression, his struggles with an eating disorder, his break downs, his triumphs and his tears are all so honest and engaging I think it would tug at the empathy of any who would read it. This is by far the most non-celebrity celebrity memoir I’ve ever picked up, and I’m so very thankful for it.
In the bisexual community (as in many others), representation is so vital to us, so sought after. I think it’s truly important to have also found non-sensationalized representation for victims of abuse, particular parental abuse. So many of our numbers have struggled with abuse. I for one am thankful for this memoir, for this representation. But for the fame, this could be my story. It could be any of ours.