STARRED REVIEW
October 03, 2017

The ones you choose

By Armistead Maupin
Review by

In his new memoir, Armistead Maupin, now in his 70s, recalls the tightly closeted Southern childhood that preceded this active public life. He recounts a sheltered childhood (one of his favorite activities was antiquing) followed by years of military service and the dawning realization of his homosexuality.

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Armistead Maupin is revered for his marvelous newspaper column Tales of the City, which ran in San Francisco papers during the 1970s and ’80s. Like a carnal version of a 19th-century novel, this column followed the fictional exploits of characters that lived on Barbary Lane. Some kept secrets about their gender and sexuality while others were gloriously, radically forthcoming. Nine novels following these characters have been published to date. The success of Tales of the City launched Maupin into the center of the gay rights movement in San Francisco. As he chummed around the city, making friends with movie stars, finding his voice and writing thinly veiled autobiographical vignettes in his column, Maupin became one of the most vocal advocates of gay rights during the 1970s and beyond.

In his new memoir, Maupin, now in his 70s, recalls the tightly closeted Southern childhood that preceded this active public life. He recounts a sheltered childhood (one of his favorite activities was antiquing) followed by years of military service and the dawning realization of his homosexuality. He describes his fractured relationships with his father and brother and his close ties with his grandmother, mother and sister. This story of his biological family gives way to a very different account of his logical family, the vibrant network of gay, male artists in and around the Bay Area who catalyzed Maupin from an insecure youth to a vocal artist and activist.

The pleasure of this book, beyond the funny anecdotes and poignant reflections, is getting a behind-the-scenes look at a treasured series of novels and reading a first-hand account of a significant human rights movements in our nation’s history. Maupin offers a vivid look at key moments—such as the murder of Harvey Milk—and the impact these had on the gay rights movement and his life. Unsurprisingly, Maupin is a sympathetic and soulful storyteller. His account of a past struggle for equality is especially important in our fraught present.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our interview with Armistead Maupin for Logical Family.

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Logical Family

Logical Family

By Armistead Maupin
Harper
ISBN 9780062391223

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