I raced through this book in about three evenings. I have been a fan of Armistead Maupin for years – ever since I first discovered Tales of The City in the late 1980s and fell in love with the characters, as well as San Francisco (it’s been top of my must visit list ever since). I’ve read every book he’s written, and so getting this when it published was a no-brainer.
He calls it a memoir, rather than an autobiography, and that’s exactly what it is. A series of reminiscences from his life – pretty much in chronological order, but interspersed with updates as necessary.
While I knew that the early books in the TotC series were based on actual events, I hadn’t realised just how autobiographical they were. It was fascinating to see where the inspiration for some of the characters came from, and how some of the (seemingly-far fetched) plots were based on real events and places.
I also hadn’t realised how involved Armistead was in the early days of the gay rights movement. He is very honest about his past and lifestyle, both before and after coming out. He also mentions a fair few well known figures, including Harvey Milk and Rock Hudson, but it’s not name-dropping; they are integral in the story. It’s a really interesting, personal document of a pivotal time for gay rights in America and also a love letter to San Francisco.
After reading some of his non-TotC fiction I had wondered if he didn’t like women very much as the majority of his straight female characters are ultimately not very likeable. However this book answers that question; the love and respect he has for his mother, grandmother and sister (as well as other members of his “logical family”) shine through.
I loved the concept of a “logical family” as well as the terminology. Your logical family are those people you chose to be with and feel a bond with, not necessarily those you are related to or share DNA with. Those who are familiar with my blog will know that this resonates with me.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Tales of the City, or who is interested in recent cultural history. It’s an easy read but will stick with you and also make you think about your own freedoms and prejudices. Read it. Then read Tales of the City. I dare you not to love Mrs Madrigal. Better still, read TotC first so you don’t get spoilt for the twists…