Barr has a knack for storytelling and a very sunny outlook given his upbringing. Divorce, manipulative and dangerous step-parents, unwieldy alcoholic extended families, and poverty. He is very lucky, indeed, to have survived. (Some of his friends and cousins did not.)
Tongue-in-cheek (or seriously?) Barr attributes his success to witnessing several key speeches by Margaret Thatcher. The Thatcher his parents hold responsible for the disappearances of jobs in their neighborhood and milk in the school hallways. Each chapter begins with with a Thatcher quote that both damns Barr’s community and inspires him personally, despite her assertions that all young gay people will get AIDS (and perhaps that they deserve it).
This book follows Damian from young childhood through high school, with a brief glimpse into his adult professional life. So much, I wish he had written the intervening chapters. How did this young gay man from a very rough place escape? How did he manage in college? What skills and bravery did he need to become Damian Barr, celebrated author and host of the Literary Salon? How did he become himself? Young people facing similar hardships know the scary bits of the story personally; I hope Barr will share the inspiring and hopeful bits at some point, too.