“My Life is Quite Gay.” A Queer Memoir Reading List
John Paul Brammer on LGBTQ+ Stories That Guided
His Life and Writing
I didn’t set an explicit intent to write an LGBTQ+ memoir in ¡Hola Papi!. It just so happened to be the case that my life is quite gay, and thus, in the process of writing about it, I ended up with a very gay book. A happy accident, I suppose.
The truth is, LGBTQ+ memoirs have seen me through some serious highs and lows. While writing my own memoir, I was left reflecting on the works by writers I admire, whose book gave me signposts for how to tell my own story. I hope my own book can help readers likewise navigate the many sticky facets of identity. Here is a list of LGBTQ+ memoirs that impacted not only my life, but my process in writing ¡Hola Papi!.
Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House
I mean, come on. Carmen Maria Machado is a genius. What I love most about this book is that it takes an unflinching look at how trauma works and how it informs us. Machado blends genres in her memoir—somehow making us laugh while also making us think—in a fashion that I both admire and covet. There’s a kaleidoscopic effect to the structure that mirrors how we form our identities—many disparate parts creating a whole. Her book is moving, harrowing, and beautifully written.
R. Eric Thomas, Here for It
Thomas’ memoir-in-essays really struck a nerve with me. We both come from a similar media world, and seeing what Thomas has made of his experiences was amazing to read. It felt like I found a friend in this book. It was also informative in the sense that my book is, too, a memoir-in-essays—from Thomas’s work, I was able to better understand balancing the personal with the universal, to find ways in which my personal story could also weave between the themes and ideas within the essays themselves.
Chris Stedman, IRL
I practically live on Twitter, so this one was a must-read for me. It didn’t disappoint. Using his personal experiences with social media to talk about how to make meaningful connections online, Stedman proves that books are another way to make strangers out there feel more understood. I’ve always appreciated finding parts of myself in the books I read, and for better or worse, being extremely online is part of who I am. Stedman captures that thoroughly modern experience with ease and humor.
Samantha Irby, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life
Samantha Irby knows how to have me laughing one second and crying the next. What a reliable author. Whenever she drops a book, I know I’m in for a treat. This one is still my favorite and I can’t recommend it enough. Reading her work helps you laugh at the absurdities of your own daily life, while somehow mining relatability from them.
Michael Arceneaux, I Can’t Date Jesus
Writing at the intersection of race, queerness, and religion, Arceneaux’s quick wit and refreshing voice guides us on a fruitful journey in this book. Arceneaux’s book also looks at the ways race, sexuality, and religion overlap, and his interrogations into how this has shaped and defined who is he was rewarding and affirming to read. Not to mention helpful in grappling with my own writing, which looks at how our identities intersect. It was a charming read, and I’m really excited to see what he does next!
¡Hola Papi! by John Paul Brammer is available now from Simon and Schuster.