I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.
Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him.
A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality.
Thankfully Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge, and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.
CWs: attempted suicide, hospital, (internalized) homophobia, homophobic slurs, self harm, bullying
Today’s prompt of #PrideLibrary19 is ‘Orange books’. As Brave Face was one of my most anticipated May releases, I wanted to read it soon, and this prompt seemed like the perfect “excuse” to share my review!
If you, like me, mainly read fiction, you might have read your fair share of LGBTQ+ books, but won’t have read much about the queer people who actually wrote those books. And of course, fiction has huge value in capturing human experience. But reading about someone’s actual reality is a different kind of experience.
I don’t read memoirs a lot, but I read a few of Shaun David Hutchinson’s books recently and really loved those, so when I saw he had a memoir coming out, I knew I had to read it. And I’m very glad I did. Because his memoir shows a very different type of representation. A more honest, less polished type. At times this book felt almost invasive to read because of how brutally honest it was. It must have taken a lot of courage to write a book like this, and then publish it and allow others to read (and, inevitably, judge it, and you). I can only applaud the author for that.
People are ultimately flawed, and growing up is not all rainbows and unicorns in general, and even less so if you struggle with, in this case, your sexuality and mental health. And Hutchinson really didn’t shy away from that. Instead, he embraced it, and I thought it was so powerful how he talked about his own flawed views as a teen, and the mistakes he’s made along the way.
At the same time, this book is so well-written and profound. Hutchinson is such a skilled writer, and the writing style really adds to this book’s impact.
Something I really appreciated, is how explicit content warnings are added to the book: one at the start, and one somewhere in the middle, to alert the reader to a discussion of attempted suicide. In the second content warning, the reader is even referred to a page number to indicate where it’s safe to continue reading again. To be honest, adding content warnings should be standard in publishing, but the reality is that it’s not, and it was so well done here. I sincerely hope other authors/publishers pick up on this example.
Do you have any recommendations for LGBTQ+ memoirs?