Reviews for Fairyland : A Memoir of My Father


Booklist Reviews 2013 May #1
*Starred Review* The child of quintessentially 1960s parents, Abbott lost her mother to a car accident when she was only two. Determined to raise her, Steve Abbott took her along to San Francisco. There, he sparely supported her through the many moves consequent upon his bohemian lifestyle as a newly out homosexual and a writer-editor determined to make his mark on S.F.'s poetry scene. At last they settled into a one-bedroom place (she got the real bedroom, while the living room doubled as his) in the Haight-Ashbury district that she would call home for 17 years, until Steve's death from AIDS in 1992. She resumed the life she'd started in New York and never returned. But no repudiation of her father and the unconventional circumstances in which he raised her was involved in her decision to relocate. She never doubted his love because he never gave her cause; he was a devoted, even doting parent despite his very open gayness. She has maintained his reputation for two decades now (see steveabbott.org), and she writes up to a standard that would do any writer-parent proud. If there's plenty of emotion in her recollections, they lack all sentimentality, sensationalism, and special pleading. Like Ira Wagler's Growing Up Amish (2011), a tale of another radically different, unusual upbringing, Fairyland is written in shiningly clear, precise prose that gives it literary as well as testimonial distinction. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 April #2
A writer and former WNYC radio producer's lovingly crafted memoir about growing up with her gay poet dad in San Francisco during the 1970s and '80s. Abbott, her mother, Barbara, and her father, Steve, lived an unconventional but happy life in Atlanta until the night when Barbara was killed in a car accident. The author, 3, was inconsolable, and her bisexual father was "so distraught over [Barbara's] death that he turned gay" and never had a relationship with another woman again. With nothing left in Atlanta, Steve took his daughter to San Francisco to begin a new life. The pair moved into the bohemian, gay-friendly Haight-Ashbury district. In between doing odd jobs to support himself and his daughter and falling in and out of love with the wrong men, Steve became editor at the influential poetry journal, Poetry Flash. He also turned to Zen Buddhism to help him recover from drug and alcohol dependence. Meanwhile, the increasingly self-conscious author struggled to come to terms with being the child of a gay parent whose queerness "became my weakness, my Achilles heel." Then, just as Steve began to find recognition as a poet and peace in the troubled relationship he had with his now-collegiate daughter, he developed AIDS. Deeply conflicted, Abbott returned to San Francisco from New York to take care of her father, who died a year later. What makes this story especially successful is the meticulous way the author uses letters and her father's cartoons and journals to reconstruct the world she and her father inhabited. As she depicts the dynamics of a unique, occasionally fraught, gay parent–straight child relationship, Abbott offers unforgettable glimpses into a community that has since left an indelible mark on both the literary and social histories of one of America's most colorful cities. A sympathetic and deeply moving story. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 May #2

After his wife died in the early 1970s, Steve Abbott embraced his homosexuality and moved to San Francisco with his young daughter, Alysia, whose touching memoir describes life with her poet-activist father and his openly gay lifestyle. From her memories and her father's journals, Abbott re-creates her childhood. While there was much love between father and daughter, Abbott communicates clearly how his pursuit of happiness involved choices that were made at the expense of her own. Abbott isn't interested in blame, though, as she vividly portrays the San Francisco scene for gays at a time of great change. She watches as friends, and then her father, contract AIDS, and at age 21, she returns home to help care for him and is conflicted over feelings of duty and the desire to begin a life of her own. Abbott captures feelings of a confusing childhood with passages of simple clarity to illustrate both struggle and devotion. VERDICT Insightful and well crafted, this book is useful both as a memoir and as a historical portrait of one of America's earliest gay communities.--Catherine Gilmore, Portland, OR

[Page 79]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2014 March #1

Abbott's moving memoir of growing up with her gay activist-poet father, Steve Abbott, begins with her parents' unconventional marriage in Atlanta. When Abbott's mother was killed in the early Seventies, father and daughter moved to San Francisco, where he lived as an out gay man. Referencing his diaries and letters, the author re-creates their lives and presents a history of a vibrant gay community, the AIDS crisis, and her return to the United States at 21 to care for him in his last illness. (LJ 5/15/13)

[Page 46]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 May #3

In her memoir of growing in San Francisco during the 1970's and '80s, Abbott, the only child of poet, editor, and activist Steve Abbott, ruminates on a pivotal slice of American social and cultural history, drawing on her father's poems, journals, and letters to relate her painful personal history. At two-years-old, Abbott's mother died, sparking Steve's homosexual awakening. Relocating from Atlanta to the West Coast soon after, the two formed a tenacious bond: "a traveling father-daughter act pulling schemes, subsisting on our charm, and always sticking together." But by her teenage years, the bohe-mian fantasy they shared and his efforts to beat depression and drug addiction wore thin and she moved away, first emotionally and then physically, to attend college in New York City and study in Paris. When Steve was diagnosed with AIDS and asked her to come home, Abbott openly rebeled against the responsibility. Colored with quirky, picturesque details of Bay Area counter culture, in-cluding its famous cafes, personalities, and periodicals, Abbott's narrative balances idiosyncratic flourishes with universal emotions of anger, resentment, jealousy, and guilt. Decades after the fact, it is clear she continues to struggle with her failures as daughter and caregiver. Yet, her fragile resolution is more honest than a tidy, suggesting that the most "outlandish" parts of our stories--our own inade-quacies--prove difficult to fully accept. (June)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

In her memoir of growing in San Francisco during the 1970's and '80s, Abbott, the only child of poet, editor, and activist Steve Abbott, ruminates on a pivotal slice of American social and cultural history, drawing on her father's poems, journals, and letters to relate her painful personal history. At two-years-old, Abbott's mother died, sparking Steve's homosexual awakening. Relocating from Atlanta to the West Coast soon after, the two formed a tenacious bond: "a traveling father-daughter act pulling schemes, subsisting on our charm, and always sticking together." But by her teenage years, the bohe-mian fantasy they shared and his efforts to beat depression and drug addiction wore thin and she moved away, first emotionally and then physically, to attend college in New York City and study in Paris. When Steve was diagnosed with AIDS and asked her to come home, Abbott openly rebeled against the responsibility. Colored with quirky, picturesque details of Bay Area counter culture, in-cluding its famous cafes, personalities, and periodicals, Abbott's narrative balances idiosyncratic flourishes with universal emotions of anger, resentment, jealousy, and guilt. Decades after the fact, it is clear she continues to struggle with her failures as daughter and caregiver. Yet, her fragile resolution is more honest than a tidy, suggesting that the most "outlandish" parts of our stories--our own inade-quacies--prove difficult to fully accept. (June)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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