Daughter recalls father’s past with heart, humour

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February 25, 2014

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter; Growing up with a gay dad

By Alison Wearing

292 pages; $24.00

Reviewed by Cecania Alexander

When I pick up a book, my dearest hopes are, admittedly, a bit unfair. Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter – a nonfiction family memoir about Wearing’s growing up as her father discovers his gay identity in a time of political turmoil met all of them, and threw in a few delicious surprises.

Wearing’s voice is delightful, not surprising as she is a musician, a dancer, a theatre performer, an award-winning one-woman-show star (including an adaptation of Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter). Her first book was an international bestseller (Honeymoon in Purday: An Iranian Journey). Wearing conveys humour, emotion and soul through art – she could make a fun, heart-warming journey out of peeling a baked potato.

In Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter, anecdotes, research, and lively stories are combined with her voice to form a fantastic ride. The memoir  begins in peachy childhood with an artistic, caring mother and a goofy father who “enjoyed skipping down sidewalks singing choruses from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas while pumping his elbows out to the ides and snapping his fingers like castanets,” and all things “festive.” But Wearing grows up amidst choppy waters as her father explores his gay identity, keeping his double life from the family, eventually coming out amidst great obstacles. At times I was dumbfounded with shock; at others I felt a surprising familiarity and connection to the family’s struggles; mostly, I was laughing.

The disruption of Wearing’s family was hard on her, as was accepting her father’s homosexuality but the strife is washed with wildly hilarious stories in which Wearing pokes fun at her family (recounting one brother’s obsession with poo, a family Christmas in which everyone accidentally ingests hallucinogenic mushrooms, and of course her father’s many quirks), and at herself   At one point she describes her hair as “thick knuckly masses, something a (brief) boyfriend was once generous enough to inform me was the stuff that makes up a rhinoceros’s horn.”

About two-thirds into the book, the point of view shifts to her father via diary entries, newspaper clippings, letters and notes during his coming out. These scraps of overwhelming struggle blew me away, revealed a violent world that I could not have otherwise fathomed. The story culminates in a sentimental, occasionally overly sentimental, acceptance, love and appreciation for family in all its fairy dust and demons. However, I forgave the story its sentimental weight because I just plain enjoyed it so much, and felt its resounding relevance.

This is an important memoir. Fortunately, it is also a story that anyone with a heart will enjoy.

Cecania Alexander is a fourth-year Creative Writing student at the University of Victoria.

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