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book beat
A M B U S H  M A G  2 0 0 0   -   V O L U M E  1 5   -   I S S U E  7

Many readers prefer non-fiction over fiction. I, for one, find many of these books to be much better, more entertaining, and more timely.

The ones reviewed here are the best from 1996, and I encourage all of you to check them out. They are all excellent stories, and the authors are amazingly good writers. Their stories will amaze you, even disappoint and shock you at times, but you will always remember them. They are that good.

Not Like Other Boys is a rare gem among non-fiction offerings. Agonizing memories are brought forth in this work, but it is wonderfully told in a moving account of what it is like to grow up gay.

Marlene Fanta Shyer and Christopher Shyer are the mother and son who present this amazing story of love and acceptance. Marlene knew at an early stage in Christopher's development that he might be gay. Like all mothers, she was worried about her son. This is their story of how they went from a relationship of concealment and shame to one of acceptance and love.

All the troubled years are recalled as their parallel lives unfold during this period of time. It is an awesome story of how they reveal the truth and move on to a very wonderful relationship.

This tolerant and supportive attitude at parenting should be read by all. If only all parents could be like Marlene, many gays would endure a more wholesome existence during their lifetime. By all means, read this one. It's $21.95 and comes from Houghton Mifflin Company.

Truth Serum is another good book from Houghton Mifflin and also priced at $21.95. It too is a memoir.

Written by Bernard Cooper, he recalls his life in another great storytelling way. He writes about his teen years and carries you up through his experience with the psychiatrist who mainlined him with a truth-telling cocktail intended to "reduce the frequency and intensity" of his sexual fantasies involving men.

This is an entertaining book and one that many will identify with because of their own problems in growing to adulthood.

Cooper is a good writer who can make you feel his pain and his pride. If you read his first novel, A Year of Rhymes, you will know why I brag on his writing style. He was compared to Truman Capote and Other Voices, Other Rooms, and rightly so. He's a talented author, and this is a good example of the finest in non-fiction.

Sometimes a non-fiction book can be more rewarding that fiction. These two books are great examples of this. They are welcome additions to my library, and they should be for you too.

Heaven's Coast is a new one from HarperCollins. It is Mark Doty's part memoir, part journal, part elegy for a life of rare communion and beauty. He writes in an honest and descriptive way, and the result is a poignant look at his life.

This is a look at life before, during and after a lover's death from AIDS. In Heaven's Coast, Doty does not merely recount an AIDS tragedy but infuses his story of Wally Roberts with a tangible passion, attempting to understand death's role in human lives.

By taking in the flora and fauna of Cape Cod, consulting the work of other writers and poets, and following the lives of friends, Doty investigates all aspects of his grief and rediscovers the richness of life with Wally and the life still available to him.

In a way, Doty shows how writing can be a healing art. This book is available in hardcover for $23.00. Even though it was published a few months ago, it still bears mentioning as a readable part of any major library collection.

First Comes Love by Marion Winik is another beautiful story of love. She tells of Tony, a gay man she loved, married and raised two children with. Eventually AIDS took over his life, and she carries her love for him through his illness and his death.

This is the story of a unique relationship, and it's told in a powerful way. Winik, a National Public Radio commentator on "All Things Considered," tells her story with warmth, surprising humor and complete candor.

She describes the unusual path that led her to fall head over heels in love with a man she knew was gay. During the drunken, dizzying days of a hot Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Winik met Tony. It was love at first sight, and their previous shattered relationships put the spark between them.

This is really a fantastic story. It's told with brutal honesty and compassion. First Comes Love is an amazing story, one you won't soon forget. It's $23 from Pantheon Books.

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