About My Life and the Kept Woman by John Rechy
A Memoir

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Gore Vidal has hailed John Rechy as “one of the few original American writers of the last century,” and Michael Cunningham has called him an author “whose life is almost as interesting, and meaningful, as his work.” Rechy’s long-awaited memoir,About My Life and the Kept Woman, is the author’s first open treatment of his life—and a testament to the power of pride and self-acceptance. Raised Mexican-American in El Paso, Texas, at a time when Latino children were routinely segregated, Rechy was often assumed to be Anglo because of his light skin, and had his name “changed” for him by a teacher, from Juan to John. As he grew older—and as his fascination with the memory of a notorious kept woman in his childhood deepened—Rechy became aware that his differences lay not just in his heritage, but in his sexuality. A moving, powerful story of a life that bears witness to some of the most riotous changes of the past century,About My Life and the Kept Woman is as much a portrait of intolerance as of an individual who defied it to forge his own path.

About John Rechy

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Rechy is an important gay writer also linked to the Beat Movement, whose work has been recognized by a number of prestigious grant nominations or awards, including one from the National Endowment for the Arts. He grew up in El Paso, Texas, in a poor, Mexican American family. Because of his poverty and his ethnic heritage, he learned very early in life to feel himself an outsider, which was intensified by his later experiences as a gay hustler traveling America in search of his social and sexual identity. He came to popular and critical attention with his first published novel, City of Night (1963), which was a bestseller and was nominated for the International Prix Formentor. A fictionalized account of his travels, the novel focuses on the people whom the unnamed narrator encounters on the hustling scene in a number of cities, including New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Together, these cities make up the titular "city of night," or, as Rechy writes, "the city of night of the soul." A state of mind rather than a particular place, this "city"---modern America---is where hypocrisy and homophobia are reconciled with the fact of homosexuality in various forms, and poverty may be more spiritual than material. The book owes something to two classics: Jack Kerouac's Beat novel, On the Road, which celebrates countercultural alternatives to middle-class culture and lifestyles, including bourgeois marriage and family life, and Djuna Barnes's modernist novel Nightwood, which explores a tragic gay "nightworld" as a symbol of the modern urban wasteland. Rechy addresses similar themes in a later work that is equally well known, The Sexual Outlaw (1977), which he has described as an experiment with the novel form. Ostensibly a documentary of the life of a gay man, the book is also a critique of American values and morality. Commentaries throughout the text are really journalistic essays that expose the double standards and double binds of a "closeted" culture, in which many fear to be openly gay because of homophobic reprisals. Rechy has suggested that all of his work (which includes plays, essays, and reviews, as well as novels) articulates the need to preserve gay "difference," which he associates with "abundant sexuality," in the face of increasing "heterofascism.
Published March 17, 2009 by Grove Press. 369 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Gay & Lesbian, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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A small-town lad's awakening, sexual and intellectual--which takes him to big-city demimondes and books that begged, in their day, to be banned.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of About My Life and the Kept Wo...

The New York Times

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A memoir by the author of “City of Night” and “Numbers.”

Mar 02 2008 | Read Full Review of About My Life and the Kept Wo...

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