Coming out stories are common. But incredibly well-written simultaneous mother-daughter coming out stories are very rare and kind of awesome. Chana Wilson's memoir Riding Fury Home relates over 40 years of her life - starting at age 7 with her mother, Gloria's, first suicide attempt and electroshock treatments - in honest and unapologetic language.
Gloria's tale of emerging queerness is riveting, and Chana's accounts of Gloria's pain, depression, and journey through a cruel therapy program are heartbreaking and heartfelt. She inserts comic relief in all the right places, like secret jokes at a funeral. When Gloria admits her pro-lady tendencies and confirms she has no interest in men, Chana says, "Well, Mom, I hate to tell you, but you're not bisexual, you're a lesbian," to which Gloria is "pretty damn nonchalant: 'Guess so, honey.'" Many of Chana's discoveries about Gloria's life unfolded through a series of radio interviews between the mother and daughter that Chana recorded in 1974 for KPFA-FM in Berkeley. (You can listen to original interview clips on the Riding Fury Home website.)
It is Chana's childhood that sticks with you. Her journey seemed to go backwards, starting with when she was forced to run a household as a young girl. "First, I was the mother and she was the daughter," Chana said to the crowd at Elliot Bay Book Company for her reading last night. "When we came out, we were like two teenagers. Then, when I needed it, she mothered me."
(You can also read my review on The Stranger's website.)
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