Thursday, August 1, 2013


The complex emotional power of Alysia Abbott's memoir, Fairyland, snuck up on me a little over half-way through. It is a moving story from the beginning -- a baby's mother dies in a car accident and the girl, an only child, is raised by her dad. Her father, Steven, is a young gay man, searching to find himself creatively as a poet. He is caught up in the emerging counter-culture of the era -- the political activism, the social idealism, and the drugs. As a parent he is loving and devoted, but his judgment is at times questionable -- leaving a young child alone in the apartment at night, letting her ride the MUNI by herself, etc.

What is fascinating about these early scenes is not only the unconventional childhood, but the glimpse of San Francisco in the 70s and 80s -- Abbot manages to chronicle these decades and the important shifts -- in gay life and politics, in the nation, and in her neighborhood, subtly and simply, from her unusual vantage point as the child of a poet in the emerging scene.

The relationship between Steven and Alysia comes across very powerfully. Their connection to each other, their interdependence is intense and special to their unique bond. Her father left copious letters, journals, poems, essays and publications that inform the memoir, and in the letters particularly we see how important each was to the other. The depth of this connection gains intensity as father begins to die of AIDS, and the very young woman, just entering her twenties, must care for him while beginning her own adult life. I was sobbing through the entire last third of the memoir.

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