Books have a way of shifting, molding, and changing the way in which we see the world. No genre does this quite as well as memoirs. There’s just something about reading the real-life experiences of another that not only elicits empathy and understanding, but also allows you to experience the world through the eyes of someone with whom you may have nothing in common.
Some of the best memoirs detail harrowing struggles in moving, viscerally honest prose. Others cover the author’s unique and interesting life experiences while offering the reader an intimate look into characteristics of different walks of life. All have the power to completely transform the way in which readers view the world. Without further ado, here are five memoirs which will rock your world.
Every sentence in this book is like a slap in the face. Karr writes with masterful, excruciating honesty about her lifelong struggle with addiction and the strain it puts on each relationship in her life. Her voice is compelling and strong – the voice of someone who goes through something agonizing and comes out alive on the other side. Her memoir will challenge and change the way you think about addiction, love, relationships, and religion. Lit is the kind of book that leaves you both satiated and starving for more.
Garrard Conley details his struggle with his sexuality and faith after being outed while in college to religious parents in Boy Erased. He attends a 12-step conversion therapy program with the initial goal of changing his sexuality and strengthening his faith. Through his journey, Conley closely examines the intricate ties between family, faith and forgiveness in this powerful memoir.
Margo Jefferson’s memoir Negroland explores the tensions of growing up in an upper-middle class black household in Chicago. Jefferson boldly studies the crosses of race, wealth and class as she experiences them throughout her childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Negroland is written with sharp introspection and compelling prose, tackling huge issues with brilliance and bravery.
In this #1 New York Times Bestseller, Tara Westover tells the story of her pursuit of an education after growing up the child of dedicated survivalists in the Idaho mountains. Westover’s first experience in a classroom comes when she is 17 years old, and in Educated she frames how her own drive for knowledge presents struggles and triumphs as well as connection and isolation as she forges further away from home. Educated is a story of coming-of-age and identity detailing Westover’s navigation between family allegiance and individual passion and drive.
Abandon Me closely examines love, intimacy, and relationships with invigorating honesty and vulnerability. Melissa Febos weaves the story of the bonds which mark her life: the tumultuous relationship with the sea captain stepfather who raised her, the passionate and intense affair she has with a woman, and the mystery of her reconnection with her birth father. Febos writes with stunning honesty, crafting a memoir packed full with universal truths sure to strike a chord with any reader.
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Now is the time for freedom, celebration, liberation, and love! The LGBTQ+ community has fought hard (and is still fighting) against societal and systemic oppression every single day (especially the Transgender community; here’s a list of all the lives that have been lost in 2018 alone).
This month is a time to celebrate how far we’ve come, to acknowledge the oppressions and inequalities that are still so prevalent, and to keep marching toward and fighting for the revolution we need.
It is also a time to recognize and remember the activists who got us here. We wouldn’t have rights, Pride, or any of the freedoms we get to experience day-by-day if it weren’t for their bravery, selflessness, and perseverance.
Here are seventeen quotes from incredible activists who paved the way!
Now they got two little nice statues in Chariot Park to remember the gay movement. How many people have died for these two little statues to be put in the park for them to recognize gay people? How many years has it taken people to realize that we are all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take people to see that? We’re all in this rat race together!
Everybody’s journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.
As a teenager, I had to struggle alone to learn about myself and what it meant to be gay. Now for  years I’ve had the satisfaction of working with other gay people all across the country to get the bigots off our backs, to oil the closet door hinges, to change prejudiced hearts and minds, and to show that gay love is good for us and for the rest of the world too. It’s hard work—but it’s vital, and it’s gratifying, and it’s often fun!
Immigrant trans women are 12 times more likely to face discrimination because of our gender identity. If we add our immigration status to the equation, the discrimination increases. Transgender immigrants make up one out of every 500 people in detention, but we account for one out of five confirmed sexual abuse cases in ICE custody. The violence my trans sisters face in detention centers is one of torture and abuse. The torture and abuse come from ICE officials and other detainees in these detention centers. I have spoken with my trans immigrant sisters who were recently released from detention centers. With a lot of emotional pain and heavy tears in their eyes, they opened up about the horrendous treatment they all experienced. Often seeking asylum to escape threats of violence because of their gender identity and sexuality, this is how they’re greeted in this country. At times misgendered, exposed to assault, and put in detention centers with men.
I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.
I was a radical, a revolutionist. I am still a revolutionist…I am glad I was in the Stonewall riot. I remember when someone threw a Molotov cocktail, I thought, “My god, the revolution is here. The revolution is finally here!
I never felt I had anything to hide. I never felt being gay was anything to be ashamed of, so I never felt apologetic. I didn’t have issues with it, didn’t grow up with any religion, so I didn’t have any religious, you know, issues to deal with as far as homosexuality is concerned. So, I accepted it very easily. For me, it wasn’t that big a deal.
I, Mabel Hampton, have been a lesbian all my life, for 82 years, and I am proud of myself and my people. I would like all my people to be free in this country and all over the world, my gay people and my black people.
Self-definition and self-determination is about the many varied decisions that we make to compose and journey toward ourselves…It’s okay if your personal definition is in a constant state of flux as you navigate the world.
It’s finally June which means…it’s finally Pride month!
In case you’re unfamiliar, Pride month is the time of year when Pride parades appear, everything is covered in all the colors of the rainbow, celebration ensues, and all that glitters is, in fact, gold. Pride is the time for the LGBTQ community to come together and celebrate the pride they have and the beauty inside of who they are. The LGBTQ community has had to fight insanely hard for the freedom to openly be the people they were born to be and love the people they were born to love. They’ve had to stand up, protest in the streets, risk incarceration (or even death) just so they could gain equality and basic human rights (and they’re still fighting, especially the transgender community; trans women have a 1 in 12chance of being murdered (a 1 in 8 chance for trans women of color)).
This is why Pride is so significant. It’s vital for the LGBTQ to be seen because they fought so hard to get here. It’s important to take to the streets and laugh and scream and celebrate all the progress that’s been made, and to continue standing up and fighting for the progress that’s still yet to come.
In July 2012, aged thirty, Juliet Jacques underwent sex reassignment surgery—a process she chronicled with unflinching honesty in a serialised national newspaper column. Trans tells of her life to the present moment: a story of growing up, of defining yourself, and of the rapidly changing world of gender politics.
Fresh from university, eager to escape a dead-end job, she launches a career as a writer in a publishing culture dominated by London cliques and still figuring out the impact of the Internet. She navigates the treacherous waters of a world where, even in the liberal and feminist media, transgender identities go unacknowledged, misunderstood or worse. Yet through art, film, music, politics and football, Jacques starts to become the person she had only imagined, and begins the process of transition. Interweaving the personal with the political, her memoir is a powerful exploration of debates that comprise trans politics, issues which promise to redefine our understanding of what it means to be alive.
Revealing, honest, humorous, and self-deprecating, Trans includes an epilogue with Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be?, in which Jacques and Heti discuss the cruxes of writing and identity.
From the moment Liza Winthrop meets Annie Kenyon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she knows there is something special between them. But Liza never knew falling in love could be so wonderful . . . or so confusing.
Of the author and the book, the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee said, “Nancy Garden has the distinction of being the first author for young adults to create a lesbian love story with a positive ending. Using a fluid, readable style, Garden opens a window through which readers can find courage to be true to themselves.”
The 25th Anniversary Edition features a full-length interview with the author by Kathleen T. Horning, Director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Ms. Garden answers such revealing questions as how she knew she was gay, why she wrote the book, censorship, and the book’s impact on readers – then and now.
It began in a bedroom in Naples, Florida, when a misbehaving punk teenager named Tom Gabel, armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a headful of anarchist politics, landed on a riff. Gabel formed Against Me! and rocketed the band from its scrappy beginnings-banging on a drum kit made of pickle buckets-to a major-label powerhouse that critics have called this generation’s The Clash. Since its inception in 1997, Against Me! has been one of punk’s most influential modern bands, but also one of its most divisive. With every notch the four-piece climbed in their career, they gained new fans while infuriating their old ones. They suffered legal woes, a revolving door of drummers, and a horde of angry, militant punks who called them “sellouts” and tried to sabotage their shows at every turn.
But underneath the public turmoil, something much greater occupied Gabel-a secret kept for 30 years, only acknowledged in the scrawled-out pages of personal journals and hidden in lyrics. Through a troubled childhood, delinquency, and struggles with drugs, Gabel was on a punishing search for identity. Not until May of 2012 did a Rolling Stone profile finally reveal it: Gabel is a transsexual, and would from then on be living as a woman under the name Laura Jane Grace.
Tranny is the intimate story of Against Me!’s enigmatic founder, weaving the narrative of the band’s history, as well as Grace’s, with dozens of never-before-seen entries from the piles of journals Grace kept. More than a typical music memoir about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll-although it certainly has plenty of that-Tranny is an inside look at one of the most remarkable stories in the history of rock.
This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.
This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.
A landmark coming-of-age novel that launched the career of one of this country’s most distinctive voices, Rubyfruit Jungle remains a transformative work more than forty years after its original publication. In bawdy, moving prose, Rita Mae Brown tells the story of Molly Bolt, the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who boldly forges her own path in America. With her startling beauty and crackling wit, Molly finds that women are drawn to her wherever she goes—and she refuses to apologize for loving them back. This literary milestone continues to resonate with its message about being true to yourself and, against the odds, living happily ever after.
6. Dry by Augusten Burroughs
You may not know it, but you’ve met Augusten Burroughs. You’ve seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twentysomething guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary. But when the ordinary person had two drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all. Loud, distracting ties, automated wake-up calls and cologne on the tongue could only hide so much for so long. At the request (well, it wasn’t really a request) of his employers, Augusten lands in rehab, where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey Jr. are immediately dashed by grim reality of fluorescent lighting and paper hospital slippers. But when Augusten is forced to examine himself, something actually starts to click and that’s when he finds himself in the worst trouble of all. Because when his thirty days are up, he has to return to his same drunken Manhattan life—and live it sober. What follows is a memoir that’s as moving as it is funny, as heartbreaking as it is true. Dry is the story of love, loss, and Starbucks as a Higher Power.
*Although a heavy part of the plot of this memoir is based around Burroughs’ struggle with alcoholism, the heart of it comes from the pains of watching his best friend/ex-lover’s health deteriorate more and more as his struggle with HIV soon becomes a fight against AIDS (hence why it’s on this list). This book will break your heart.
7. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronns-Mills
This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. Im Gabe. Welcome to my show.”” My birth name is Elizabeth, but Im a guy. Gabe. My parents think Ive gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know Im right. Ive been a boy my whole life. When you think about it, Im like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B sidenot heard as often, but just as good. Its time to let my B side play. Winner of the 2014 Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and provocative literary debut that was named to numerous best of the year lists.
When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone, and Cam becomes an expert at both.
Then Coley Talor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship, one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure who that is.
Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like the fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself–the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.
When Sana and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore.
Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy…what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
Incredibly funny and poignant, this twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming out story—wrapped in a geek romance—is a knockout of a debut novel by Becky Albertalli.
On the first day at his new school, Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan–especially because Leo is a trans guy and isn’t out at his new school.
Then Leo stands up for a classmate in a fight and they become friends. With Leo’s help and support, the classmate, who is a trans girl, prepares to come out and transition–to find a new name, Kate, and live a truth that has been kept secret for too long. Kate and Leo are surrounded by bigots, but they have each other, and they have hope in their future.
The Art of Being Normal: A Novel by Lisa Williamson is an uplifting story about two teenagers set in the modern day in the United Kingdom. The author was inspired to write this novel after working in England’s national health service, in a department dedicated to helping teens who are questioning their gender identity.
This novel, which won awards in the UK, is a first-person narrative about two transgender students, and is ideal for cisgender (cis) readers―people who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth―to learn more about gender identity and what it means to be transgender.
The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality.
When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.
By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heart-breaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.
She’s Not There is the story of a person changing genders, the story of a person bearing and finally revealing a complex secret; above all, it is a love story. By turns hilarious and deeply moving, Jennifer Finney Boylan explores the remarkable territory that lies between men and women, examines changing friendships, and rejoices in the redeeming power of family. She’s Not There is a portrait of a loving marriage—the love of James for his wife, Grace, and, against all odds, the enduring love of Grace for the woman who becomes her “sister,” Jenny.
To this extraordinary true story, Boylan brings the humorous, fresh voice that won her accolades as one of the best comic novelists of her generation. With her distinctive and winning perspective,She’s Not There explores the dramatic outward changes and unexpected results of life as a woman: Jenny fights the urge to eat salad, while James consumed plates of ribs; gone is the stability of “one damn mood, all the damn time.”
While Boylan’s own secret was unusual, to say the least, she captures the universal sense of feeling uncomfortable, out of sorts with the world, and misunderstood by her peers. Jenny is supported on her journey by her best friend, novelist Richard Russo, who goes from begging his friend to “Be a man” (in every sense of the word) to accepting her as an attractive, buoyant woman. “The most unexpected thing,” Russo writes in his Afterword to the book, “is in how Jenny’s story we recognize our shared humanity.”
As James evolves into Jennifer in scenes that are by turns tender, startling, and witty, a marvelously human perspective emerges on issues of love, sex, and the fascinating relationship between our physical and our intuitive selves. Through the clear eyes of a truly remarkable woman,She’s Not There provides a new window on the often confounding process of accepting ourselves.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir about a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in a north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the universe as a cosmic dustbin. It is the story of how a painful past, which Winterson thought she had written over and repainted, rose to haunt her later in life, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. It is also a book about other people’s literature, one that shows how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life raft that supports us when we are sinking.
Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother.
World history has been made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals—and you’ve never heard of many of them.
Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 23 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. From high-profile figures like Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt to the trailblazing gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer who didn’t make it into your history books, these astonishing true stories uncover a rich queer heritage that encompasses every culture, in every era.
By turns hilarious and inspiring, the beautifully illustrated Queer, There, and Everywhere is for anyone who wants the real story of the queer rights movement.
This past December, a 4,000-word short story took the internet by storm when it was published in The New Yorker. The story is titled Cat Person, and details the trials of twenty-year-old college student Margot as she meets and briefly dates thirty-four-year-old Robert.
The all-too-realistic piece of fiction showcases Margot throughout the many quick-changing stages of a blooming, new relationship: the excitement, the giddiness, the butterflies of a growing new crush, the fantasies about everything this relationship could possibly grow into, all the way through unto the grounding realization that this person is not at all who you’d hoped they were.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD***
The rose colored glasses always begin to fade, and, when they do, Margot realizes Robert is not someone she wants to see. And, by the time everything’s progressed to their first (and only) sexual encounter, Margot’s already realized that she’s not at all attracted to this stranger of a man. She feels repulsion towards him, but doesn’t know how to stop, seeing as sex has already been initiated and they are well in the midst of it all. Margot allows her mind to drift off so she can “just get it over with” while Robert does what he wants until he’s finished:
…she felt like a doll again, as she had outside the 7-Eleven, though not a precious one now—a doll made of rubber, flexible and resilient, a prop for the movie that was playing in his head.
She ends their relationship shortly after, telling Robert she’s not interested and asking him to stop texting her. The story ends months down the line when Robert gets drunk at Margot’s go-to bar, then spends the remainder of night verbally harassing her via text messages, starting with:
“Hi Margot, I saw you out at the bar tonight. I know you said not to text you but I just wanted to say you looked really pretty. I hope you’re doing well!”
“I know I shouldnt say this but I really miss you”
And quickly escalating to and ending with:
This story spoke to millions of women of all ages who couldn’t help but see themselves in Margot. The societal expectations placed upon women and girls to always be appeasing, to never come across as difficult, and to never anger or upset the man you are in bed with are an unmanageable weight to bear.This story spread to such immense popularity because it worked to shine a light on the ways in which we are taught that consent always looks like x, y, orz. And that, if you agreed to the encounter initially, there’s no backing out; we are taught to believe that you cannot revoke your yes.
I don’t think I, personally, know any women (myself, included) who haven’t been in this exact situation multiple times over the years. Nights that end this way always feel like they’re surrounded by this foggy cloud of discomfort, fear, disappointment, dissociation, and disgust (both with them and with yourself). It’s scary to be alone with someone you don’t know very well, and feel just completely stuck inside their house with no real way out. You never want to be rude by asking to leave, and you also don’t want to anger them for fear of how they might react.
It’s the sort of situation where your heart races and your palms sweat and you feel yourself quickly weighing out all of your options until you, eventually, decide that, well, it’s already pretty late and, if you just stick it out until morning, you can go home and shower and pretend it never happened. This way, you avoid any awkward or scary confrontations, and ensure they’re feelings remain unhurt while you just mime your way through the rest of the evening; letting your thoughts wander somewhere else, to some far-off place until it’s all, finally, over. (It doesn’t even have to be a stranger from some Tinderdate; we can all-too-often find ourselves ignoring uncomfortable or coercive behavior from people we are already in committed relationships with, allowing them to do what they want under the guise of being in love and being too afraid to rock the boat.)
This situation is such a commonality within the dating-sphere, it’s no surprise that author Kristen Roupenian drew from her own personal, real-life experiences to create this story. Roupenian spoke to The Timesearlier this week, opening up about her own Cat Person for the very first time.
It all started when Roupenian, who had spent many years in a long-term committed relationship, found herself single at thirty-five for the first time since she was in her twenties:
When I was 26 and dating, I was such a mess and everything was terrible. I thought now I would be a mature adult and wouldn’t screw up and would understand when people are garbage right away. But instead I felt just as smacked by it and just as confused…I went on a date, it went poorly, and we got in a fight. And that’s alright, but I thought, ‘I’m 35, how did I make this mistake? How did I misread someone so completely?
The story grew to success seemingly overnight, and resulted in Roupenian landing a two-book deal with Scout Press, including a collection of short-stories set to release in 2019 and a currently untitled novel.
The success was by no accident, however. The story resonated, and still resonates, with people across the board.
Dating is never as easy as any of us hope it’s going to be. And, it can be difficult when you’re meeting all of these people to not feel tired of it all, and just ready to settle down with the next semi-charming, borderline-compatible adult human you stumble across. But, once you’ve already begun to force a connection with someone and convince yourself of it’s sustainability, it can be nearly impossible to come to terms with how you genuinely feel, walk out, and leave the situation behind you.
Roupenian went on to tell the Times about her own views surrounding the dating culture our society has built:
I think that young women in particular feel they have to manage and control and soothe and charm and weave this magic around men…The truth is, most people are not the right person for you, and the person who is the right person for you will still not be a perfect human being.
Since the Cat Person publication, Roupenian has learned she was never really alone in this thinking. Women all over have shared their own stories of uncomfortable dates that have ended in aggression, shame, and coercion.
I only hope that, now that a light has been shone on the aspects of dating and consent that before we had only ever been told to deal with and ignore, we can finally begin to see a shift in what we do and do not consider normal, healthy, and okay.
In the meantime, we can continue sharing our stories. We can acknowledge and find comfort in the autonomy of our own bodies, and the fact that no one, no matter what their previous relationship to us may be, is allowed to steal that from us. We can refuse to accept the things that feel uncomfortable, scary, or harmful, and not feel any embarrassment, guilt, or shame in vocalizing that. We can understand and accept our own imperfect humanness, and work on erasing both our desire to mold and shift others’ views of us and our impossible desire to never disappoint.
Irish writer James Joyce may best be remembered as a literary icon whose written work, Ulysses, cemented his image as a wise and intelligent mind hiding behind a soft and innocent-looking face.
Don’t be fooled, however. Yes, he is in fact intelligent, but he’s certainty not soft (in more ways than one). Behind those puppy dog eyes, thick mustache, and posh bowtie happens to be a dirty old man. Seriously dirty, dirty man.
The same passion and experimental attitude this linguistic mastermind brought to his stories and poetry he also translated to other avenues of his personal life. For those unfamiliar with Joyce, he had a passionate relationship with Nora Barnacle, whom he met in 1904 (the same date he later chose as the setting of Ulysses).
Their enduring love was filled with children, a marriage, and a great deal of passion. The sensual bond between the pair was evident throughout their public relationship. However, it became much more evident following their deaths when, in 1975, a book containing Joyce’s side of their written correspondence was published. The book, appropriately titled, Selected Letters of James Joyce (which you can buy here), brought to light their very personal and steamy love affair that rivaled anything E. L. James ever wrote.
Don’t believe it? Take a peek for yourself. Just a warning, however, they are absolutely NSFW! You’ve been warned.
My love for you allows me to pray to the spirit of eternal beauty and tenderness mirrored in your eyes or fling you down under me on that softy belly of yours and fuck you up behind, like a hog riding a sow, glorying in the very stink and sweat that rises from your arse, glorying in the open shape of your upturned dress and white girlish drawers and in the confusion of your flushed cheeks and tangled hair. It allows me to burst into tears of pity and love at some slight word, to tremble with love for you at the sounding of some chord or cadence of music or to lie heads and tails with you feeling your fingers fondling and tickling my ballocks or stuck up in me behind and your hot lips sucking off my cock while my head is wedged in between your fat thighs, my hands clutching the round cushions of your bum and my tongue licking ravenously up your rank red cunt. I have taught you almost to swoon at the hearing of my voice singing or murmuring to your soul the passion and sorrow and mystery of life and at the same time have taught you to make filthy signs to me with your lips and tongue, to provoke me by obscene touches and noises, and even to do in my presence the most shameful and filthy act of the body. You remember the day you pulled up your clothes and let me lie under you looking up at you while you did it? Then you were ashamed even to meet my eyes.
You are mine, darling, mine! I love you. All I have written above is only a moment or two of brutal madness. The last drop of seed has hardly been squirted up your cunt before it is over and my true love for you, the love of my verses, the love of my eyes for your strange luring eyes, comes blowing over my soul like a wind of spices. My prick is still hot and stiff and quivering from the last brutal drive it has given you when a faint hymn is heard rising in tender pitiful worship of you from the dim cloisters of my heart.
Nora, my faithful darling, my seet-eyed blackguard schoolgirl, be my whore, my mistress, as much as you like (my little frigging mistress! My little fucking whore!) you are always my beautiful wild flower of the hedges, my dark-blue rain-drenched flower.
As you know, dearest, I never use obscene phrases in speaking. You have never heard me, have you, utter an unfit word before others. When men tell in my presence here filthy or lecherous stories I hardly smile. Yet you seem to turn me into a beast. It was you yourself, you naughty shameless girl who first led the way. It was not I who first touched you long ago down at Ringsend. It was you who slid your hand down inside my trousers and pulled my shirt softly aside and touched my prick with your long tickling fingers, and gradually took it all, fat and stiff as it was, into your hand and frigged me slowly until I came off through your fingers, all the time bending over me and gazing at me out of your quiet saintlike eyes. It was your lips too which first uttered an obscene word. I remember well that night in bed in Pola. Tired of lying under a man one night you tore off your chemise violently and began to ride me up and down. Perhaps the horn I had was not big enough for you for I remember that you bent down to my face and murmured tenderly ‘Fuck up, love! fuck up, love!’
I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck up in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue come bursting out through your lips and if I gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.
You say when I go back you will suck me off and you want me to lick your cunt, you little depraved blackguard. I hope you will surprise me some time when I am asleep dressed, steal over me with a whore’s glow in your slumbrous eyes, gently undo button after button in the fly of my trousers and gently take out your lover’s fat mickey, lap it up in your moist mouth and suck away at it till it gets fatter and stiffer and comes off in your mouth. Sometime too I shall surprise you asleep, lift up your skirts and open your hot drawers gently, then lie down gently by you and begin to lick lazily round your bush. You will begin to stir uneasily then I will lick the lips of my darling’s cunt. You will begin to groan and grunt and sigh and fart with lust in your sleep. Then I will lick up faster and faster like a ravenous dog until your cunt is a mass of slime and your body wriggling wildly.
Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty little fuckbird! There is one lovely word, darling, you have underlined to make me pull myself off better. Write me more about that and yourself, sweetly, dirtier, dirtier.
If you can’t get enough, the great news is, there’s more. You can read more of James Joyce’s letters by clicking on the link here.
Feature Image Courtesy of The Irish Times and Her Campus