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A Boy Named Phyllis: A Suburban Memoir Hardcover – June 1, 1996

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Peppered with one-liners and pop-cultural references ranging from a mention of the TV series H.R. Pufnstuf to one of the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, DeCaro's memoir of growing up gay in an Italian Catholic family in Little Falls, N.J., sweetly and vividly recalls the bonds and breaches of parent-child relationships, a theme that provides the backdrop to his anecdotal chronicle of childhood tormentors and of recognizing, accepting and eventually celebrating his difference. Ostracized by classmates who knew he was gay before he did ("I'd always put the 'boy' in 'Flamboyant'") and an enigma to his loving if somewhat inept parents, a young DeCaro finds hope in the extravagance of role models Elton John and Paul Lynde and ensuing validation in his high-school theater department. All this is revealed in ironic turns of phrase, deadpan wit and pinpoint characterization, sparing not his mother: a "pear shaped bundle of Aqua Net"; his father: "a big lug who hated only two things in the whole world: dogs sniffing his crotch, and stepping in chewing gum"; his live-in grandma: "With upper arms that hung like parade-float bunting, the constitution of a battleship, and the salty vocabulary of a sailor on shore leave"; and not, least of all, himself. Growing up gay in the suburbs was a trial for DeCaro, a contributing editor to Martha Stewart Living, yet he renders the experience with ease and humor in this laudable memoir. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This witty reminiscence of growing up gay amid the pop culture of the 1960s and 1970s is filled with dating, dieting, and disco. A fine complement to Aaron Fricke's poignant early-1980s memoir, Reflections of a Rock Lobster (Alyson, 1995. reprint).
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; Fifth or Later Edition edition (June 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670867187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670867189
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,404,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I, like Frank DeCaro, am from Northern New Jersey, and chuckled at the details of his reminiscences (as could anyone, I believe, from New Jersey, or who is gay, or Italian, or who grew up in the 60s and 70s. And isn't that all of us? :)
But the most remarkable thing about the book as a gay man's memoir (and I have read quite a few) is that you don't hit that point two-thirds of the way through where you start a tragic descent into a personal battle with AIDS (that, of course, has been done masterfully before anyway, for example by Paul Monette.)
Instead, the book, which is not told chronologically but is organized instead into themes, hits you unexpectedly and powerfully, the pop culture details artfully concealing a painful truth until the end of the chapter, as they did in one chapter entitled "Desire Under the Forsythias."
I highly recommend "A Boy Named Phyllis," which yielded for me a very pleasurable catharsis of laughter.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very well told story of growing up different. I also loved his rememberances of being part of the 70's disco culture.
Autobiographies live or die based on the "tone" and how much the writer shares with the reader. Here the tone is humorous and refreshing - the details are moving.
This is a great book and deserves more attention. I have had my friends all read and love it. :)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Frank DeCaro's memoir is the funniest book I have ever read. His story of growing up a chubby gay boy in N.J. starts at the time I escaped Jersey in the mid '60s to get away from the same Italian American suburban oppression.

Frank's observations of Italian American life proved to me that nothing ever changes in NJ. I had the same mother and grandmother in the 50's as he did in the 70's. I'm now even old enough to be his mother if I had gotten knocked up a few years before I actually did.

His words made me laugh so hard I wet my pants; something our mothers had in common too. I cried tears from too much laughter and tears for the pain he endured from small world bullies and his own family who loved him put could not accept who he really was. I identified completely. I also discovered we are sort of related through marriage. You can take us kids our of Jersey but never Jersey out of us kids.
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By A Customer on July 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book was so humorous. Doesn't matter if your straight, gay, male or female. I loved how Frank describes his family members and his life. It was very touching, witty, and it really opened my eyes to what gay boys have to go through to try to feel excepted.
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Format: Paperback
A BOY NAMED PHYLLIS is a wonderfully hilarious, touching, and original coming out memoir about the pains of growing up VERY gay in an Italian-American household in suburban New Jersey. Witty, raucous, peppered with one-liners, wacky situations, and even wackier characters, this debut book is a minefield of belly laughs. Whether he's discussing true love in Coordinate Geometry class, true lust for David Cassidy, the enduring pains of sissy torture, the unrefined glories of 70s pop culture, or the idiosyncrasies of his family, Frank DeCaro has created a frothy memoir readers aren't likely to forget. This memoir is one that paved the way for the tres-gay, silly, and shamelessly confessional works of David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs - so if you love their work give it a try.
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Format: Hardcover
Frank Decaro explores all of the many issues that every gay man deals with while coming to terms with his own sexual orientation, but he injects humor into some of the most serious of situations and has you laughing 'til you're crying. Every queer in America will identify with Frank's family members and will remember experiencing some of the same feelings -- from the first time that you "touched yourself" to the first time you kissed another boy (and more).

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and his style of writing. The only disappointment was turning the page, realizing that I had reached the end, and thinking, "but that can't be the end. I want closure." Buy it. Read it. You'll love it
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I cannot rave about this book enough. I absolutely loved it and made all of my friends read it. My family thought I was completely losing my mind while I was reading this book because, I would break out laughing so hard with every turn of the page. Bravo to Frank DeCaro; you wrote a masterpiece that the world so desperately needed for a good laugh!
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By A Customer on January 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
What I liked about this book is that it is a coming out story that doesn't get too heavy. Decaro definately went through some tough times but his attitude is refreshing. He does not dwell on negatives. Anyone can learn from that.
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