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Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father Hardcover – June 3, 2013
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Alysia Abbott was brought up as the only daughter of a single gay father, the poet Steve Abbott. Fairyland is a vivid, sensitively written account of a complex but always loving relationship, which ended up with the adult daughter taking care of her father as he died from AIDS. This is not only a painfully honest autobiography but also a tribute to old-fashioned bohemian values in a world that is increasingly conformist and materialistic. I couldn't put it down! --Edmund White, author of "A Boy's Own Story"
[Abbott] has given us a clear-eyed and luminous account of growing up with her gay Buddhist poet dad in San Francisco in the 1970s and 80s, from the intricacies of cafe culture and the Language poetry scene, to the carnage of AIDS. Generous, precise, and deeply moving, Fairyland is a love story that not only brings a new generational perspective to a history we're in danger of forgetting, but irrevocably shifts the way we think about family itself. --Alison Bechdel, author of "Are You My Mother?"
Beautifully written... a powerful portrait of a love between a father and his daughter, but also of San Francisco in the 1970s and '80s and the power of community, art, and love in the face of discrimination and death. --Kasia Hopkins
Extraordinary. --Jeff Calder
Fairyland is [a] daughter's compassionate, clear-eyed reckoning with [the] truths that defined her singular girlhood at the dawn of the gay liberation movement. --Alexandra Styron"
In Alysia Abbott s gorgeous account of her 1980s San Francisco childhood, a whimsical gay poet becomes an intelligent father, his motherless daughter a forceful and articulate young woman, and a rich, dizzy fairyland is shuttered by a plague. As a chronicle of the moment when the San Francisco of Armistad Maupin became the city of Harvey Milk, when gay and experimental poetry flourished in California, Fairyland is vivid and indelible. As the portrait of a conspiracy of love between a father and a daughter, it is heartrending, a brilliant addition to the literature of American memoir. --Honor Moore, Author of The Bishop s Daughter"
The striking photo on the cover of Fairyland looks like it could have been taken one hundred years ago. It gives a sense of the otherworldly childhood that Abbott recounts in this memoir about growing up with her openly gay, single father in San Francisco in the nineteen-seventies and eighties. The memoir doubles as a portrait of a city and a community at a crucial point in history. Her memoir is funny, strange, and sweet she remembers playing dress-up with her father's flamboyant friends, learning about sex and gender without a mother, being immersed in art and creativity and, finally, watching as the AIDS epidemic decimated the life she knew. "
A vivid, sensitively written account of a complex but always loving relationship. This is not only a painfully honest autobiography but also a tribute to old-fashioned bohemian values in a world that is increasingly conformist and materialistic. I couldn't put it down! --Edmund White, author of A Boy's Own Story"
At once a father-daughter love story, a testament to survival, a meditation on profound loss, and a searing chronicle of a complex coming of age, Fairyland is a beautiful, haunting book that instructs, even as it breaks our hearts. --Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion: A Memoir"
Generous, precise, and deeply moving, Fairyland is a love story that not only brings a new generational perspective to a history we re in danger of forgetting, but irrevocably shifts the way we think about family itself. --Alison Bechdel, author of Are You My Mother?"
Clear-eyed and heartrending, Fairyland captures a singular time and place in American history. It also captures something much more important: what it means to be truly loved and to love truly. A beautiful book. --Andrew McCarthy, author of The Longest Way Home"
Insightful and well-crafted, this book is useful both as a memoir and as a historical portrait of one of America's oldest gay communities. "
Alysia beautifully remembers the innocence of the age between the disappearance of the Beats and the onset of AIDS. "
As a chronicle of American culture, Abbott's story matters. "
Starred review. She writes up to a standard that would do any writer-parent proud. If there's plenty of emotion in her recollections, they lack all sentimentality, sensationalism, and special pleading. Like Ira Wagner's, Growing Up Amish (2011), a tale of another radically different, unusual upbringing, Fairyland is written in shiningly clear, precise prose that gives it literary as well as testimonial distinction. "
What makes this story especially successful is the meticulous way the author uses letters and her father s cartoons and journals to reconstruct the world she and her father inhabited. As she depicts the dynamics of a unique, occasionally fraught, gay parent straight child relationship, Abbott offers unforgettable glimpses into a community that has since left an indelible mark on both the literary and social histories of one of America s most colorful cities. A sympathetic and deeply moving story. "
Beautifully written a powerful portrait of a love between a father and his daughter, but also of San Francisco in the 1970s and 80s and the power of community, art, and love in the face of discrimination and death. --Kasia Hopkins"
Extraordinary. --Jeff Calder"
I love the book Fairyland; it's a sweet and unique love story. --Sofia Coppola"
Top Customer Reviews
I don't think I can discuss this book without a bit of a spoiler (forgive me, but this much is given away on the book jacket anyway). Abbot is raised by her gay father in bohemian circumstances in San Francisco. It sounds like the setup for a sitcom (imagine them critiquing each other's outfits, or boyfriends, perhaps), but there is little humor here. Abbott's story feels fraught with peril from almost the first page, though we already know the outcome -- that she survives and he does not. Abbot's approach to this story is relentlessly earnest, and some of the investigation of her family's past evokes the great "My Dark Places."
Her sense of time and place will resonate to anyone of her generation (those who went to high school in the 1980s); some aspects may be specific to struggling bohemians of San Francisco but it is a testament to the great leveling power of American popular culture that Abbott's preferences in music and blue jeans will be immediately recognizable to those of us who grew up in far different circumstances in other parts of the country.Read more ›
"FAIRYLAND" is a memoir that I recommend to anyone unconditionally. Primarily, Abbott tells an excellent chronological tale of her girlhood, teenage years and young adulthood in a non-maudlin, often self-effacing and extremely loving manner toward her father, who raised her on a wing and a prayer all by himself. Her parents were educated and radical grad student activists and hippies in Atlanta who married young, lived fast and, in her mother's case, died very young.Read more ›
Alysia Abbott's father, Steve, was an influential poet, editor and organizer whose reputation today is overshadowed by better-known friends like Gregory Corso. Her daughter brings him to light amid kaleidoscopic descriptions of the Haight, the kindness of a host of relative strangers and the growing menace of the AIDS plague.
Literary offspring's memoirs can be mere interruptions in account s of the lives we're really interested in.
Not so here. The author's own story is fascinating. Unsparingly, Ms. Abbott details the myths she created (dad turned gay because mom was killed) and the detachment she needed (pursuing Paris amour as Steve's t-cell counts dropped) to survive in a lonely sea of Swanson's fried chicken dinners.
She writes beautifully. Here's a glimpse of her very young self with her father and one of his early lovers. "The three of us stayed in Golden Gate Park as long as the day would have us. When the light faded and the air cooled we began the long walk home together. The leaves of the eucalyptus trees shimmered in the early evening light, looking like rust-colored sequins."
Ms. Abbott's essays and selections from her father's poems and novels are available on [...]/ and [...]. "Fairyland" makes us eager to read more of those and of Steve Abbott's seminal, neglected work.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fairyland is a gorgeous and moving account of the life and love between a daughter and her beloved, single gay father in 1970s and 1980s San Francisco. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Kelly J Ford
I recently discovered Fairyland in a local San Diego library. It almost fell off the shelf and landed in my arms. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jill L Bishop
Having lived in San Francisco through the years described in this beautifully written memoir, the impact of this young woman's upbringing was, for me, especially compelling. Read morePublished 3 months ago by US Writer
I am the 44 year old son of a gay man. This memoir spoke to me in so many ways. My father and his partner survived the AIDs death days of the late 80s and early 90s. Read morePublished 4 months ago by TimothyAU
Families come in all shapes and forms these days, and this is a very poignant and sweet story of a father and daughter that didn't fit in the so called standard definition of what... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Thomas C Ball
I loved the book. It has all the emotions of a girl growing up without a mother and trying make her own way in the world. It is a journey of growing up. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Robert N. Stull
Sitting here, merely minutes after finishing Fairyland, I fail to find adequate words to describe the incredibly moving experience that is Alysia Abbot's memoir. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kyle William
I thought it started slow, but as I got to the middle of the book I saw why thats how it started, and the story made sense-- I was totally hooked at the end--- It made me sad again... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Elizabeth Kuhn MD