Book review: Freak of Nurture

Freak of Nurture by Kelli DunhamHave you ever felt like a freak?  Well, lesbian comic/writer Kelli Dunham has, and she’s written about some of her freaky life experiences in a new book appropriately called Freak of Nurture.

Full disclosure #1: Kelli very graciously sent me a free copy of her book to check out.

Full disclosure #2: Kelli and I might have been separated at birth, so I should probably alert you to the possibility that we are long lost sisters or brothers or “um whatever” as Kelli would probably say if she was here right now.

Just like me, Kelli often gets mistaken for a dude, and we’ve both been called “faggot” once in our lives.  However, I have never been mistaken for an errant Boy Scout or Macauley Culkin, which makes Kelli Dunham perhaps the greatest butch in the universe.  (I’m thinking that Kelli and I should pitch our own TV series.  Something like “Two and a Half Bois” or “Mad Sh’men.”) 

And just when I thought that I was the only lesbian who ever thought about bedding Sarah Palin, enter Kelli Dunham.

“Ok, Middle-age butch,” you might be saying.  “We get it.  Kelli Dunham is great because she’s just like you.  But why should we read this book?”

Can you guess which is Kelli?

Can you guess which is Kelli?

Well, my Flannel followers, because the book is hysterically funny and brutally honest and poignant and heartbreaking.  Imagine a book penned by someone channeling Ellen Degeneres, Abe Lincoln, Mother Teresa and the Bronte sisters.  All at the same time.

And here’s the thing.  I am a total snob when it come to literature.  I have a degree in English, I make my living as a writer, and I don’t have enough free time to read books that aren’t up to my personal standards.  Freak of Nurture easily passed my test.

Some highlights:

  • Being “sir ma’amed.”
  • Creating a new gender identity of “um whatever.”
  • Teaching a nun how to masturbate.
  • Advising readers not to respond to requests to pass the potatoes at the family dinner table with “Yes Mistress,” even if that is your typical response in your own home.

The book has its serious moments, too.  Kelli has lost two partners to cancer, performed volunteer work in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and spent some time as a nun.  These chapters are raw and heartbreaking, but Kelli manages to find small touches of humor in these moments of devastation.

As Kelli says, “What doesn’t kill us makes us funnier.”  And that, my friends, is the central theme of this beautiful and brilliant book.

You can find out more about the book here, including how to order your very own shiny copy, and link to Kelli’s Freak of Nurture blog.

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7 responses to “Book review: Freak of Nurture

  1. “Advising readers not to respond to requests to pass the potatoes at the family dinner table with “Yes Mistress,” even if that is your typical response in your own home.”

    This happens to me all the time. It’s a thing.

  2. Who knew. I guess like it’s being called “sir” when you’re really a “ma’am.” It’s a thing.

    • See, for me… “ma’am” is actually “Ma’am,” which is short for “Madame,” which is somewhat more socially acceptable than “Mistress.” So we opt for “Ma’am” these days when somebody is passing the potatoes, and people no longer have to pick their jaws up off the floor. 😉

      On a serious note though…

      I read your interview with Kelli, who doesn’t seem to take negatively to being addressed as “sir.”

      Feel free not to answer if I’m being annoyingly forward, but I’m curious: In your own personal experience… How do *you* feel about that, when it happens to you? And how do you respond?

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