Synopses & Reviews
The untold personal life story of the novelist whom Gore Vidal has hailed as "one of the few original American writers of the last century." John Rechy's first novel, City of Night
, is a modern classic and his subsequent body of work has kept him among America's most important writers.
Now, for the first time, he writes about his life, in a volume that is a testament to the power of pride and self-acceptance. Rechy was raised Mexican-American in Texas, at a time when Latino children were routinely discriminated against. As he grew older and as his fascination with a notorious kept woman from his childhood deepened Rechy became aware that his differences lay not just in his heritage but in his sexuality. While he performed the roles others wanted for him, he never allowed them to define him whether it was the authoritarians in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, the bigoted relatives of his Anglo college classmates, or the men and women who wanted him to be something he was not.
About My Life and the Kept Woman is as much a portrait of intolerance as of an individual who defied it to forge his own path.
"Reflecting on his long life with a calm, clear eye, novelist Rechy (The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens) probes his nascent self-identity as a Mexican-American and a homosexual. Growing up during the Depression in El Paso, Tex., the youngest son of a Mexican woman who spoke no English and a Scottish musician father, Rechy recalls his early fascination with beauty, especially in his older adored sister, Olga, who married early, and in the cool, glamorous regard of the notorious 'kept woman' of Mexican politician Augusto de Leon, Marisa Guzman, whom the young narrator glimpsed briefly and memorably at his sister's wedding. Moreover, amid a society that excoriated Mexicans, young Rechy grew into a beautiful, fair-skinned young man torn between feeling proud of his Mexican roots and shame because of them. Fleeing the restricted prospects of El Paso and the depressive rages of his father, Rechy, a budding writer, attended college, then joined the army during the Korean War and began traveling, to Paris, New York City and Los Angeles, where he found hustling for sex from anonymous men suited him. The memoir meanders through years of drifting among jobs and numerous sexual encounters, which became the fodder for his acclaimed City of Night (1963) and other works. Self-adulation aside, Rechy's memoir possesses many fine stylistic vignettes." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The best parts of the memoir are his reaction to the publication of City of Night, the encounters with his editor Don Allen, as well as those with theater director Wilford Leach...novelist Christopher Isherwood and poet Allen Ginsberg." San Francisco Chronicle
"For those readers who already know John Rechy, About My Life and the Kept Woman will provide additional insight. But if you have never read Rechy, go back to his early novels. There you will find a world of possibility and magic and danger." Los Angeles Times
"[H]as all the ingredients for a good memoir....At its best, [Rechy's] prose is serviceable. At its worst, it is trashy." new York Times
"Rechy lived a most unusual existence whose central motive was his effort to grow beyond the world of his Latino family without completely losing its love and support." Library Journal
"Keenly observed and well-written readers will hope that a sequel is forthcoming." Kirkus Reviews
"John Rechy's latest book is a memoir that reads like a novel, complete with cliff-hanging chapter conclusions, long dialogue scenes, a regularly repeating leitmotif (of a mysterious, glamorous woman), and a clear progression of accumulated effect. Fair enough, since he's stated that he believes there's something fictionalized about any memory." Edmund White, The New York Review of Books
(read the entire New York Review of Books review