I Have Always Been Me: A Memoir

Little A/Topple. Jul. 2021. 266p. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781542044301; pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781542044318.
Brady-Davis is a proud wife, mother, and Black trans woman. She’s a well-known activist and former drag performer who’s appeared on reality TV. She was raised by an unstable cast of foster parents, family, and church members, most of whom failed to embrace and nurture a gender nonconforming kid. The first third of this chronological memoir recaps Brady-Davis’s childhood and adolescence in the Pentecostal faith, growing up in Omaha, NE, in the 1990s. She covers the pain of loving an institution led by people who proclaimed her very existence as sinful. Yet, Brady-Davis perseveres into high school with one foot in the church and one in the performing arts, where she finds a safe place to push boundaries, challenge gender norms, and gain confidence. By the time Brady-Davis leaves Omaha for college, the memoir zigs from the church-heavy narrative to a true coming-of-age arc where she finds a home in the Chicago drag scene, earns a college degree, embraces her sexuality and trans identity, and gets involved in LGBTQIA+ youth activism. The author introduces a sometimes dizzying number of characters in a time line that isn’t strictly linear. For teens who need to know it gets better, this story will assure them it does, as the author concludes the book with tales of a successful career, a fulfilling marriage, and the hope motherhood brings her.
VERDICT A worthy first purchase to ensure shelves are mirroring the spectrum of the human experience.

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