Queer women have flocked to the umbrella genre of autobiography/memoir in recent years. Every Tuesday when freshly printed books hit stores, it seems there’s yet another autobiography by a queer-identified woman—Jane Lynch, Ellen DeGeneres, Jeanette Winterson, Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, Kate Bornstein, Beth Ditto, and Sarah Schulman are just a handful of queer figures who have written autobio-memoirs in the past two years.
So when Stephanie Schroeder, a local Brooklyn queer writer, asked me to review her memoir, I robotically said “yes” and assumed it would become another block in the books-to-be-reviewed tower that has been in the process of being erected at the Fatttums Snaggletooth Ranch in Bushwick for months now. So many books, many of which are crap, piled one on top of the other. Fran Liebowitz is right ("never fair, always right"). Not everyone should write books, regardless of the urge to do so: “There are too many books, the books are terrible, and it’s because you have been taught to have self-esteem.”
The initial reaction had nothing to do with Stephanie herself, who I think is completely lovely, as is her girlfriend, writer and director (and star of Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same) Lisa Haas; in fact, my “yes” was in large part due to the respect I have for her.
The book arrived and sat on the kitchen table for a few weeks. But then, earlier this week, I decided that its slimness of 140 pages was attractive enough to include in my overfull shoulder bag on my way to work. Tired of grading papers, I thought it would be a perfect time to gloss over Steph’s book, assuming that it very well could be another book cast off as a block in the Snaggletooth Tower, never to be reviewed.
Funny thing: once I started reading this book, I could not put it down.
I finished it in one evening.
I read a lot of freakin’ books; I teach a research-intensive course on “Autobiography & Memoir.” I know books, and I know this specific genre of literature very well.
Beautiful Wreck was one of the most compelling, smoothly written books I’ve read this year. And it is arguably one of the better queer autobio-memoirs out there. Period.
There are generally a handful of kinds of autobiography/memoir: the kind used as a political manifesto (Schulman’s Israel/Palestine); the kind used as a self-care manual (those which