Categories: Book Review

BookwormSez: ‘Would You Rather? A Memoir of Growing Up and Coming Out’

“Would You Rather? A Memoir of Growing Up and Coming Out” by Katie Heaney
c.2018, Ballantine Books,
$16
256 pages

You’re late!

Oops, you overslept, got caught in traffic, the elevator was slow. Phone lines were down; email was down. You forgot, and you’re late, sorry. Or, as in the new book Would You Rather? by Katie Heaney, your understanding was just a bit delayed.

Where do you go when you’re looking for love?

For Heaney, it was, well, pretty much anywhere. She’d always wanted a boyfriend, and she’d had a lot of crushes in her life, but she was never meaningfully kissed. At age 21, she went to Madrid for a semester with the hopes of meeting someone, but there were only seven men in the group of a hundred students.

In Spain, though, after binge-streaming The L Word and falling for Shane, she began to think that maybe she’s a lesbian. Musing, she messaged her best friend, who let Heaney talk it out and decide that there was a big MAYBE involved.

Even so, she never saw herself with a girlfriend.

She grew up in the cold of Minnesota, had planned on spending the rest of her life close to home, and moved into an apartment near Minneapolis with her straight best friend, but that was too cozy-comfy. Heaney on-and-off flirted with the possibility of being gay, and she met a woman who was, no question, lesbian, which made her decide to shake herself out of complacency. She visited New York and then moved there.

Being in The Big Apple was a big deal, but Heaney remained frustratingly dateless. By age 24, everyone she knew had dated, and she began blogging about it; she wrote a book and noticed that that affected the way men acted toward her. Four years later, her “attraction to men was just … gone,” and picturing herself with a woman came “pretty easily,” which was all it seemed to take: shortly after that, Heaney met Lydia online, and her almost-30-year dating desert became an oasis. She not only imagined herself with a woman, she was with a woman, and nothing felt more right.

And now, says Heaney, “I am living with the best roommate I have ever had.”

Sometimes funny, sometimes self-depreciatingly cringe-worthy, Would You Rather? is a refreshing change over the I’ve-known-since-I-was-a-child LGBTQ memoirs. Readers may also notice that it’s a bit overboard.

Heaney writes of her journey with a charming awkwardness that endears her to any reader who’s ever felt as though the different drummer they’re marching to is actually playing the bongos: same beat, different crowd. This book will resonate with all who feel left behind in a world where peers are hooked up solid, and frustration mixes with indecisiveness and with self-questioning. Once readers have gotten to the happy not-quite-ending, though, Heaney continues to examine her situation which, while it doesn’t completely ruin the book’s earlier allure, somewhat bruises the story.

Still, this book is worthy, if nothing but for its unique coming-out POV. For that, Would You Rather? fits perfectly for memoir-lovers, Heaney fans, and those who bloom late.

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Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terri Schlichenmeyer, Book Review Columnist, has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She has worked with more than 200 newspapers and nearly 50 magazines scattered in 46 states, the Virgin Islands and six provinces of Canada. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.

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