About My Life and the Kept Woman

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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 ...

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About My Life and the Kept Woman: A Memoir

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Juliet Wittman
Unfocused at first, his memoir flashes into life when he begins describing his own years as a street hustler…The writing in this book sometimes feels a little dated, but Rechy tells a good and occasionally insightful story.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

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. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Rechy, whose first novel, City of Men(1963), exposed and poeticized the underworld of the gay hustler, here offers us his lyrical yet ferociously naturalistic autobiography. He writes of growing up a poor Mexican American in 1930s El Paso, TX, acknowledges the teachers and friends who encouraged him to expand his horizons, and tells of early sexual encounters that troubled him. His nascent intellectual life was interrupted by the Korean War draft, and it was as a miserable GI in Europe that he came to terms with his sexual orientation. On his return to civilian life in 1953, he spent the 1950s and 1960s in New York, El Paso, Los Angeles, and San Francisco tormented by his obsessive need to hustle for both money and excitement. 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. For specialized and adult collections, due to some explicit content. (Photos not seen.) [Rechy is the first novelist to receive PEN-USA West's Lifetime Achievement Award.-Ed.]
—Shelley Cox

School Library Journal

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. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A small-town lad's awakening, sexual and intellectual-which takes him to big-city demimondes and books that begged, in their day, to be banned. An autobiographical memoir? Rechy may be thinking of Kenneth Rexroth's "autobiographical novel," or perhaps recent memoirs that turn out to be fictions and fictions that turn out to be memoirs. (Before the story begins, the author notes, "This is not what happened; it is what is remembered. Its sequence is the sequence of recollection.") Of mixed Scottish and Mexican descent, Rechy grew up in 1940s Texas, where the ethnic combination would mean segregation. But he was always taken for white, which got him in the good high school and even landed him a steamy encounter with his journalism teacher. Rechy's good fortunes would not be met by his more obviously Hispanic kin: "Although other families in El Paso had struggled out of extreme poverty to moderate poverty during the war," he writes, "ours seemed entrenched." With few prospects and another war to fight, Rechy found himself in the army, where, improbably, he met among his fellow soldiers writers, directors, producers and publishers who encouraged his writing and, in some instances, his newly discovered homosexuality and the soul-searching it occasioned ("I'm not queer, man, I'm straight"). A soft job as an aide to a colonel anxiously awaiting advancement-"My main function was to report to him weekly, from an issued list, how many other high colonels were ahead of him to be promoted to generals"-took Rechy to Europe, where he acquired a touch more sophistication. A return to civilian life took him home, where, in the government housing where his mother lived, he wrote City of Night, a hallmarkof beat-era and gay literature. Keenly observed and well-written-readers will hope that a sequel is forthcoming. Agent: Georges Borchardt/Georges Borchardt Inc.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802118615
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/21/2008
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 9, 2011

    One of his best books!

    After reading all of his books, I can confidently say that this is one of Rechy's best! It draws together the different themes and experiences seen in many of his earlier books artfully and concisely, and the ending is inspiring.

    Rechy's life is fascinating-- first a young man growing up in El Paso, TX, he became a hustler in New York, New Orleans, and LA and wrote about it. Eventually he taught writing classes, and slowly stopped hustling/cruising. He is now a respected author and teacher (USC), and his books range from the classic City of Night to complex novels about youth and sexuality (of all types) in Bodies and Souls, to the mystery book-like Marilyn's Daughter.

    More than a victim of sexual abuse, Rechy is a survivor, and he is not ashamed of who he is.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2011

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