Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels

Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels

4.5 2
by Justin Vivian Bond

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"Like Bond, the memoir is droll, pensive and filled with zingers teetering between funny and ferocious."—The New York Times

"Bond's fabulosity is matched by a trenchant wit, and [V's] over-the-top stories are smartly edged with politics, sexual or otherwise."—The New York Times


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"Like Bond, the memoir is droll, pensive and filled with zingers teetering between funny and ferocious."—The New York Times

"Bond's fabulosity is matched by a trenchant wit, and [V's] over-the-top stories are smartly edged with politics, sexual or otherwise."—The New York Times

Recently hailed as "the greatest cabaret artist of [V's] generation" in The New Yorker, Mx. Justin Vivian Bond makes a brilliant literary debut with this staggeringly candid and hilarious novella-length memoir.

With a recent diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, and news that V's first lover from childhood has been imprisoned for impersonating an undercover police officer, Bond recalls in vivid detail coming of age as a trans kid. Always haunted by the knowledge of being "different," Bond was further confused when the bully next door wanted to meet secretly. Their trysts went on for years, and made Bond acutely aware of sexual power and vulnerability. With inimitable style, Bond raises issues about LGBTQ adolescence, homophobia, parenting, and sexuality, while being utterly entertaining.

Singer, songwriter, and Tony-nominated performance artist Mx. Justin Vivian Bond is an Obie, Bessie, and Ethyl Eichelberger Award winner. As one half of the performance duo Kiki and Herb, Bond has toured the world, headlining at Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, and starring in a Tony nominated run on Broadway, Kiki and Herb Alive on Broadway. Film credits include a role in John Cameron Mitchell's feature Shortbus. Bond has recently released two records, Dendrophile, and Silver Wells.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The author's fans know Bond better as Kiki, the all-talking all-singing, rage-and-booze-fueled half of Kiki and Herb—downtown cabaret sensations who recently starred in the Tony-nominated Kiki and Herb on Broadway. Kiki isn't Bond, of course, but her fans will not be shocked to find that Bond's childhood—though it didn't include an orphanage like the one where Kiki and Herb met—wasn't all roses and fun. Featuring a long-term secret affair with the neighborhood bully and parents who seemed to wish they'd had a different child, Bond's childhood was spent longing to be understood, loved, and allowed to wear lipstick. Though it's impossible not to sympathize, Bond is given to stating the obvious. Despite how voice-driven (in every sense of the word) Kiki and Herb were, the book's voice feels muted and not particularly individual. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“Thank you, Justin, for your courage in writing the truth of what you went through as a transgender child in this society. Thank you, also, for your sense of humor. This book is very important, and fun to read as well.”
—Yoko Ono

"Tango is a raw nerve touching an electric soul, a beautiful book, written with honesty, pain, and joy from one of our great modern day shamans."
—Sandra Bernhard

"Justin Vivian Bond is a lightning rod, a solid steel structure in heels that attracts burning chaos and disciplines it into orderly submission. Am I allowed to say that Justin is God?”
—Rufus Wainwright

"Tango should be in the hands of every child who can read, and of every adult who cares about that child."
—Michael Warner, author of The Trouble with Normal

“Reading Tango is like listening to your favorite eccentric cousin or auntie tell you hair-raising tales of innocence lost and found, friendships forged of adversity, and bullies bewildered by their own perversity. Justin spins a one-of-a-kind story that you won't be able to put down.”
—Kate Bornstein, author of Gender Outlaw

“When I say Justin Vivian Bond is a true original, what I mean is, Justin doesn’t resemble anyone else on the face of the planet. When I say Justin Bond is touched by genius, I mean exactly that.”
—Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours

Library Journal
Here's proof that the avant-garde is alive and well and—astonishingly—still found in New York's East Village. In this short memoir, Tony Award-nominated performance artist Bond (who stipulates the pronoun "v" and the possessive "vs") traces vs vibrant backstory as half of the drag lounge duo Kiki and Herb, recounting also vs rocky experiences growing up as a transgender child. Offering, among other memories, an all-too-common account of the bully who sought out secret assignations, Bond's memoir is anything but a common one. With equal parts moxie and charm, v reveals both the difficulty and delights of queer youth. VERDICT Yet another triumphant performance from the "witty, kitten-heeled fixture of the New York" scene who has traveled the world entertaining sold-out crowds. This memoir is not only for parents of LGBTQ children but for all cultured adults who want to touch up their political appreciation with these original recollections of a lively raconteur.—Elizabeth Kennedy, Richmond, CA
Kirkus Reviews

A brief yet remarkably candid memoir of growing up different, by a world-renowned cabaret performer and transgender advocate.

Prompted to recall his childhood after learning of his neighbor and longtime tormentor's arrest for impersonating a police officer, Bond remembers in vivid detail his unusual adolescence, including the peculiar relationship he formed with the now-jailed local bully. Living in suburban Maryland in the '70s, the author obsessed over Rita Hayworth and other stars of her time, danced like Ginger Rogers and enjoyed wearing lipstick out in public, all of which continued despite his parents' best attempts to "straighten" him out, including wallpapering his bedroom with a cowboys and Indians theme, to Bond's despair. Throughout this time, he hid a deep secret: a years-long, often abusive sexual relationship with Hunter, a popular, older boy who tantalized, humiliated and even threatened him. Beginning at age 11 on a boy scouts camping trip, Bond and Hunter had sex in pools, snow forts and tree houses. Accused by Hunter's mother of "using" her son for his pool, Bond remembered the sexual favors he would perform with Hunter for the opportunity to enjoy the pool. Outside of their physical encounters, Hunter either ignored Bond or harassed him, calling him a "fag" and spreading ugly rumors at school. Generally friendless except for a girl, who later took an overdose of pills, Bond's situation gradually improved in high school—he got his first car, decorated his room according to his tastes and even dated a girl. He finally broke it off with Hunter, threatening to out the older boy if he continued to demand sex.

Poignant and funny, Bond offers insight into the childhood and mindset of gay and transgender individuals, but the graphic depictions of sex between young boys may frighten some readers.

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Product Details

Feminist Press at CUNY, The
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
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Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.40(d)

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Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
dayzd89 More than 1 year ago
I love this book! It's a pretty short memoir but Justin Vivian Bond writes so eloquently and powerfully, I am completely enraptured by the writing. I think V's strength and resilience is clearly expressed in this memoir. I couldn't get enough of V's story. Mx. Justin Vivian Bond is branded as overly emotional by those in the family, which is something I can definitely relate to as well. I think Justin is very brave to write about the complex relationship with Michael and the slow path to self confidence and acceptance. There are so many people who don't achieve that, unfortunately. Yet V surpasses these obstacles. I love how funny V is. I love how honest and bare V is in the most ugly and complicated moments. This is what a great memoir is all about. I hope there are much more books to come. 5/5 stars all the way.
Dr_Wilson_Trivino More than 1 year ago
Atlanta, Georgia- Singer, songwriter, and Tony-nominated performer Mx. Justin Vivian Bond* literally lets it all hang out in her book Tango: My Childhood, Backwards, and in High Heels. The story delves to back to Mx. Bond's youth and her first sexual experiences and her continuous attempts in trying to fit in. In a time when sexual identity boundaries were stringent, Tango holds nothing back as this coming of age story exposes all. The title is a bit misleading; I originally thought it dealt with Tango dancing. However it does delve into the delicate dance that one has to take if you don't quite fit into society's standard shoes. The dialogue is funny, touching, and raw as you peek into the life of this great American performer. Overall, this book reaffirms that regardless of what we are on the outside, we are all the same on the inside. *Mx. / V is the preferable prefix in referring to Justin Vivian