cover image Fairest: A Memoir

Fairest: A Memoir

Meredith Talusan. Viking, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-56130-9

Talusan, a founding executive editor of Them, Condé Nast’s LGBTQ online magazine, who was born as an albino boy in the Philippines, relays her “journey across gender” in an assured debut memoir with a cinematic flair. Talusan discusses growing up as a blond-haired oddity with “weak eyes” in the Philippines in the 1970s and ’80s, and of feeling shame for liking boys. She writes with distance about her “derelict” parents—father was absent, mother was a gambler—who in 1990 brought her to the U.S., where “white people thought I was white” and where it was “to my benefit to seem white too.” Talusan attended Harvard, where she came out as gay and began exploring drag and her desire to transition. She addresses her sex life, including going to a bathhouse and hooking up with men through personal ads, and talks heartbreakingly of being in a relationship with someone who loved her as a man but not as a woman. Talusan had gender reassignment surgery in Thailand in 2002, but the narrative jumps over the procedure itself; rather, it’s about the process of coming into one’s own and of gaining “freedom of expression” through gender transition. This elegant memoir examining whiteness, womanhood, and the shaping of identity will resonate with readers of any community, LGBTQ or not. (May)