cover image About My Life and the Kept Woman

About My Life and the Kept Woman

John Rechy, . . Grove, $24 (356pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1861-5

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.)