I've missed gushing about my favorite books! So many wonderful stories out there, so many fabulous authors and so many delicious, unforgettable characters!
In trying to get back into the groove of sharing and bubbling over about the stories that have touched me, made me cry, made me laugh, made me mad, made me love, I'm sharing a short story with you today.
I just finished a beautiful, poignant, sticks-with-you-long-after-you-read-it book by author T. A. (Tom) Webb, LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOY.
Auntie Social is the biggest, baddest drag queen in Atlanta—she knows what she wants and she gets it. She’s tough, merciless, and top dog. That’s what Paul Stewart, reporter for the Journal, had heard, and all he expects when he’s assigned to interview the legend.. But nobody really knows the person behind the make-up.
What if…what if the person behind the sarcasm and music was more than just a man in a dress? What happened in his life that, thirty years later, made him a successful CEO, a philanthropist, and a legend in the gay community? Thirty years and almost a million dollars raised for people living with HIV/AIDs, yet still no one knows the real story.
Until one night, one man breaks through the shell, and Matthew Trammell—Auntie Social—opens the door he closed many years ago and lets his secrets spill out.
Pain is like rain, it covers your skin and soaks in bone-deep, but it eventually recedes and allows fresh things to grow.
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Where to start?
Auntie Social, that was his name. The blurb says it all. Drag Queen, but as he says, he's not your mama's drag queen. He's burly, big, sexy, virile, hairy legs and all, and I loved him. I just pure-d loved him.
The premise of the story (no plot does Zampa tell, remember) is an interview by journalist Paul Stewart of the legendary Atlanta drag queen, Matthew Trammell, aka Auntie Social.
Digging deeper, past the surface of Matthew's story, Paul presses for the heart of Auntie Social, for the soul of the man instead of the usual newsie type stories the public knows.
And Paul gets that story. And we get that story through Paul.
And if you had not already fallen for Matthew right from the start (I did), he will have owned your heart by the end of his story.
This is a story about AIDS. It's Matthew's story about the intrusion of AIDS into his own life, how the devastating disease touched him deeply and personally by way of infecting someone he loved dearly.
I'll admit I hesitate for a long time to read this. The author knew it, too, I was honest and told him I was afraid it would hurt my heart. Hey, how could it not? It was about AIDS, after all.
And it did hurt my heart. In a beautiful way, though. In a tender, gentle delivery that is trademark of Tom Webb. The trademark of a man who has worked in the community in many facets and knows the disease---it's statistics, its destruction but also the powerful love it can draw from those affected and those who love them.
Oddly, one of the elements of the story that hit me hardest was that sick-in-the-gut moment when Matthew recounts how the man he loved told him about a mistake he'd made in a bar. How he had sex with a man without protection. How he noticed, when it was too late, a lesion on the man's skin.
That blood-draining-from-your-head flash that I felt I was actually living through Webb's telling. That scene is still so strong in my mind. I still shiver thinking about it. None of us have NOT experienced some sort of horrific dread upon realizing we've made a terrible mistake. Or that ungodly awful meeting, face-to-face, with our own mortality.
Mr. Webb presented a powerful image with his prose of the fear, the regret, the resignation, the decisions. The losing of a loved one and what we as individuals do once that body---never the soul, though, and never the memory---is gone.
The beautiful, beautiful thing about this story is how Auntie Social used his inner strength, his love and his precious memories to stare AIDS down and campaign in his own special way to offer aid to those affected by the disease.
Tom Webb somehow, wonderfully, turned this into a story of triumph, not defeat. A tale of love and faithfulness, not loss. I cried, I knew I would. But I cried because I loved Auntie Social. I loved his strength, his tender heart.
And the urn on Matthew's dressing table. I cried about that. Again, not from sadness but just the beauty of it, the tender love.
Oh. And there's a nice surprise at the end. I cried about that, too. Then I smiled. And I'm still smiling.