Along the way to reading this book, I joined a book club.
I had been trying (well, “trying,” I kept getting distracted by other things) to read Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal for a few weeks without luck, never getting past page two. Then I told myself I had to read Winterson’s classic semi-autobiographical novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit before I could read her actual memoir. Some time went by, I bought the Oranges e-book, read it, and didn’t particularly care for it, so I went back to ignoring the memoir. A few months later I received an email from a local organization that happens to also run a queer book club and lo and behold, their title for September was Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
I’d never been to a book club meeting before, although I’ve always been really interested. The best thing about this particular book club is that they specifically focus on LGBTQ titles, which, as you may have noticed, is a specialty of mine.
I’m so incredibly thankful that my new book club chose Winterson’s memoir because despite my reservations about Oranges and how long it took me to delve into Why Be Happy, it ended up being one of my favorite reads of the year.
It’s a book that I could just quote over and over again:
Books, for me, are a home. Books don’t make a home–they are one, in the sense that just as you do with a door, you open a book, and you go inside. Inside there is a different kind of time and a different kind of space.
There is warmth there too–a hearth. I sit down with a book and I am warm. (614/2245, Kindle edition)
Black is all the colours and Shakespeare is all the alphabet (1137/2245, Kindle edition)
Reading yourself as a fiction as well as a fact is the only way to keep the narrative open–the only way to stop the story running away under its own momentum, often towards an ending no one wants. (1171/2245, Kindle edition)
For anyone who was affected by Oranges, it’s fascinating to read about what “really happened” and how it was actually much worse. For anyone who loves books, it’s heart-warming to be reminded how important books can be to someone who is otherwise all alone. For anyone who has ever looked for love and worried they weren’t strong enough for it, or for anyone who continues that endless search for home, there is so much in this memoir to love and think over.
Recommended: To anyone who has ever found an escape in literature.