The Poetry of Portugal

As a biographer, I can’t look at anything without wondering about the people behind it. While some might stare at something created hundreds of years ago and see the total picture (no pun intended), just like when I interview clients, I can’t help but delve into the details.

Who laid that tile? Who sanded that stone? Who wrote that poem? Who painted that portrait? What was their life like? Were they young and strong, or older while having to work hard to feed a family?

Portugal is a lovely country, but aside from the food and wine and art of tile underneath our feet, we discovered the music of fado and Saudade and Lisbon’s prolific poet, Fernando Pessoa. Saudade is a kind of melancholy yearning for something that is absent, a feeling that is well represented in Lisbon’s art and poetry, particularly that of Pessoa.

‘The best way to travel is to feel’ Pessoa wrote, ‘so feel everything in every possible way.’ And so it is that we have traveled a long way to admire this sculpture of Pessoa by Lagoa Henriques.

One fact about Fernando Pessoa is that he created more than 70 heteronyms, which is akin to a pen name but is “an author writing out of his own personality”, according to the Poetry Society of America. Just imagine trying to keep track of 70 different writers, personalities, histories, and writing styles!

Another interesting find in Lisbon was the oldest bookstore in the WORLD, the Livraria Bertrand. For a word nerd like me, walking through this place was sheer heaven: books + poetry + history!

Carpe all the Diems in Spain

My husband Allen and I had planned a trip to Europe in 2020, to depart on March 23 on to Italy. I meticulously planned our itinerary, keeping an eye on the news. My concern grew, until thankfully, the cruise was canceled two days before departure. We didn’t anticipate the pandemic becoming what it is and figured it would soon end——definitely not the case.

Two years later, we are excited to visit Europe now, exploring in the mornings and working in the afternoons. Since my goal is to keep these blog posts rather short, I can summarize our days by saying we’re humbled by the age of what we experience… the buildings, art, streets, places of worship.

Spending a night in Cuenca, Spain (home of the “hanging houses), we discovered an exhibition called “The Comedy of Art” by Pablo Helguera at the fabulous Museo de Arte Abstracto Español. We appreciated Helguera’s sense of humor, and how it ties together our experiences with the old works with our current times.

While there’s so much to see and do when exploring new cities and countries, for me, it always comes back to the importance of telling stories and passing along our heritage. Already on my travels, I’m doing my best to find those stories, but it’s easy to see that so many go untold.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Recently, I was asked to be a Zoom guest speaker for a book club that had just finished reading my first memoir, Overlay: One Girl’s Life in 1970s Las Vegas. It’s hard to believe — and extremely flattering — that ten years after publication, my personal story is still gaining traction.

I can still feel those moments when I shared the stories I’d never told anyone before. It was terriberating – at once both terrifying and liberating to set the details free.

Once the stories were shared on the page, I too was free. Free from the pinch. Free from constricted trauma in my chest. Free from the inner chatter of who and what I was.

Then I was free from the old me who identified with those stories.

This week finds me in Puerto Vallarta. When I called my mom to wish her a happy 92nd birthday, she reminded me that we’d spent time here when I was a kid. “Remember the glass bottom boat? You loved watching all the marine life at the bottom of the ocean!”

Despite her advanced age, Mom’s memory is fully intact. And yes, I do actually remember five decades back to my time spent staring through the glass at the fish below the boat.

“You ran all over that beach in your sombrero. The Mexican people were all taking pictures of you. They really loved you!”

I happened to have an old photo saved on my iPhone, and pulled up my albums to search. Sure enough, it wasn’t Mazatlan or Acapulco or any of the other Mexican destinations my parents loved to frequent in the 1960s. It was Puerto Vallarta, the same ground under my feet.

The power of memory is endlessly fascinating to me. We won’t all have a 92-year-old mother who never forgets a thing. There’s no way to know where we will fall on the spectrum until it could be too late.

At Birthright Books, we’ve been fortunate enough to help folks retain their family history. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to write your story, or whether to gift this experience to a loved one on your list, reach out today. We have writers of all skills and price levels who will love to work with you.

Puerto Vallarta, 1968.



Another Wonderful Review of Logan Lee’s Small Town Gay

Taken from ::

Logan Lee’s travel-journal-turned-memoir recounts the author’s formative years as a queer Kentuckian. Lee’s authorial voice reads smooth and warm, like an afternoon visit from a good friend. This personal tone serves his twofold goal for the book: offering a “guidebook” for young people on similar journeys of discovery, and to “serve as a resource” for their loved ones who may not understand.

Purchase here: Small Town Gay: Growing Up Different in the South

A chronicle of stories from childhood to present, Small Town Gay revels in the details of life in the fictitious town of Mercer, KY — and the joy of Lee’s work really is in these details. From pranks endured at the hands of big sister Leanne, through grade-school friends and early-adult lovers, Small Town Gay creates an intimate time-warp of memories. We follow Lee’s growth through his own eyes, as the subject acting out these memories and the voice describing them constantly approach convergence.

Throughout the book’s 20-odd-year span, we greet and pass by a battalion of women: family members, teachers, friends, girlfriends, mentors. The male figures of Lee’s memory are his father and fellow queer men. Straight men are largely represented as forbidden fruit (the “eye candy” at an eighth-grade dance) or antagonists (the throng of horny Toms and Brians in the middle school cafeteria, the “popular boys” at the talent show). These gender dynamics — codified by ideas of compulsory heterosexuality — set the stage for several emotional queer breakthroughs toward the novel’s end.

As a fairly young queer — with close to a decade between me and my own coming-out — I’m far enough away to forget some of the emotional agony of living that lie-by-omission, but close enough that Lee’s clammy hands and half-hearted bisexuality feels very close to home. The topic of coming out is the narrative spine of the book. Though each discrete moment has a definite topic of its own, Small Town Gay is full of smaller comings-out that undergird the climactic parental confessions (often considered The coming out). Lee is called a faggot by boys at lunch, a trauma that drives him to cross the gender-segregated middle school cafeteria and sit with his female friends. Lee’s “last girlfriend” Chloe Evans very obviously wanted to kiss during a movie, but he gives very little ground and the moment dies. A nice girl asks Lee to dance; he agrees, but wonders if people “could tell that [he] was gay and faking it.” These small comings-out illustrate the role of sexuality in American culture — taboo, yet intrinsic to so many interactions heterosexuals might take for granted.

All in all, Logan Lee’s Small Town Gay is a touching and enjoyable read. With accessible prose and relentless positivity, Lee’s work is well positioned to illuminate the experience of queer Kentuckians far and wide.

Birthright Books sponsors Jewels book signing event

Jewels’ book signing event was held in Dallas on September 26, 2021. She spoke before a thrilled crowd of readers at The Henry. Attendees enjoyed a fabulous video put together by Media Stream Marketing and a delicious spread of hors d’oeuvres.

Jewels autographed her book for a line of readers. She says, “My goal in sharing my life is to help others distinguish the difference between man-made constructs and the Source that drives everything. Even if society grinds down the spirit, we honor ourselves by pursuing our highest good. That’s on us to do.

The divine force that connects us all is unseen, yet Source can be powerfully experienced by the senses. By shutting down outside disturbances and going inward, you can connect. In mediation, you can listen. Allow yourself to be pulled into something greater instead of pushing to the limit.”

If you don’t already have a copy of Jewels’ award-winning debut novel, The Making of a Woman, pick one up here.

We at Birthright Books were thrilled to sponsor this exciting event!