One of These Things First

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Member Reviews

For a first memoir, this book was incredibly honest and compelling. I love books that tell an honest recounting of suicide, depression, and mental facilities.
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This is a memoir about how Steven as a child is sent to a psychiatric hospital fir being gay. This is a dark, sad story, but also an inspiring one.
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I want to start this by saying, I have never read anything by Steven Gaines or even heard of him before. I requested this book solely because I have a fascination with psychiatric hospitals. So I went into this blind. 

This is the memoir of Gaines coming to terms with being gay and what that meant. He ended up in a psychiatric hospital and in years of extensive therapy trying to become straight because that is what was the zeitgeist. Gaines showed signs of OCD, depression, and anxiety. What he was treated for was homosexuality, which I am surprised was not called Inversion once in the book considering the tone the author often had around the word. He was pretty transphobic and awful when it came to Christine Jorgenson. If that had been a pattern, I would have put the book down instead of giving it a chance. Thankfully it was more of a panicked child worried about his place in the world than a hatred or judgement of a transsexual person. 

The end of the book had Gaines voicing his frustration with the gay male communities obsession with promiscuity and sex. His therapist challenged him and said it was because he was still harboring a dislike of gay men. I would like to challenge that and say that it is not a hatred of gay men or an internalized homophobia to want more than just casual sex for your romantic life. Anyone who challenges that in the gay male world tends to be treated poorly or flat out ostracized. So no, Gaines, you are right. There should be more to the community than just sex. It is possible and it should be a goal. 

The story didn't really have that many plot points, it was more of a very gentle story about childhood and identity. I enjoyed the meandering look and the high emotions. It felt realistic, but distant. It was clear that these were not recent wounds.
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Very good coming of age book. I really enjoyed reading this book. Well written and some of the scenarios were very funny, some are sad. I thought he would go more into his sexuality but he did not. I think this would have made a good book even better.Good read, one that makes  you want to be reading when you are doing other things and cannot read at the time. I looked forward to picking up and reading from where I left off. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the ARC of this book in return for my honest review.
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One of These Things First: A Memoir-- is a richly detailed and delightful coming-of-age story that begins in 1962 of the writer as a gay youth. Steven Gaines (1946-) is the author of 12 books, that include the Beatles, Beach Boys, Calvin Klein, and others. As a journalist and radio broadcaster, other topics Gaines wrote about was the NYC scene and celebrity culture.

Today it seems rather unusual that Gaines spent such a large part of his boyhood under the supervision of three salesladies or “harpies” at “Rose’s Bra and Girdle Store” (NYC), where his grandmother worked. By the time he “outgrew” remaining there, he was fearful of the realization he was a “homo”. By this time others had noticed what he desperately attempted to keep hidden, their jokes and comments tormented him and he developed OCD behaviors that included shoplifting/petty thievery.  Terribly confused, he wasn’t at all like Christine Jorgenson who had the sex change operation in Sweden, nor  the weird Michael/Michelle who wore nail polish with girlish mannerisms. He wrote a long letter to Dr. Joyce Brothers asking for her advice.

When his parents sought therapy for him, his doctor advised mental hospitalization. While watching late night TV Gaines saw that Marilyn Monroe had been admitted to Payne Whitney. Gaines wealthy grandfather agreed to pay for his treatment at Payne Whitney if Gaines would agree to get well. Today, it is shocking how little was known about homosexuality which was considered at the time a mental disorder/illness. Dr. Meyer, a Freudian psychoanalyst treated Gaines for over five years. Gaines was enchanted by Dr. Meyer’s strange/odd thoughts as to the origins of his homosexuality, and urged him to stop focusing on boys and think of girls instead. The popular therapeutic culture of that era largely supported that sexual orientation could be changed.  Dr. Meyer would eventually apologize for portions of treatment/misdiagnosis.

Gaines was the youngest patient on the ward, and befriended the famous film director Richard Halliday. As a movie buff, Gaines was excited to talk to Halliday as they pieced together jigsaw puzzles in the dayroom. When Halliday’s famous wife Mary Martin visited, she liked Gaines so much she had the latest novels sent for him to read, influencing him to become a writer. Realizing how many famous individuals had spent time at Payne Whitney helped Gaines to feel  better, which eventually led to acceptance of himself as a gay man. Towards the closing chapter Gaines recalled the changing times, culture, and what happened to the numerous individuals Gaines included in his absorbing fascinating story. Photos included.  
** With thanks and appreciation to Open Road Integrated Media via NetGalley for the direct e-copy for the purpose of review.
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Steven's journey in "One of These Things" is vividly heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. In a world where gay kids carry so much shame, Steven lived through a particularly beautiful moment that proves that grace in this world does exist.
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This was a dark yet funny memoir. Well written and enjoyable.
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