100-Character Breakdown: An engrossing memoir about a gay, Jewish boy in the ‘60s with vibrant characters and settings.
Genre: Memoir, LGBTQ, diverse lit
Publisher: Delphinium Books (August 9, 2016)
In One of These Things First, Steven Gaines reminisces his childhood in 1960’s Brooklyn, his time split between his Jewish family, the bra and girdle store his grandmother owns, and local cinema Culver Theater. His Brooklyn neighborhood is his world, but between struggles at home, the nervous habits he develops, and his worry over his homosexuality, he begins to feel out of place. His suicide attempt results in a doctor suggesting he go to a mental hospital. Thanks to inspiration from Marilyn Monroe and some money from his grandfather, he finds himself in the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in Manhattan. There he meets a young psychiatrist who claims he can cure his homosexuality.
Gaines provides a vivid and engrossing look at his past, using a blend of humorous and heartfelt moments to keep the reader enraptured in his story. This memoir is not just a portrait of Gaines himself, but of the street he grows up on and those who live there, his grandmother’s store and those who work there, and the Payne Whitney and those who occupy it. Each character and setting is full of depth, and Gaines writes them all with just enough detail to bring them to life. The memoir is candid and interesting from the start, but it truly takes off once Gaines begins his time at Payne Whitney, the “Ivy League of psychiatric hospitals.” The characters here range from a Broadway producer to Alessandra, the daughter of a British glue heiress and contessa of Piacenza. With vibrancy in every aspect—from the people to the settings to Gaines’ journey—this is a captivating memoir.