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Brave Face: A Memoir

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Critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants—described as having “hints of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five” (School Library Journal)—opens up about what led to an attempted suicide in his teens, and his path back from the experience. “I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.” Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabul Critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants—described as having “hints of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five” (School Library Journal)—opens up about what led to an attempted suicide in his teens, and his path back from the experience. “I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.” Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him. A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality. Thankfully Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge, and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.


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Critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants—described as having “hints of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five” (School Library Journal)—opens up about what led to an attempted suicide in his teens, and his path back from the experience. “I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.” Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabul Critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants—described as having “hints of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five” (School Library Journal)—opens up about what led to an attempted suicide in his teens, and his path back from the experience. “I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.” Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him. A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality. Thankfully Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge, and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.

30 review for Brave Face: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kai Spellmeier

    "Coming out is, far too often, more about the person we're coming out to than it is about us. Not only do we have to expose this part of ourselves we've got hidden, but we have to shepherd the person we're telling through and be careful not to hurt their feelings." Let me just say that I'm in awe of all the groundbreaking books that are being released this year. They brave and empowering, inclusive and honest, and Brave Face is no exception. If you have no idea who Shaun David Hutchinson is, well. "Coming out is, far too often, more about the person we're coming out to than it is about us. Not only do we have to expose this part of ourselves we've got hidden, but we have to shepherd the person we're telling through and be careful not to hurt their feelings." Let me just say that I'm in awe of all the groundbreaking books that are being released this year. They brave and empowering, inclusive and honest, and Brave Face is no exception. If you have no idea who Shaun David Hutchinson is, well... He is doing a fantastic job of writing the most astonishing books with lots of queer teens and a strong focus on mental health and depression. Brave Face is his memoir, where he talks about growing up as a queer kid in the 80's and 90's. It's both weird and cool to get to know someone whose books you've read and loved for a long time. I would love for this book to garner more widespread attention, seeing that it openly talks about how Shaun struggled with internalised homophobia - among other things - to a point where he suffered from depression and made an attempt to take his life because he couldn't fathom a happy, good life as a gay man. All he had in his teenage years were toxic, inaccurate and homophobic depictions of gay people - in the news as well as in films. I'm glad that we are getting to a point where queer teens see themselves represented in so many different aspects of life, ensuring that they have a healthy understanding of who they are, what they can achieve, and that their sexuality or identity doesn't make them less worthy of love and happiness. But just a few years ago things looked very different and there is still a long way to go. Anyway, this book might pave the way for a future that is less filled with hate instead of hope. I'm convinced that many teens and adults might find that they weren't - aren't - alone, that life is worth living even if it sucks like hell sometimes. Shaun talking about his depression and his struggle will lend hope to many readers by making them feel seen and understood. I sure did. There's another quote that resonated with me - like the one above. Shaun just manages to put something into words that I have always know and felt, but was never able to describe: "But like I said before, sometimes coming out is not about us. It's not fair that we have to carry the emotional burden of sharing our secret and making sure the person we're coming out to is okay, but we make concessions for the people we care about." And with that, all I have left to say is: Find more of my books on Instagram

  2. 4 out of 5

    Larry H

    Shaun David Hutchinson is one of my favorite YA authors. His books—particularly We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe —are full of emotion, pain, love, and, ultimately, hope. I've always wondered how a writer can plumb such difficult emotional depths, and after reading Hutchinson's new memoir, Brave Face , I understand that he has traveled those depths, and only now has the perspective to reflect upon them. The teenage years are difficult for many to navigate emotionally. When Shaun David Hutchinson is one of my favorite YA authors. His books—particularly We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe —are full of emotion, pain, love, and, ultimately, hope. I've always wondered how a writer can plumb such difficult emotional depths, and after reading Hutchinson's new memoir, Brave Face , I understand that he has traveled those depths, and only now has the perspective to reflect upon them. The teenage years are difficult for many to navigate emotionally. When Hutchinson realized, after a number of years of dating various female classmates, that he was gay, he didn't know how to handle it. His views, and what he believed were society's views of gay people, were the stereotypically flamboyant and fussy characters he saw in movies and on television, and he worried that if he acknowledged his sexuality, he'd doom himself to a life of tawdry sex and drugs and, ultimately, death from AIDS. As if this self-loathing wasn't enough, Hutchinson simultaneously wanted to find people like him and wanted nothing to do with other gay people, for fear that he'd open himself up to the threat of violence, or worse, AIDS. But in the midst of this difficult period of depression, he realized that writing was cathartic, although he didn't necessarily think he had any writing talent. Brave Face is a difficult book to read because of Hutchinson's extreme depression and self-loathing, especially because he didn't understand why he felt the way he did. He used cutting and burning, and sometimes punching a file cabinet, to help alleviate some of the emotional pressure, but he never felt truly better. Even meeting other gay men didn't seem to work, because he didn't believe he was worthy of being loved, so he pushed away those who really cared about him and instead wound up with people who hurt him and his self-worth even more. As difficult as this book is to read, however, it is an important one. I definitely recognized glimpses of myself at that period of my life while reading this book, and although I didn't experience the lows that Hutchinson did, there definitely were times I felt truly alone and unworthy, and wondered what the point of continuing to live truly was. Luckily, I had a stronger support network of friends who were able to lift me up, but it was still a difficult time. "I'd begun to realize that my fear of being gay and my depression were two separate issues. I wasn't depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and I was gay. Being gay doesn't make a person depressed any more than being depressed makes a person gay. My self-hate was caused by my complete misunderstanding of myself and what being gay meant. My depression simply used it as a way to beat me down." One of the messages that many in the LGBTQ community have shared over the last 10 years or so is "It Gets Better." While some have criticized that as an easy cop-out, because it may get harder before it gets better, and sometimes being told it gets better while you're at your lowest actually makes you feel worse. Hutchinson acknowledges that difficulty—sometimes it gets worse and it gets better. But it can get better. "The problem had never been that I didn't know who I was; it was that I'd assumed who I was wasn't good enough. But he was. I was. And you are too." I loved this book and hope it finds its way into the hands of those who need it. Even years after those struggles I still need to hear some of the things Hutchinson had to say, and his voice is as powerful in his memoir as it is in his novels. He acknowledges that it was difficult to write this book at times, but I'm so glad he did, because we needed to hear his words, see his experiences and his emotions through the filter of our own lives. Perhaps this book will help some realize that when they feel most alone, that no one understands them, someone does. See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com. Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html. You can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook... narrated by the author: Shaun David Hutchinson... FANTASTIC AUDIOBOOK! Listening to Shaun David Hutchinson read his memoir, was a warm intimate experience. I felt like I was listening to a close friend, somebody I loved. I still treasure meeting Shaun a few years ago.... the very popular young - (greatly deserved) - adult novelist. ....emotional beautiful memoir - capturing the essence of the joys and pain of growing up in the 80’s and 90’s ...dealing with depression, self identity, Audiobook... narrated by the author: Shaun David Hutchinson... FANTASTIC AUDIOBOOK! Listening to Shaun David Hutchinson read his memoir, was a warm intimate experience. I felt like I was listening to a close friend, somebody I loved. I still treasure meeting Shaun a few years ago.... the very popular young - (greatly deserved) - adult novelist. ....emotional beautiful memoir - capturing the essence of the joys and pain of growing up in the 80’s and 90’s ...dealing with depression, self identity, worthiness, searching for love and much more!!! Shaun’s voice is so easy to be with. The Audiobook is an expanded treat to the words he wrote. .....a huge gift to teens and young adults - (67 year old married women too), who have experienced depression, thoughts of suicide, challenges with coming out as a gay person - fitting in - - finding one’s own voice -and being ‘ok’ with oneself is enough!!! Sensitive topics - trigger warnings included at the beginning of the book. Many thanks for Larry’s outstanding - beautifully expressed - review here on Goodreads!!!! Many thanks to Shaun David Hutchinson!!! Thanks for being brutally honest - and Brave!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    January 25th, 2019: Wowowowowowwowowowow is this book important. It was pretty surreal reading so in depth about Shaun's life considering he's my favorite author of all time and I can now consider him a friend. I always have a hard time reviewing memoirs because it's someone's life, but I will say that while it is an important read, it could also me incredibly triggering. I plan to mark in this review where the specific things are mentioned in the book, soon, but just know that this goes into gre January 25th, 2019: Wowowowowowwowowowow is this book important. It was pretty surreal reading so in depth about Shaun's life considering he's my favorite author of all time and I can now consider him a friend. I always have a hard time reviewing memoirs because it's someone's life, but I will say that while it is an important read, it could also me incredibly triggering. I plan to mark in this review where the specific things are mentioned in the book, soon, but just know that this goes into great detail about suicide, depression, self harm, anxiety, and queerphobia. *There is no rating because I always feel odd about rating memoirs. Just know that I really enjoyed this. March 20th, 2018: I had the absolute pleasure of announcing this book (which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-ZIb...) so of course i can't wait till everyone can read it!!

  5. 5 out of 5

    anna (½ of readsrainbow)

    it feels utterly ridiculous to rate a memoir but still, i'm just really grateful to shaun for being brave enough to share his story with us. we need it. lgbt youth growing up & figuring themselves out need it. it feels utterly ridiculous to rate a memoir but still, i'm just really grateful to shaun for being brave enough to share his story with us. we need it. lgbt youth growing up & figuring themselves out need it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    R.K. Gold

    What an incredible memoir

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sam Miller

    So. F*cking. Good.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Reading this was like a punch in the gut. I couldn’t read more than three pages without crying. And as much as I know it is going to hurt, I will write this review, and is going be the last I ever write.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anniek

    If you, like me, mainly read fiction, you might have read your fair share of LGBTQ+ books, but won’t have read much about the queer people who actually wrote those books. And of course, fiction has huge value in capturing human experience. But reading about someone’s actual reality is a different kind of experience. I don’t read memoirs a lot, but I read a few of Shaun David Hutchinson’s books recently and really loved those, so when I saw he had a memoir coming out, I knew I had to read it. And If you, like me, mainly read fiction, you might have read your fair share of LGBTQ+ books, but won’t have read much about the queer people who actually wrote those books. And of course, fiction has huge value in capturing human experience. But reading about someone’s actual reality is a different kind of experience. I don’t read memoirs a lot, but I read a few of Shaun David Hutchinson’s books recently and really loved those, so when I saw he had a memoir coming out, I knew I had to read it. And I’m very glad I did. Because his memoir shows a very different type of representation. A more honest, less polished type. At times this book felt almost invasive to read because of how brutally honest it was. It must have taken a lot of courage to write a book like this, and then publish it and allow others to read (and, inevitably, judge it, and you). I can only applaud the author for that. People are ultimately flawed, and growing up is not all rainbows and unicorns in general, and even less so if you struggle with, in this case, your sexuality and mental health. And Hutchinson really didn’t shy away from that. Instead, he embraced it, and I thought it was so powerful how he talked about his own flawed views as a teen, and the mistakes he’s made along the way. At the same time, this book is so well-written and profound. Hutchinson is such a skilled writer, and the writing style really adds to this book’s impact. Something I really appreciated, is how explicit content warnings are added to the book: one at the start, and one somewhere in the middle, to alert the reader to a discussion of attempted suicide. In the second content warning, the reader is even referred to a page number to indicate where it’s safe to continue reading again. To be honest, adding content warnings should be standard in publishing, but the reality is that it’s not, and it was so well done here. I sincerely hope other authors/publishers pick up on this example. CWs: attempted suicide, hospital, (internalized) homophobia, homophobic slurs, self harm, bullying

  10. 4 out of 5

    George K. Ilsley

    Add this one to the list of books I wish I could have read when I was younger! Brave Face is a toxic brew of depression, self-loathing, and internalized homophobia. I kept thinking about the therapist Walt Odets's analysis of generations of gay men in Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men's Lives—this author falls into the 1990s group, when AIDS was rampant and gay life was seen from a distance as hopeless and a death sentence; internalizing that outlook contributed to self-loathing. I was frust Add this one to the list of books I wish I could have read when I was younger! Brave Face is a toxic brew of depression, self-loathing, and internalized homophobia. I kept thinking about the therapist Walt Odets's analysis of generations of gay men in Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men's Lives—this author falls into the 1990s group, when AIDS was rampant and gay life was seen from a distance as hopeless and a death sentence; internalizing that outlook contributed to self-loathing. I was frustrated though, with this teenage protagonist; although maybe that is the nature of teenagers. Why do they do what they do? Why do they have to be so dramatic? Why does he not see that having a gay older brother is wonderful? There is also the tendency for the teenager to assume to know what others are thinking and feeling. This is never a good idea. Hutchinson at the outset warns readers that his younger self "was selfish, arrogant, and kind of screwed up." Realizing we all make mistakes is part of our journeys. Depression can have many sources, which is something I thought about every time these teenagers ate tons of sugar. Alcohol is a depressant, and for some people sugar is also a depressant (alcohol is a sugar). Later, when the young man tries anti-depressants he says they didn't work, but also mentions drinking a lot at the same time; mixing a depressant with an anti-depressant may not be optimal.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    The thing I appreciate about books dealing with any challenging aspects of growing up or being a person in the world -- and in Shaun's case, being gay and having depression -- is when they don't end on a happy note, but end on the fact that being OKAY is the goal. That finding a space to be OKAY is the challenge and the work done to manage life on realistic terms. This book does that. There are trigger warnings throughout, as this book delves into life with depression, suicide ideation and an att The thing I appreciate about books dealing with any challenging aspects of growing up or being a person in the world -- and in Shaun's case, being gay and having depression -- is when they don't end on a happy note, but end on the fact that being OKAY is the goal. That finding a space to be OKAY is the challenge and the work done to manage life on realistic terms. This book does that. There are trigger warnings throughout, as this book delves into life with depression, suicide ideation and an attempt, as well as what life is like being gay and not having a strong sense of self and acceptance, in part because the world around you offers none of the role models you deserve to see. Shaun doesn't shy away from sharing some of the poor decisions he made or the behaviors he engaged in that don't put him in a great light, but those are real, and they're raw, and they're honest and vulnerable and the kinds of things that young people will see and understand and appreciate. A compelling, moving, powerful read from an author who leans into his imperfections as a young person, while being realistic that being brave isn't a requirement of being a person and sometimes, things suck and are hard and yet, they can and do improve....and finding that space to be OKAY? It can happen, will happen, even if it takes time. And it's also okay to be frustrated by that.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Snjez

    Memoirs are not usually my thing, but I wanted to read this one because I love Shaun David Hutchinson as a writer. And I'm glad I did, because I absolutely loved it. I admire the author for having the courage to write and share his story. It's very intimate, raw and emotional, but also relatable in many ways and beautifully written. One of my favourite reads this year. Memoirs are not usually my thing, but I wanted to read this one because I love Shaun David Hutchinson as a writer. And I'm glad I did, because I absolutely loved it. I admire the author for having the courage to write and share his story. It's very intimate, raw and emotional, but also relatable in many ways and beautifully written. One of my favourite reads this year.

  13. 4 out of 5

    DonationWayne

    I don’t really know how to write a review for a memoir other to say it was a lot of things very important for me to hear. I grew up in a younger generation, one who had more access to the internet, to media and in general gay content. I cried when he described his feelings while going to see Beautiful Thing, the fear the worry he would be seen by someone he knows as I experienced the same thing with Love, Simon. I ached as he described suicidal ideation and self harm, because I’ve been there too I don’t really know how to write a review for a memoir other to say it was a lot of things very important for me to hear. I grew up in a younger generation, one who had more access to the internet, to media and in general gay content. I cried when he described his feelings while going to see Beautiful Thing, the fear the worry he would be seen by someone he knows as I experienced the same thing with Love, Simon. I ached as he described suicidal ideation and self harm, because I’ve been there too. I don’t have much to say other thank you for sharing your life with us, at your high points and low points. Please heed the trigger warnings and take breaks if you need to, but it’s a very important listen. Check it out if your mentally in a place where it’s possible. -- Edit: After reading Brave Face had the inexplicable urge to come out to a few people around me I'm close to. My sister and my best friend. This book changed my entirely life, and gave me the courage to live more authentically in front of the people I care about and the people who care about me. I just want to thank Shaun again for sharing his story, because I don't know if I would have had the courage to do so otherwise, at least not yet.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kaje Harper

    This book has a lot of painful truth in it, about being a gay teen in the 1990s. Although this is an "it gets better" story, there is a lot more "it" than "better" here, as the story really focuses on Shaun's life up to the middle of college - which he started and stopped more than once. The focus results in a vivid portrayal of how our self-image is formed, changed, fine-tuned, and brought into judgement by the world around us and the people and information we have access to. It highlights the This book has a lot of painful truth in it, about being a gay teen in the 1990s. Although this is an "it gets better" story, there is a lot more "it" than "better" here, as the story really focuses on Shaun's life up to the middle of college - which he started and stopped more than once. The focus results in a vivid portrayal of how our self-image is formed, changed, fine-tuned, and brought into judgement by the world around us and the people and information we have access to. It highlights the importance of good friends, of family, and of positive representation. I was a teen in the 70's, and was 30 by the time Shaun was going into high school. My perception of the 90's was of advancing gay rights, of a gradual change in the attitude to HIV from the callous, self-righteous dismissal of the 80's, and an increase in representation. And yet, here we see a teen of that era who still found the culture so toxic in its attitude that he failed to recognize his own gayness for a long time, because he wasn't "like that." He read "Magic's Pawn" - a breath of hope to some readers - and found in it a focus on the pain and isolation of being gay that magnified his fears. Shaun is not gentle on himself and his mistakes here - we see a raw depiction of the times he made bad choices, and more bad choices, out of fear and poor self-image and ignorance and depression and lack of support. What is starkly clear is how single moments, simple words, can dig deep into someone's psyche and fester for a lifetime. The time a parent assumes the worst not best of you, the time they lump you in with a stereotype when they should know you better, the friendships that twist out of shape - this book is a reminder of how deeply those things are felt, especially in the teen years, and how they can undermine fragile self-worth. Shaun didn't have as much trauma from being gay as some of his peers. He wasn't thrown out of his home, wasn't put in the hospital by a bully, wasn't lured or abused (although sometimes used). But the knowledge that those things happened to gay kids like him - still happen to gay kids - resonated through his life and the choices he made. Fear is a big player in the teen years - fear of looking stupid, being rejected, failing, not finding friends, not finding love - and being gay magnified and added physical risks to those for Shaun. It's not all paranoia when someone really is out to get you. He is also very honest about his depression, and the way for a long time he tied it directly to being gay. It takes maturity and perspective to recognize that being gay doesn't make you depressed anymore than being depressed makes you gay. Two separate things, although the impacts of one can feed into the other. I did wish there was more here of the "better" part - the progress, self-knowledge, the wins. They get a brief summary mention in the last couple of chapters, but there are very few warm and winning moments in this book that get anything like the emotion or the depth of treatment that the bad ones do. And for me, this changes the impact I wish this story had. He can say all he likes that he now has a profession he loves, good friends, more positives than negatives, and support and medication that makes him able to handle the bad times. But it was hard to feel that, thrown in as an afterward. One "modern day" chapter given a deep and emotional treatment, rather than a summary, would have let me leave this book feeling more reassured. As a call to action to an ally like me, this works very well. It reminds me how vital it is to fight for every good representation of and support for LGBTQ people out there, in the knowledge that somewhere a teen is desperately looking for self-image and the reflection of their truth in a positive light. To an LGBTQ teen, this book may make them feel very seen. They might identify with one of a thousand moments, thoughts, and emotions here. (As a straight but odd teen who had few friends back in the day, I identified with some myself.) I hope they will get a message of hope from it too. Shaun has an adult life that works for him, and he now does good for others with his stories. He had the emotional fortitude, the courage and the support system, to write this memoir. Hopefully that reflection of better will also resonate with teen readers, as they close the book. Trigger warnings for (view spoiler)[homophobia - internalized and external, self-harm/cutting, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, depression (hide spoiler)]

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stay Fetters

    "You don’t have to put on a brave face and pretend that everything’s okay. It’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to ask for help. You can show people who you really are, and you’ll still be worthy of being loved." Growing up in the Nineties was awesome. Okay, to me being a kid in the nineties was awesome. I thought the world was so full of love and innocence. How can a decade with Dunkaroos, Tamagotchis, and Saved By the Bell while wearing clothes from Delias as you rock out to Nirvana be so bad? Well "You don’t have to put on a brave face and pretend that everything’s okay. It’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to ask for help. You can show people who you really are, and you’ll still be worthy of being loved." Growing up in the Nineties was awesome. Okay, to me being a kid in the nineties was awesome. I thought the world was so full of love and innocence. How can a decade with Dunkaroos, Tamagotchis, and Saved By the Bell while wearing clothes from Delias as you rock out to Nirvana be so bad? Well, the world wasn't as fantastic as I thought after growing up and reading this book. I love books written by Shaun. He brings forth something that I never experienced with other books before. And it took me so damn long to figure out that his books are for me and that I'd find one of my favorite authors by trying something on a whim. Shaun opens up his heart and his diary with this memoir. What I thought was going to be a light and fluffy read about being who you are became something more instantly. This was brutally honest, powerful, and important. Not only is this about coming out but it's also about finding your place and embracing who you are. I was in shock to see how ugly and hateful people were back in the '90s. It depresses me to know this. What we see on the outside isn't necessarily what people are feeling on the inside. This book is case in point. Shaun put on a brave face for the world but was hiding his true feelings and who he really is. Once he came out, his life changed. Some friends turned their backs on him and that made him hurt even more. At the end of this emotional read, we find clarity. Brave Face was a deeply emotional and moving memoir that is so very important. This will always be important. This has alerted trigger warnings before heading into certain chapters to give a heads up to some sensitive readers and I think that everyone should read this. This was incredible. Just know that you are loved and welcomed. This world needs a person like you in it and if you need that extra boost in confidence, I'm always here. ♥

  16. 5 out of 5

    BookChampions

    "My self-hate was caused by my complete misunderstanding of myself and what being gay meant. My depression simply used it as a way to beat me down. But that's the thing about depression math. 1 + 1 [doesn't equal] 3. The numbers never add up, but depression keeps you from showing your work and figuring it out." When one of your favourite writers composes a memoir, it shouldn't surprise you when the man behind this art that speaks to you so personally feels really damn familiar. I have only about "My self-hate was caused by my complete misunderstanding of myself and what being gay meant. My depression simply used it as a way to beat me down. But that's the thing about depression math. 1 + 1 [doesn't equal] 3. The numbers never add up, but depression keeps you from showing your work and figuring it out." When one of your favourite writers composes a memoir, it shouldn't surprise you when the man behind this art that speaks to you so personally feels really damn familiar. I have only about 6 months on Shaun David Hutchinson, so reading Brave Face was like stepping through a 90s time warp. I related to SDH at so many moment in this memoir, proof for any who may need it that YA lit isn't just for teens but anyone of us who has been a teen. His mentions of Natalie Merchant and Tori Amos and Veruca Salt and the music of my teenage years are just the icing on the cake. Queer teens today will find solace in Hutchinson's story, and the book will open eyes and minds to those who haven't seen through a queer lens before. I'm sure a story like this has been told before, but certainly not enough. I'm 41 and I've yet to see a book so authentically capture what it was like to come of age queer in the 1990s. Still, there is enough narrative and heart and humor and heartbreak and wisdom here for any reader to get something out of this book. I'm in awe of every brave face, especially those who made it through the 90s, an especially complicated decade for identifying as queer. I shake SDH's figurative hand for this book. Thank you. I have a Brave Face playlist in the works, just for fun. "The problem had never been that I didn't know who I was; it was that I'd assumed who I was wasn't good enough. But he was. I was. And you are too."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eloise

    Shaun David Hutchinson is one of my favourite authors. In all of his books you can feel that he's been through some tough times and he knows exactly how to write about it in fiction. In this however, he goes back to his teen years to show us exactly what was up, how he realised he was gay (then later ace), how he struggled with mental health, self-harm and many other issues. He also clearly shows that he is gay and depressed but one isn't the cause of the other. Both coexist but don't have to as a Shaun David Hutchinson is one of my favourite authors. In all of his books you can feel that he's been through some tough times and he knows exactly how to write about it in fiction. In this however, he goes back to his teen years to show us exactly what was up, how he realised he was gay (then later ace), how he struggled with mental health, self-harm and many other issues. He also clearly shows that he is gay and depressed but one isn't the cause of the other. Both coexist but don't have to as a default. But ultimately he tells us this: You'll find yourself, you'll find your place, you'll find ways to manage your mental health issues. And no things don't miraculously go away but you'll find people and places who will make you feel just a little safer and like you do actually belong in this world. After all, "we are the ants, and we keep marching on".

  18. 4 out of 5

    David

    When you finish a book in less than 48 hours, you KNOW 5-stars are coming. This is writing to win the hearts and minds of everyone that is told "It gets better". Shaun Hutchinson tells us the truth here. He prefaces sections with disclaimers to make sure you know what you are about to read might hurt when you hear the facts about his younger self. (depression, cutting, attempted suicide) I had tears at times. I had 'full stop' moments where I had to just say "Wow" and clutch my book to my chest. When you finish a book in less than 48 hours, you KNOW 5-stars are coming. This is writing to win the hearts and minds of everyone that is told "It gets better". Shaun Hutchinson tells us the truth here. He prefaces sections with disclaimers to make sure you know what you are about to read might hurt when you hear the facts about his younger self. (depression, cutting, attempted suicide) I had tears at times. I had 'full stop' moments where I had to just say "Wow" and clutch my book to my chest. The roller coaster of real-life is on display here. We all felt this 'ride' when we were young (and even now). Some of us more than others. Too often these moments are resolved in fiction in the 'next chapter'. Its more complicated here in this memoir. The truth is great to hear. He tells his story at a consistently strong speed, taking us from middle school, through high school and into college. The teen years. The final couple of short chapters quickly take us from college to today. This summary at the end is powerful, yet not preaching. His synopsis statements are genuinely backed up by the pages that preceded. "I didn't have to listen to a specific type of music or dress in a particular clothes or act a certain way, because being queer wasn't the nucleus of who I was, it was simply a modifier. I could be a conservative lawyer and queer; I could be an Olympic athlete or a famous comedian or the CEO of the richest company in the world. I could be me, and I'd find a place to belong." Shaun graduate high school in Florida in 1996. There was not much media to help kids coming out. TV, Movies, and books that YA could relate to were in scarce supplies. There was a trickle of internet getting started. No cell phones. The movie "Beautiful Thing" came out in 1996 and it was an epiphany to Shaun - normal people that were gay. You did not have to be stereotypical like the 1996 Birdcage movie. I particularly like the final acknowledgement very last page of the book where I read: "There are a lot of folks I wish I knew how to reach out to so that I could thank them properly - the ER nurse, the 911 operator, the paramedics, Ed from Fair Oaks, the teaching assistant in my creative writing class - but I don't know their names or how to contact them, so I hope , even if they never read this, that they know how much of an impact they had on my life. I hope everyone reading this realizes the impact you can have on someone's life. You might never know it, and you might think you didn't make a difference, but you did." I immediately wrote to a friend of mine who is working on the 'front lines' as a nurse during this COVID-19 pandemic. I sent them this exact quote, and then added: "Friend. The ER nurse, the 911 operator, the paramedics, and Ed from Fair Oaks. These are you when you respond to help. Even when you give your name, the person in distress has more things to worry about and they're not going to remember your name. But they will remember what you did and the help you gave them." Thank you Shaun Hutchinson for this book that I can heartily recommend.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peter Monn

    Really great memoir! Related to so much of this book! My full review will be up on my booktube channel at http://YouTube.com/peterlikesbooks Really great memoir! Related to so much of this book! My full review will be up on my booktube channel at http://YouTube.com/peterlikesbooks

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karima chermiti

    It was the feeling of finally finding a puzzle piece that fit into place. Of bursting through the surface of the water and taking the breath that had been burning in my lungs. Of remembering the word that'd been on the tip of my tongue for decades. This was the feeling I'd been missing all those years We Are the Ants is one of my favorite books of all time, I read it twice and it’s one of those stories that’s always with me. I’m always thinking about it and how I felt about it and how It was the feeling of finally finding a puzzle piece that fit into place. Of bursting through the surface of the water and taking the breath that had been burning in my lungs. Of remembering the word that'd been on the tip of my tongue for decades. This was the feeling I'd been missing all those years We Are the Ants is one of my favorite books of all time, I read it twice and it’s one of those stories that’s always with me. I’m always thinking about it and how I felt about it and how I still feel about it even now. And Honestly, It was the reason that I picked up this memoir. I just wanted to know the author that wrote a story that touched me beyond belief and expectations. Brave Face is a very hard book to read. It’s raw, poignant, painfully honest, and deeply emotional and it really hits and it hits hard. At times I felt I couldn’t breathe. I was in this emotional state that I wanted to stop reading but also finish it as soon as possible. Coming out is, far too often, more about the person we're coming out to than it is about us. Not only do we have to expose this part of ourselves we've got hidden, but we have to shepherd the person we're telling through and be careful not to hurt their feelings It’s really hard to talk about memoirs and review them because this is a person’s life so I won’t go so much into details. I just want to say that Shaun David Hutchinson talk about a lot of his struggles growing up from the feeling of not fitting in to the fear of not being accepted or loved if he really opens up to people to not really knowing who he is and how all of that leads to his struggle with depression, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts. I'd begun to realize that my fear of being gay and my depression were two separate issues. I wasn't depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and I was gay. Being gay doesn't make a person depressed any more than being depressed makes a person gay. My self-hate was caused by my complete misunderstanding of myself and what being gay meant. My depression simply used it as a way to beat me down The way the author talked about all of that was filled with depth, compassion, and emotions. There are so many moments in this book that was like a knife to the gut, so hard to read let alone imagine someone lived through them. Because The author’s writing is so vivid and intimate and raw, I felt at times like I was drowning with my feelings but there are also some moments of acceptance, friendship, unconditional love, and warmth and those moments helped in really pushing through and finishing the book. I’m really glad I picked up this book. It was a totally different experience for me. I want to say so many other things to conclude this review but I found myself lost for words. The problem had never been that I didn't know who I was; it was that I'd assumed who I was wasn't good enough. But he was. I was. And you are too

  21. 5 out of 5

    McKinlay

    TW for lots of things in this book, but the TWs are IN the book! I’m giving a specific TW for suicide ideation in my review. Last week, i tweeted about how badly i wanted to die. I had a bottle of painkillers in my hand. 2 people responded, 1 of them was the author of this book. They had no idea how close i was to just quitting my life. But they reached out with love and words and it meant a lot. I’m telling this story because i know i read this book at exactly the time i needed it. I hope it doe TW for lots of things in this book, but the TWs are IN the book! I’m giving a specific TW for suicide ideation in my review. Last week, i tweeted about how badly i wanted to die. I had a bottle of painkillers in my hand. 2 people responded, 1 of them was the author of this book. They had no idea how close i was to just quitting my life. But they reached out with love and words and it meant a lot. I’m telling this story because i know i read this book at exactly the time i needed it. I hope it does that for other folks too.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Veras

    Some parts were really hard to read, but I really hope this book find its way to a young person's hands who might need to hear this story. Some parts were really hard to read, but I really hope this book find its way to a young person's hands who might need to hear this story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    — Massiel

    I wanna read this more than do my thesis. I know it shouldn't have been easy to write this book and more because is his own memoir book, so I wanna say: Thank you so much Shaun for writing. I don't have words to describe how much you have help me with your books. -- O M G! ANOTHER SHAUN DAVID BOOK AND EVEN BETTER HIS OWN MEMOIR I don't even have words to express how I feel... Dear Shaun David: I wanna read this more than do my thesis. I know it shouldn't have been easy to write this book and more because is his own memoir book, so I wanna say: Thank you so much Shaun for writing. I don't have words to describe how much you have help me with your books. -- O M G! ANOTHER SHAUN DAVID BOOK AND EVEN BETTER HIS OWN MEMOIR I don't even have words to express how I feel... Dear Shaun David:

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie • forevermorepages

    It feels weird rating a memoir, like I'm rating Shaun David Hutchinson's life, which I'm trying very hard not to do. At the end of the day, though, I found the beginning far more compelling, both because it was less heavy and because it was more controlled. Objectively, this is not a bad book nor a bad memoir, but somewhere along the way, it became harder and harder to read. I don't want to diminish his experiences, but much of the time I felt like there was a gap in his development. We saw him It feels weird rating a memoir, like I'm rating Shaun David Hutchinson's life, which I'm trying very hard not to do. At the end of the day, though, I found the beginning far more compelling, both because it was less heavy and because it was more controlled. Objectively, this is not a bad book nor a bad memoir, but somewhere along the way, it became harder and harder to read. I don't want to diminish his experiences, but much of the time I felt like there was a gap in his development. We saw him with extreme internalized homophobia, but then suddenly able to call himself gay so easily and come out, and sure, that's his experience, but I felt like I was missing part of the story. But maybe I was just trying to impress my own experiences onto someone else. Regardless, his story is powerful and necessary and important; it just didn't read too well for me. I would like to highlight the massive trigger warnings for self-harm and a suicide attempt (but Hutchinson also does a wonderful job of pinpointing exactly where to avoid if necessary).

  25. 5 out of 5

    (inactive)

    if i tried REALLY hard i could probably sit down and write a longer, more eloquent review. but, i’m not going to do that. i just CAN’T see myself reviewing this and doing it justice. this book really can save lives, and i don’t mean that in a cheesy, cliche way. i mean it literally, and i full heartedly believe that everyone who is in the right mindset to read this, should. the content was beautiful and powerful and the content WARNINGS were immensely helpful and really helped ME take care of my O if i tried REALLY hard i could probably sit down and write a longer, more eloquent review. but, i’m not going to do that. i just CAN’T see myself reviewing this and doing it justice. this book really can save lives, and i don’t mean that in a cheesy, cliche way. i mean it literally, and i full heartedly believe that everyone who is in the right mindset to read this, should. the content was beautiful and powerful and the content WARNINGS were immensely helpful and really helped ME take care of my OWN mental state while reading. 10/10, could not recommend this memoir more.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stacie

    I don't have words, only feelings. It might be cliché to say that this memoir was raw and real, but this is truly how I felt when reading this book. This was wholly heartbreaking, yet left off with a hopeful message. I don't have much else to say other than I think Brave Face is a hugely important story to be told, for both LGBT+ folks and for those who live with depression. I think there are plenty of people trying to not feel alone with their inner struggles. This memoir will probably make a l I don't have words, only feelings. It might be cliché to say that this memoir was raw and real, but this is truly how I felt when reading this book. This was wholly heartbreaking, yet left off with a hopeful message. I don't have much else to say other than I think Brave Face is a hugely important story to be told, for both LGBT+ folks and for those who live with depression. I think there are plenty of people trying to not feel alone with their inner struggles. This memoir will probably make a lot of those folks feel seen. That's a marvelously beautiful thing.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books)

    Please read this story, especially if you loved Shaun’s books in the past and decided to skip his future books because you think he handled the controversy about ‘The state of us’ last spring not very well. This memoir gives an inside in Shaun as a person and I hope it can convince you to pick up his books again. When I started writing this review I doubted if I should say anything about ‘The state of us’. Because I definitely don’t want to start the hassle again and I don’t want to offend anyone Please read this story, especially if you loved Shaun’s books in the past and decided to skip his future books because you think he handled the controversy about ‘The state of us’ last spring not very well. This memoir gives an inside in Shaun as a person and I hope it can convince you to pick up his books again. When I started writing this review I doubted if I should say anything about ‘The state of us’. Because I definitely don’t want to start the hassle again and I don’t want to offend anyone. But somehow the discussion (not the content!) also affected me as a reader and that's why I talk about it in this review. That’s also the reason why I mainly write about the depression part of Shaun’s story and not the gay part. This was a book that I wanted to read for a long time. Because from the moment I read The five stages of Andrew Bradley I was a fan of Shaun’s writing. We are the ants is even one of my most favorite books ever. I love the way he writes about mental stuff and doesn’t shy away, even if it gets bad. This is why I love Brave face too. The way he tells his story, at first factual with some humor and self-criticism, later on way more personal, it touched me deeply. And I never read a book with such a clear content warning (especially Part 2) including an escape. While reading this book I thought back to last spring. ‘The state of us’ came out and I wanted to read that one badly because I loved his other books. But something stopped me at first because there was a huge controversy about this story on Goodreads and Twitter. I read the book anyway and although I understood the criticism, I liked the story. What I didn’t understand and still don’t is people rating a book one star only from hear and say. What I don’t understand in general is people talking about other people on social media in a negative way and keep doing that. Because it’s so easy to hurt each other without the intention to do so. Criticism can be harsh and when you suffer from depression like Shaun does (it’s always a struggle like he says) it can be even harder. This doesn’t mean we can’t tell another how we feel and give feedback but I think we all know that criticism on paper, on social media etc. always feels more intense than in person. That’s why I started my review by asking to read this book. Comments on social media can pile up and therefore become increasingly fierce. Yeah maybe an author needs to handle criticism but an author is human too and has feelings like we all have. In this case an author who struggles with depression. So when you loved Shaun’s books before and decided to skip his books in the future because you think he didn’t handle the controversy last spring very well, I’d very much like to invite you to read Brave Face. This book gives an insight in Shaun as a person and the mental illness he deals with. I think it’s incredibly brave to make yourself so vulnerable as a writer as Shaun did in this memoir. Telling about his own beliefs about gay men and about the way he struggled and still struggles with depression, thinking time and again, that he wasn’t and isn’t good enough. I had tears in my eyes at times reading his story and sometimes shivers ran down my back when he talked about cutting himself. I had to put the book down a couple of times. To my opinion this is a very important book if you have doubts about your sexuality (or had doubts), if you suffer from depression and even if you are straight and happy because this story gives so many insights. So I’d say: pick it up!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Isabelle | Nine Tale Vixen

    "Some nights I prayed to God or the devil — I wasn't picky about which one answered — to make me not gay." This almost reads like a novel, and I mean that as a compliment — memoirs/biographies are my favorite nonfiction books because I love reading about people. I really appreciated how blunt some of these passages were, including excerpts from his diary and a play he wrote, and the fact that Hutchinson challenges but doesn't gloss over the harmful beliefs he held as a teen. (My one unaddress "Some nights I prayed to God or the devil — I wasn't picky about which one answered — to make me not gay." This almost reads like a novel, and I mean that as a compliment — memoirs/biographies are my favorite nonfiction books because I love reading about people. I really appreciated how blunt some of these passages were, including excerpts from his diary and a play he wrote, and the fact that Hutchinson challenges but doesn't gloss over the harmful beliefs he held as a teen. (My one unaddressed issue is that there are a few parts that could be seen as (view spoiler)[bi erasure, such as when a crush shows interest in a girl so he's presumed to be straight, and the fact that the only LGBTQIAP+ identities that appear in this book are "gay" and "lesbian" (hide spoiler)] , though I recognize that these scenes are drawn entirely from personal experience so they don't have an obligation to be wholly representative.) Reading this book is like having a heart-to-heart with an older sibling or peer mentor. The writing flows; though the chapters are short, they're illustrative. Hutchinson tempers vulnerability with both humor and seriousness: self-deprecating jokes, snide remarks about societal stigmas, thoughtful content warnings, and down-to-earth reassurances that while life isn't a fairy tale with an easy happy ending, it does get better. content warnings: (view spoiler)[suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, self-harm, sexual assault, homophobic language, internalized homophobia, mentions of drug use (hide spoiler)] rep: author - gay, demisexual/grayace, depression, ADHD ----------- CONVERSION : 13.75 / 15 = 5 stars Prose: 8 / 10 Intellectual Engagement: 8 / 10 Credibility: 10 / 10 Organization / Structure: 9 / 10 Emotional Impact / Interest: 5 / 5 Rereadability: N/A Memorability: 5 / 5

  29. 5 out of 5

    francis moore

    Full review: https://bookpeopleteens.wordpress.com... Hutchinson has written my favorite memoir, and one of my favorite novels of all time. Brave Face is not only essential for queer teens but for anyone whose relationship with depression is much closer than it should be. As Hutchinson states towards the end of the novel, he wrote Brave Face because he wanted to expand on the phrase “It Gets Better.” And sir, how you have succeeded. The honesty and detail in his writing is incredible, and hopeful Full review: https://bookpeopleteens.wordpress.com... Hutchinson has written my favorite memoir, and one of my favorite novels of all time. Brave Face is not only essential for queer teens but for anyone whose relationship with depression is much closer than it should be. As Hutchinson states towards the end of the novel, he wrote Brave Face because he wanted to expand on the phrase “It Gets Better.” And sir, how you have succeeded. The honesty and detail in his writing is incredible, and hopefully will find and connect with all the people who need it. Rating: five/five. Spotify playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4vn... Favorite quotes: - “Every day, at least once, I silently wish I wasn’t gay. See, basically, being gay involves choices and fears. The choice is how to go about finding love. The fear is that I never will.” - “Instead of being able to go out and buy a book about a closeted gay kid who’s scared of becoming a stereotype while coming to terms with being gay that could have helped me understand what I was going through, I’d needed to write my own.” - “I’d never ride a rocket into out space, so standing at the edge of the ocean was probably the closest I’d get to touching something boundless and greater than myself. For me, the ocean had a way of putting the rest of the world into context for a couple seconds.” - “I don’t believe in God or fate or any type of predestination. But I do believe that every single thing we’ve done leads to everything we do, and that it’s kind of pointless to regret the past when it’s the cause of our present. Which, I get is stupid if your present sucks, but the present will soon become your past.”

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nev

    Shaun David Hutchinson’s memoir is heartbreaking and eye-opening. It’s an unflinching look at growing up gay and depressed in the 1990s. It can be extremely hard to read at times, Shaun goes in depth with his feelings of self hatred, self harm, and his suicide attempt. Brave Face also does show that it gets better, even if it isn’t always an easy or simple path to go down. Growing up without any positive representation of gay men led Shaun to have an extremely narrow and prejudiced view of what Shaun David Hutchinson’s memoir is heartbreaking and eye-opening. It’s an unflinching look at growing up gay and depressed in the 1990s. It can be extremely hard to read at times, Shaun goes in depth with his feelings of self hatred, self harm, and his suicide attempt. Brave Face also does show that it gets better, even if it isn’t always an easy or simple path to go down. Growing up without any positive representation of gay men led Shaun to have an extremely narrow and prejudiced view of what the gay community was actually like. It was enlightening to see him talk about his own internalized homophobia, and how a movie like Beautiful Thing was able to have such a positive impact on his outlook, at least for a short amount of time. This book doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to talking about darker topics like homophobia, depression, self harm, and suicide, parts of it can be difficult to read. I love Shaun’s novels so it was great to learn more about him as a person and to see some things from his own life that have perhaps acted as inspiration for the stories he writes. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who feels like they can handle the subject matter, whether you’re a fan of his novels or not.

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