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The Light Streamed Beneath It: A Memoir of Grief and Celebration

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A modern gay memoir exploring love, death, pain, and community that will resonate long after the last page A lifetime of finding punchlines in his heartache comes to a shuddering stop when comedian and writer Shawn Hitchins loses two great loves, five months apart, to sudden death. In this deeply poignant memoir that combines sober self-portrait with tender elegy, Hitchins A modern gay memoir exploring love, death, pain, and community that will resonate long after the last page A lifetime of finding punchlines in his heartache comes to a shuddering stop when comedian and writer Shawn Hitchins loses two great loves, five months apart, to sudden death. In this deeply poignant memoir that combines sober self-portrait with tender elegy, Hitchins explores the messiness of being alive: the longing and desire, scorching-earth anger, raw grief -- and the pathway of healing he discovers when he lets his heart remain open. Never without an edge of self-awareness, The Light Streamed Beneath It invites the reader into Hitchins's world as he reckons with his past and stays painfully in the present. As he builds an embodied future, he confronts the stories that have shaped him, sets aside his ambition, and seeks connection in what he used to deflect with laughter -- therapy, community and chosen family, movement, spirituality, and an awareness of death's ever-presence. A heartrending and hope-filled story of resilience in the wake of death, The Light Streamed Beneath It joyfully affirms that life is essentially good, as Hitchins weaves his tale full of tenacious spirit, humor, kindness, and grit through life's most unforgiving challenges.


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A modern gay memoir exploring love, death, pain, and community that will resonate long after the last page A lifetime of finding punchlines in his heartache comes to a shuddering stop when comedian and writer Shawn Hitchins loses two great loves, five months apart, to sudden death. In this deeply poignant memoir that combines sober self-portrait with tender elegy, Hitchins A modern gay memoir exploring love, death, pain, and community that will resonate long after the last page A lifetime of finding punchlines in his heartache comes to a shuddering stop when comedian and writer Shawn Hitchins loses two great loves, five months apart, to sudden death. In this deeply poignant memoir that combines sober self-portrait with tender elegy, Hitchins explores the messiness of being alive: the longing and desire, scorching-earth anger, raw grief -- and the pathway of healing he discovers when he lets his heart remain open. Never without an edge of self-awareness, The Light Streamed Beneath It invites the reader into Hitchins's world as he reckons with his past and stays painfully in the present. As he builds an embodied future, he confronts the stories that have shaped him, sets aside his ambition, and seeks connection in what he used to deflect with laughter -- therapy, community and chosen family, movement, spirituality, and an awareness of death's ever-presence. A heartrending and hope-filled story of resilience in the wake of death, The Light Streamed Beneath It joyfully affirms that life is essentially good, as Hitchins weaves his tale full of tenacious spirit, humor, kindness, and grit through life's most unforgiving challenges.

30 review for The Light Streamed Beneath It: A Memoir of Grief and Celebration

  1. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Shawn Hitchins Shawn Hitchins is a Canadian comedian, author and actor. Shawn grew up gay in a tiny rural enclave during the 1980s and 90s - between the time of the AIDS epidemic and the expansion of gay rights. Thus Shawn's life has had ups and downs, but he was able to channel his feelings into his entertainment career and his writing. Shawn Hitchins on stage Shawn's first book, A Brief History of Oversharing: One Ginger's Anthology of Humiliation, is mostly light-hearted and humorous. This memoi Shawn Hitchins Shawn Hitchins is a Canadian comedian, author and actor. Shawn grew up gay in a tiny rural enclave during the 1980s and 90s - between the time of the AIDS epidemic and the expansion of gay rights. Thus Shawn's life has had ups and downs, but he was able to channel his feelings into his entertainment career and his writing. Shawn Hitchins on stage Shawn's first book, A Brief History of Oversharing: One Ginger's Anthology of Humiliation, is mostly light-hearted and humorous. This memoir is much different, being a journal of profound grief. Shawn lost two people he loved - his former common law husband Matt and his ex-boyfriend David - in a short period of time, and was devastated by the losses. Shawn struggled on, though, and writes, "This story is my path back to aliveness. This story is.....a ballad for two dynamic men who changed my life." Shawn and his ex-common law husband, Matthew James Hines, were together for six years. During that time Shawn and Matt hosted game nights, dinners, drunken kitchen parties, and holiday celebrations for their different groups of friends. Shawn writes, "[Matt] became my co-captain, by wingman as we traveled from world to world (both his and mine). Life was easier with an ally at these events, someone who also understood the intricacies and backstories of our chosen family trees." Shawn and Matt also attended weekly dinners at the home of Matt's city mom Louisa, where "champagne flutes bubbled over and four-finger shots of bourbon poured between courses of prime cuts of meat roasted to perfection and decadent buttercream topped cakes." Shawn and Matt's relationship had its problems though, and they eventually had a 'conscious uncoupling' even though they still cared about each other. Matt got custody of the cat Stevie. A couple of years after Shawn's common law marriage broke up, he met Californian David Francisco Martinez during a visit to San Francisco. Shawn writes about their sexy meeting; the dynamics of a long-distance romance that included frequent messaging and visits back and forth; David's rental room in the home of Princess Jasmine - who had tickle parties; climbing San Francisco's Bernal Hill with Ziggy the cat tagging along; dinners with David's city mom Rachael and her husband John; intellectual discussions; butter tarts from Ontario; California lemons; and more. Canadian butter tarts Sadly, David was deeply troubled and the relationship ended within a year. This wounded Shawn, but Shawn and David stayed in touch and tried to be supportive of each other. In October, 2018 Shawn's ex-common law husband Matt died from a tragic accident, a terrible incident that made Matt's passing even harder for his family and friends. Afterwards, Shawn helped clear Matt's apartment, which brought back memories of Matt's interests, idiosyncrasies, and their time together. Matt had an anthology of Meryl Streep movies that made him cry (his 'cry-tear-ion collection'); kept a box filled with cards, concert tickets, lanyards, and programs; loved whimsy and miniatures; and was drawn to rickety old spaces with uneven floors and cracked plaster. Shawn recalls, "[Matt] created a warm sense of home with objects he found rummaging through church basements or pulled from curbside trash." Matt had a collection of Meryl Streep movies Shawn was crushed by Matt's death, and a second tragedy soon afterwards compounded the trauma. Six months after Matt's death, in April, 2019, Shawn's former boyfriend David took his own life. This act seemed almost inexplicable to Shawn though he long suspected David was bipolar. Shawn mourned with David's loved ones, who cleared David's apartment and listened to a Spotify playlist of David's music as they recalled his life. David's loved ones also did an elaborate ritual for the deceased, to send him extra energy on his journey. Later on they had a memorial service where Shawn said, "This is shit. You have to excuse my language. I know it's not right to swear at a memorial, but his is just shit. For those of you experiencing suicide for the first time, welcome to the LGBTQ experience." Shawn's bereavement process was long and painful, involving therapy, introspection, extensive reading, Gaga movement (a kind of dancing), and more. Getting the cat Stevie back helped as well. Gaga movement For remembrance, Shawn also made ofrendas for the Day of the Dead, one for Matt and one for David, each covered with their personal effects. Shawn observes, "As I have come to understand it, Dia De Los Muertos celebrates a belief that our beloveds do not die, though they change physical form; they become ancestors who remain alive as part of the social conversation. Example of an ofrenda Writing this book was part of Shawn's grief and recovery process. The narrative is sad and moving, but also has some light moments and laughs. Grief is a personal experience for everyone, but this book might help light the way for people who've experienced a loss. Thanks to Netgalley, Shawn Hitchins, and ECW Press for a copy of the book. You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    Shawn Hitchins The Light Streamed Beneath It is a story of queerness, loss, and self-understanding. Shawn Hitchins was in San Francisco when he met the second great love of his life, David. Two years out from the ending of his marriage to his first great love, Matt, he thought he had finally met the man he could spend the rest of his life with. But over the course of the next year he tragically lost both of his great loves and nearly lost himself. But buoyed by friends, family, and work on himsel Shawn Hitchins The Light Streamed Beneath It is a story of queerness, loss, and self-understanding. Shawn Hitchins was in San Francisco when he met the second great love of his life, David. Two years out from the ending of his marriage to his first great love, Matt, he thought he had finally met the man he could spend the rest of his life with. But over the course of the next year he tragically lost both of his great loves and nearly lost himself. But buoyed by friends, family, and work on himself, Shawn is able to work through his grief and come to an uncertain understandings of his loves. Despite being a book about the author's grief, I found it challenging to break through the prose and really get to know who the author is. And at times this book veered dangerously close to being a little too "woo-woo" for my tastes. Nonetheless, The Light Streamed Beneath It is an important reflection on finding love and mourning love as a queer person and all the darkness and beauty that this entails. And for that reason, you should read this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Do certain books find us at the right times? Grief reads have been a bit of a theme for me lately, and The Light Streamed Beneath It was another emotional reading experience. In his second book with humility and much introspection Hitchins looks at his own grief after the devastating loss of two lovers only months apart. A breathtaking memoir of love and death, pain and healing. A few days after finishing this I learned an old friend that I had been out of contact with over the last couple years Do certain books find us at the right times? Grief reads have been a bit of a theme for me lately, and The Light Streamed Beneath It was another emotional reading experience. In his second book with humility and much introspection Hitchins looks at his own grief after the devastating loss of two lovers only months apart. A breathtaking memoir of love and death, pain and healing. A few days after finishing this I learned an old friend that I had been out of contact with over the last couple years had passed away from a drug overdose. Shocked, my grief hit me in waves, bringing up a lot of feelings, old grief, and sadness. And like Hitchins following his losses I too was left revisiting our friendship, looking for answers. Hitchins honesty about his grief and pain in the wake of his losses hit me hard. How he could conjure his feelings in such a vivid way made for an intimate and impactful reading experience. I really find it hard to summarize these types of books, everyone grieves differently after all, but I found Hitchins journey is a worthy addition to this category. Thank You to @ecwpress for sending me this one. It will be available in October. For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lino Matteo

    The Light Streamed Beneath It A memoir of grief and celebration by Shawn Hitchins I had no idea what this book was about when I was offered a copy for review by ECW. As I began reading I was surprized that it was not what I thought it would be (don’t judge a book by its cover). The subtitle kind of summarizes the book very well: “a memoir of grief and celebration.” There is grief in this book. Yet, while you have to look for it at times, there is also celebration. There is love, there is communit The Light Streamed Beneath It A memoir of grief and celebration by Shawn Hitchins I had no idea what this book was about when I was offered a copy for review by ECW. As I began reading I was surprized that it was not what I thought it would be (don’t judge a book by its cover). The subtitle kind of summarizes the book very well: “a memoir of grief and celebration.” There is grief in this book. Yet, while you have to look for it at times, there is also celebration. There is love, there is community, there is hope, and there is a cat. Sometimes, often, it is not about loving what you want, but loving what you have. The author takes us through a journey of pain and suffering. There is also hope, learning, forays into other traditions, and the overarching message that death is a phase of life. Where were we before we came into this world? Where will we go when we leave this world? How should we live while we are a part of this world? The writing is illuminating. The story, like life itself, is sometimes disjointed. The arch and the main character bring it all together. The author notes that, “Scrooge wakes up a changed man just in time for Christmas morning. The miser is granted something more precious than gold: he is granted time.” We would note that the author, and Scrooge, for that matter are handed more than time. They both receive hope and understanding; appreciation and love. Yet, the message is not only about hoping for the future, but also about living in the present. Life can have the feeling of “abbondanza, the Italian word for abundance or plenty,” if we stop and appreciate the things that we have plenty of. Love, laughter, hope, faith, community. Why some people are so poor all they have is money, yet is seems that it is that very thing, money, that too many of us spend our lives chasing. ‘God breaks your heart over and over until it remains open.’ ~ Sufi quote Three thoughts from the book that I will share: • Why aren’t weddings more like funerals? Events of radical inclusion where people show up, compelled to honor their connection, moved to honor a life? • I believe the soul is energy and therefore indestructible. I believe to harm the body in an attempt to destroy another’s spirit is to violate the sacred. • “The accountant deals with the past, the tarot card reader deals with the future, and I deal with the present.” (A therapist) There is pain and suffering, however, there is also humor. I think I will use this humor to tell some of my tales. To the author, Shawn Hitchins, I say: namaste (“I bow to you”). For living the life; for sharing the life; for taking the time to share it with strangers, so that we all might learn to appreciate those things that we do have. This story is one, that while not easy, is one that is worthy of sharing. Lino Matteo ©™ Twitter @Lino_Matteo https://linomatteo.wordpress.com/2021...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emily Veronica

    “I pray to asparagus.” In his 2017 debut novel, A Brief History of Oversharing, Shawn Hitchins excitedly pulled us onto the hilarious, albeit jaw-dropping, rollercoaster of his life up to that point. While still using his now-familiar brand of ironic humour, Hitchins’ second book, The Light Streamed Beneath It, takes a sharp left turn from where he last left us. After having experienced extreme emotional trauma, the author takes a step back to acknowledge his use of comedy to interpret and make s “I pray to asparagus.” In his 2017 debut novel, A Brief History of Oversharing, Shawn Hitchins excitedly pulled us onto the hilarious, albeit jaw-dropping, rollercoaster of his life up to that point. While still using his now-familiar brand of ironic humour, Hitchins’ second book, The Light Streamed Beneath It, takes a sharp left turn from where he last left us. After having experienced extreme emotional trauma, the author takes a step back to acknowledge his use of comedy to interpret and make sense of life’s difficulties, and recognizes that to move forward after monumental loss will require a deeper understanding and introspection. While at times leaving me shaking with laughter, The Light Streamed Beneath It had me weeping more than once. Hitchins once again holds nothing back, but this time he peels away the layers (a device used literally, cleverly, and effectively throughout the book) so that we can bear witness to the raw and messy fallout that is our grief when we are left behind. Through excellent use of imagery, the author personifies his pain so that as the reader we can visualize it: we see it, we can touch it, we can feel it. (It was Hitchins’ ability to accurately describe the physical form that overwhelming sorrow takes that frequently left me in tears, and his depiction of a serious breakup as a corporeal event left me shocked and breathless as I recognized my own feelings put into words on the page.) Playing with chronology is tricky, and I give credit to any author who attempts to move around time’s puzzle pieces. For the most part, the nonlinear nature of the book worked, but there were a few occasions that had me questioning where I was in the timeline of the author’s life (even with chapters being titled by date). Despite this, by the end of the book I had a complete picture of the last two years of the author’s life and any lingering confusion was cleared up. A brilliant example of creating art out of one’s own life, Hitchins’ second book displays the man’s thoughtful writing style, gives us glimpses of his acerbic comedic personality, and weaves poetry to help us better understand the human experience. That is Hitchins’ gift to us with The Light Streamed Beneath It: a beautiful textbook to crack open when learning to navigate the worst that life can throw at you.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Floyd

    This upcoming memoir is a story of queer love and loss that hit much closer to home than I expected it to (even beyond having a personal connection to some people in the story and some of the action taking place in my hometown). Hitchins’ story is powerful and devastating, and the perfect ode to found family. While much of the memoir was a straight-forward retelling of events, I found it became extremely powerful and touching in the passages where Hitchins became more introspective. The musings This upcoming memoir is a story of queer love and loss that hit much closer to home than I expected it to (even beyond having a personal connection to some people in the story and some of the action taking place in my hometown). Hitchins’ story is powerful and devastating, and the perfect ode to found family. While much of the memoir was a straight-forward retelling of events, I found it became extremely powerful and touching in the passages where Hitchins became more introspective. The musings about grief, friendship, and support are what makes this memoir shine, and I think it’s going to be a must-read for any queer person experiencing personal tragedy. Thanks to ECW Press and NetGalley for the advanced copy, The Light Streamed Beneath It comes out October 12.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Ryding

    I really enjoyed this one. This memoir covers the period of time in which the author lost two romantic partners unexpectedly close together. It’s gut-wrenching. His ex-husband, who he had remained incredibly close with, died of a freak accident, and then a few months later his current partner died by suicide. These are heavy topics. And while he writes a lot about just the rawness of that grief, he also writes a lot about the joy of those relationships and the ways that he found healing through h I really enjoyed this one. This memoir covers the period of time in which the author lost two romantic partners unexpectedly close together. It’s gut-wrenching. His ex-husband, who he had remained incredibly close with, died of a freak accident, and then a few months later his current partner died by suicide. These are heavy topics. And while he writes a lot about just the rawness of that grief, he also writes a lot about the joy of those relationships and the ways that he found healing through his grief. The writing itself is beautiful, and Hitchen’s own reflections are remarkably insightful. He self-describes as an atheist for much of the book, but in processing his grief he finds solace in a variety of different non-religious spiritual practices. I’m someone who personally doesn’t connect much with these kinds of practices so I was a little worried that I would find these parts hokey, but I didn’t at all. I think that’s a testament to the authenticity and relatability of Hitchen’s story and his process. I loved all of the examples of found family and community support throughout, and the emphasis on how important intentional families are for queer people in particular. The author also has some frank discussions about suicide in queer communities that really resonated with me in ways I wasn’t expecting. As someone who spent a lot of time in my early twenties heavily involved in addiction recovery communities, I’ve been to more than my share of memorials for young people who have died by suicide or overdose. There’s always this horrible sense of guilt and “I should have known” or “I should have done more”, and reading about the author’s experience was more healing for me than I knew I needed. I’d absolutely recommend this book, but also absolutely use your own judgment if any of these topics mentioned above are particular triggers for you. Thank you to the publisher, ECW Press, for sending me a copy of this one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    I’m really torn about this book. I feel like it might have originally been called “Ritual” but, given none of the rituals in the book are of the author’s own culture (not even converted or adopted), everyone settled on an alternative title. So yeah, there are some issues. Lots of metaphors. And smilies. Lots. The Matt relationship seemed like it hadn’t ended long after it was over. And the David relationship was nothing but red flags. In a way this is the gay memoir we didn’t know we wanted, war I’m really torn about this book. I feel like it might have originally been called “Ritual” but, given none of the rituals in the book are of the author’s own culture (not even converted or adopted), everyone settled on an alternative title. So yeah, there are some issues. Lots of metaphors. And smilies. Lots. The Matt relationship seemed like it hadn’t ended long after it was over. And the David relationship was nothing but red flags. In a way this is the gay memoir we didn’t know we wanted, warts and all. I would like to have known more about the author’s upbringing. There is a lot of rumination here but, other than the “my relationship ended and here’s what I learned from it,” I would’ve enjoyed more interiority: all of those days when he and David were texting, for example, and the two (more) boyfriends of David’s who came and went in the one year that they knew each other, what exactly was going on in his head? There must have been jealousy, rage, anxiety, frustration. We don’t know because that raw bulk of time was glossed over in favor of when they were together. Having said that, I believe everything described here was truly felt. The emotions are raw and the grief is palpable. The best scenes are the funerals. They made me feel like I was there.

  9. 4 out of 5

    willowdog

    How does one handle grief? What can one seek to help in one's self evaluation in this state? Hitchins takes on an examination of this in The Light Streamed Beneath It. On loosing two lovers in a matter of months, Hitchins must find a way to process all of this. This is not a book of the five stages of grief. This is about a man seeking to understand his life and the lives of his lovers. The narrative of the lives of the men in his life and the intersection of him in the lives of the lovers is won How does one handle grief? What can one seek to help in one's self evaluation in this state? Hitchins takes on an examination of this in The Light Streamed Beneath It. On loosing two lovers in a matter of months, Hitchins must find a way to process all of this. This is not a book of the five stages of grief. This is about a man seeking to understand his life and the lives of his lovers. The narrative of the lives of the men in his life and the intersection of him in the lives of the lovers is wonderfully written. In fact, I found the writing of the sexual exploits to be some of the best I have read. What could have been just mediocre, the writing in these exploits is raised to a new level. But beyond these, he looks at what the relationships were and attempts to find answers in reviewing the details. The journey that Hitchens takes is New Agey. But I found the journey worth taking. Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for this free ebook.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Willoughby

    This is a memoir of grief and celebration of life. The author experienced two traumatic losses in a short time span, but the writing left me wanting more emotion, more honesty. The writing style is descriptive and artful but lacks emotional depth and self-awareness. Hitchins writes as though he is keeping his grief and his feelings at arm's distance. While the social commentary on San Francisco and California is powerful and thought provoking, I wanted more self-analysis in relation to the tragi This is a memoir of grief and celebration of life. The author experienced two traumatic losses in a short time span, but the writing left me wanting more emotion, more honesty. The writing style is descriptive and artful but lacks emotional depth and self-awareness. Hitchins writes as though he is keeping his grief and his feelings at arm's distance. While the social commentary on San Francisco and California is powerful and thought provoking, I wanted more self-analysis in relation to the tragic losses. I had a hard time getting to know each of the men he lost. I wanted to know them and love them. I wanted to feel his pain as an insider rather than the way I found myself outside looking in.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Mcleod

    As a reader I could literally feel the physicality of Shawn’s loss and grief. His words poured out his suffering, but then gradually penetrated so we could glimpse the light and hope of continued life beneath the hurt and anguish of grief. An amazing and powerful tribute to love at its most humanness- with all its human faults and failings, but in the same breath in all its wondrous joy and glory.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Muneeza

    2.5 stars Shawn Hitchins writes about losing a loved one and the grief that comes with it. At some points I could feel the intensity of his emotions but at others I was confused. He did not spend a lot of time providing context so I felt like I was thrown into a setting with no information. *Thanks to NetGalley for the digital copy*

  13. 5 out of 5

    Teresa Ironside

    A beautifully written book with moments that brought me to tears but also moments that had me laughing out loud. Descriptive and honest, the journey through loss and the celebration of life was incredibly moving. Would highly recommend.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adam Gossman

    Very well written.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mackenzie

    Shawn Hitchins is the gay Joan Didion. This book is such an emotional ride through grief. You’ll laugh and cry in the same paragraph and find yourself in love with Shawn’s heartbreaking journey.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie Rose

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tif

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Barrett

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alex Ryan

  20. 4 out of 5

    John

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Kyte

  23. 4 out of 5

    viktoria

  24. 5 out of 5

    Renee

  25. 4 out of 5

    Danny Heger

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  27. 4 out of 5

    Crissy Calhoun

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sioux

  30. 5 out of 5

    John Doll

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