Title: “Brave Face”
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Pages (hardcover): 368 pages
Original Publishing Date: 21 May 2019
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
“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.”
Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:
- suicidal ideation
- attempted suicide
- sexual assault
- internalized homophobia
Representation in the novel:
- memoir of a gay/queer man
I knew going into this book that it was going to be a tough read emotionally, but shit, I didn’t think I was going to get my heart ripped out (okay, maybe I did and just wanted to believe otherwise). Brave Face is many things: powerful, dark, sad, and at the end of everything, hopeful.
Before I get into much more, I want to thank Shaun and/or the publisher/editor. Right before the first chapter is a list of content/trigger warnings for the novel, along with resources for those going through similar things described in the memoir. Along with that, Shaun also has two chapters outlining certain warnings: the first is the opening chapter, talking about general warnings, and the second is near the end, warning about the description of a suicide attempt. I really appreciate the care that went into the making of this to make sure readers are as safe as possible as they read.
I’ve sat on this review for so long because I just…don’t know what to write? How do you write a review for a book that ripped your soul from your body, but in a good way? How do you write about a book that’s so incredibly raw that it hurts to read, but you absolutely have to keep going because, damn, this is real. Just…how? I still don’t know . But I’m going to try my best.
Brave Face is a memoir following Shaun David Hutchinson through his young adult life, highlighting his relationship between himself and being gay/queer, along with his depression. Amongst other things, it’s about being a young gay/queer man in the ’90s with little to no positive representation and a whole lot of internalized homophobia and self-hatred.
I flew through this book so quickly — the narrative just seemed to flow seamlessly. While a lot was heavy to read and I teared up a few times, there were also quite a few funny parts that I laughed outloud at. Most importantly (to me, at least), I felt for Hutchinson. Yes, he was a bit of an ass when he was younger; he even says so himself. But damn, the shit he goes through? And the self-hatred he experiences? It’s a lot.
I do want to point out that it is probably best to read this when in a good (or relatively better) mental state. There’s some graphic/plain-spoken scenes regarding self-harm, suicide, and depression, and I can imagine it has the potential to harm someone if they are in a vulnerable place mentally. Or maybe it’d help to see that others have experienced similar things. I don’t know. But I just wanted to make it all clear, just in case.
And with that, I want to end this review with one of my favorite quotes from the book, to show that there can be a bit of hope: “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.”
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