4 out of 4 stars
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Vincent Burke looks back on his life in his book Forgive and Forget: A Gay Man's Memoir and analyzes how he has lived. Now in his eighties, he wants to rate his life on a scale of one to ten. He asked himself if he is ready to forgive and forget.
In the twentieth century, if you were gay, you kept it hidden, even from family. There was so much bias and discrimination; it wasn't safe to be known as gay, so Vincent lived a double life. His father deserted the family when Vincent was three, so his life with his mother and sister was a pretense of being straight. He even pretended to have a girlfriend. His gay life was late at night when he would go to a gay piano bar where he wouldn't see anyone he knew. Eventually, Vincent moved to New York to further his career as a reporter. He met Jack, his first long-term partner in New York. Although Vincent and Jack were a couple, Vincent never 'came out' as gay. The author changed jobs from reporter to advertising, and eventually, he and Jack bought apartment buildings in Manhattan, and after some glitches, became successful landlords. His relationship with Jack lasted forty years, but you will have to read the book to find out how it ended. His second long-term relationship with Frank is currently at sixteen years. Vincent never formally told anyone he was gay, but it is a known fact that he is married to Frank. Raised as a Catholic, Vincent eventually lost his faith and became an atheist. Will he be able to forgive those who showed such bias; those who told their homophobic jokes; the society in general for the prejudice that gays endured for so long? On a scale of one to ten, what will his final score be?
The author's story is a poignant account of what it was like being gay in a society where gays were hated. Although he was "an undercover gay," he tells of the "unease" he felt at the homophobic jokes by his peers and being labeled as mentally ill by psychiatrists. Vincent gives an account of running from the police to avoid arrest and keep his name out of the paper. Those are just a few of the many obstacles he faced in life. His writing style is engaging, and his sense of humor shines through despite the things he endured. One of the funniest excerpts from the story is the saga of his thinning hair. He found a powdered hair product that didn't work out so well. Then, he tried hair weaving, and his secretary's reaction was priceless.
What I liked most about this book is the transparency of the author on issues such as racism, sexual abuse, and religion. I also enjoyed the photos of his family and the places where he lived. Some of the pictures were old and a little worse for wear, but I found them endearing.
What I disliked most was the section where the author describes the rental laws in Manhattan in too much detail. There are two types of rent regulations in New York, rent control and rent stabilization, neither of which I understood even after the detailed description in the book.
There are only a few grammatical errors and some formatting issues that could be due to the PDF version I read, but not the printed book form. The poignant storyline and the critical social problems addressed makes this a book worthy of acclaim, so I am giving Forgive and Forget by Vincent Burke 4 out of 4 stars.
I recommend this book to fans of memoirs, as well as those struggling with their sexual orientation. I only encountered one curse word in the book, and there are no erotic scenes, making this book acceptable for all ages except the very young.
Forgive and Forget
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