Straight to the Hart…

Author:  Holly Lorka

Handsome book cover“Awkward” or “Shame” would have been good titles for this book.  But either of those titles would have been a downer.  The chosen title of Handsome provides a much more positive and accurate vibe, as well as some levity when it’s contrasted with the book’s cover image:  the author in her circa-1970s fifth-grade (or so) school picture.  But while author Holly Lorka is undoubtedly handsome as an adult, she’s spent much of her life feeling awkward and ashamed.  This collection of loosely-connected autobiographical essays presents her inspiring story of triumph over these painful emotions.  While it’s consistently powerful – and spectacularly raunchy at times – it’s also a lot funnier than you might imagine.

Gender dysphoria may not be considered commonplace terminology quite yet, but it’s well on its way.  Regardless, there was nothing equivocal about Ms. Lorka’s experience.  In this book, her first, she vividly recollects powerful and awkward feelings about her assigned gender when she was as young as four years old.  As she grew up, she constantly obsessed about her lack of a penis and could barely control her entirely heterosexual lust for Stefanie Powers during each of the 110 episodes of ABC’s Hart to Hart.  The author spent much of her youth and young adulthood couching her shame and uncomfortable feelings in humor and goofiness, eventually spending some time as a stand-up comic.  She reveals much of that comedic talent here, presenting laugh-out-loud moments repeatedly.

But humor is only one dimension to this impressive collection.  Lorka also effectively captures her internal experience, revealing what makes her beautiful and strong as an individual.  The personal struggles she faces as she comes to recognize this inner beauty and the complicated ways that her gender and body match and mismatch make for some truly powerful reading.  Somehow she takes her unique experience – awkwardness and all – and translates it into something that this straight 50-something cis-male reader could emotionally relate to.

Prepare yourself for a wild ride, as Handsome leaves no sexual nook or cranny unexplored.  But once you’ve received that warning, I can’t recommend Lorka’s collection more highly.   Funny, beautiful, inspiring and eye-opening, she presents a life experience that you may never have even considered before.  An undeniable successful memoir.

— D. Driftless

Thanks to She Writes Press for sending me this Advance Reader Copy.  Handsome is available this fall.

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