Double Book Review: Gay Like Me & Dear America


Today I am tackling two nonfiction book reviews in one post - Gay Like Me by Richie Jackson and Dear America by Jose Antonio Vargas. 

They have these things in common:

  • Both of today's selections I listened to the audiobooks, which were available on the Libby app from my local library.
  • The authors of both books are gay men. In fact both books were highlighted in Libby as Pride Month selections.
  • Both of them are fairly short. Gay Like Me is under 4 and a half hours, and Dear America is just over 5 hours and 45 minutes.
  • While the authors cover different topics, both come at their subject matter from unique perspectives. Jackson covers gay life from the perspective of a gay father whose son has come out. Vargas covers undocumented citizenship as a gay Filipino whose mother had him smuggled into America as a young boy who at that time had no idea he wasn't supposed to be here.

Gay Like Me by Richie Jackson

Richie Jackson is a successful television and film producer, perhaps best known for producing the film Shortbus and the TV series Nurse Jackie. He is currently married to fellow producer Jordan Roth, but prior to meeting Jordan he had been in a 15 year relationship with actor B.D. Wong. His son by surrogacy from that relationship came out to his parents as a teenager. He is the son that Jackson addresses in this book.

This book is modeled after other "letter from your father" works like Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. While I really liked that idea, and while there is much that Jackson talks about that I can relate to as a gay man of roughly the same age, there was something about this book that just didn't click for me. 

Some of it is that, after getting into the book I realized that Jackson was modeling his book a bit too closely on books like Coates', and seemed to be reaching too far to equating parts of the gay struggle with the Black experience. It seemed a bit much for a well-to-do white guy like himself. 

Some of it is that in places he comes across like a grumpy old man complaining about how gay kids today have it too easy. 

The flip side of all that is that I think the book covers a ton of relevant and useful information and it would be worthwhile for gay youth to read.

Bottom line, I'm conflicted on this one.

Having said all that, I would recommend reading this one if you haven't already, and again, especially if you are a gay youth. So I give Gay Like Me Three Stars ⭐⭐⭐. 

Gay Like Me links:

📙 Borrow this book: Find out if your library has the ebook or audiobook available.

📘 Buy this book:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | AbeBooks | Powells | ThriftBooks

📗 Support Indie Bookstores:  Buy this book from or find an Indie Bookstore near you.

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas come to America as a small child accompanied by an "uncle" - sent by his mother on a flight to the US to live with his grandparents. In Filipino culture all your adult male relations are referred to as "uncle" so Antonio wasn't particularly troubled that he hadn't previously met this man. Safely delivered to his grandparents in California, Jose began his American life, assured that his mother would soon be joining him.

But his mother was not able to get a visa and never did come to America. It wasn't until Jose was a teenager who went on his own to apply for a drivers license that he learned his green card was invalid. His grandfather confessed that the "uncle" who brought him to America was in fact a paid smuggler and that Jose was undocumented.

Jose's grandfather and mother meant well. They thought that if all else failed, Jose would meet, fall in love with and marry an American girl, and the marriage would confer citizenship on him. This plan was foiled when Jose came out as gay. 

In Dear America Jose tells the story of how he dealt with his undocumented status, and was able to go to college and become a respected journalist. While he was out as gay, he hid his undocumented status in the closet. When he finally revealed that he was undocumented he did so as a journalist, writing about it for a major US publication. He went on to found the organization Define American, which seeks to reshape American opinion on immigration. You may agree or disagree with some of the decisions he has made, but given his situation there is no easy legal way to "fix" his undocumented status. I found his story well told and some of the struggles he went through and how they affected him heartbreaking.

I give Dear America Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐. I have heard of Vargas and read some of his work, but I did not know anything about his undocumented citizenship until I picked up this book. Recommended.

Dear America links:

📙 Borrow this book: Find out if your library has the ebook or audiobook available.

📘 Buy this book:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | AbeBooks | Powells | ThriftBooks

📗 Support Indie Bookstores:  Buy this book from or find an Indie Bookstore near you.