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ARC Review: This America of Ours: Bernard and Avis DeVoto and the Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild

This America of Ours: Bernard and Avis DeVoto and the Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild by Nate Schweber It’s not often that a book on a topic in American history is a complete surprise to me. I’m a fan of history and consider myself fairly well read - especially on American history. Even if I don’t know a specific American history story, I generally know roughly what I’m getting into when I pick up a book.  Yet when I first saw this book and its subtitle on the “ Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild ” I was intrigued. I hadn’t a clue who Bernard and Avis DeVoto were, and so I knew I had to read this book. What I found was a fascinating and surprising history of which I knew very little, and a stirring and uplifting story of a man and wife who became two of America’s foremost conservationists, and whose work was vital to protecting our public lands in the face of corruption and greed. Surprise number one for me was that Avis DeVoto (nee MacVicar) was born and raised in Houghton, Michigan -

Audiobook Review: Unprotected: A Memoir

 

Unprotected: A Memoir by Billy Porter

Billy Porter has been through some things, and he tells you all about it in his memoir Unprotected. In the audiobook Porter delivers not just a reading of his book, but a tour de force performance. If you are familiar with his work you would, of course, expect nothing less.

Porter came to the attention of many Americans in 2018 when the television series Pose debuted. His performance as Pray Tell, the charismatic emcee of the balls, led to his becoming the first openly gay Black actor to win an Emmy for Lead Actor.  

But Porter has been performing on Broadway since the 1990s. Among his other accomplishments, he brought Lola to life on the Broadway stage in Kinky Boots, a role that earned him a Tony in 2013. The cast album earned a Grammy in 2014. 

He has become well known for his daring fashion sense, including the stunning tuxedo with velvet gown by Christian Siriano that “won the red carpet” at the Oscars in February of 2019.

Music is his first love, and he has several albums to his credit. He won the male vocalist award in the 1992 season of the TV talent show Star Search. His rendition of “Love is On the Way” was featured in the movie The First Wives Club in 1996. 

While this success is covered in his book, the focus is on the things he’s had to work through to become successful. Porter was born in Pittsburgh into a religious Pentacostal family, who didn’t quite know how to deal with his effeminate nature. He was the object of derision and righteous judgment in his church. His mother was disabled and she suffered her own disregard and ill regard by church members. His stepfather sexually abused him for seven years, starting from the age of 5. He was bullied in school, and wound up in the hospital after being beaten by gang members while waiting for a bus as a young teen.

At an early age Billy learned that his singing voice was a gift that earned him praise rather than mistreatment. He felt acceptance in his church community only when he sang. With determination he threw himself into his dream of taking his voice and his musical talent all the way to Broadway. 

In grade school he had the maturity to recognize that the public high school he was supposed to attend wouldn’t support his dream (it was gang infested and he knew he would be bullied there relentlessly). So he decided to study Russian in junior high. He did this because the only high school that would allow him to continue to study Russian was Allderdice High School in a white neighborhood with a large Jewish population. He kept his grades up so he would meet the qualifications for entry at Allderdice. 

Furthermore, he was able to qualify for half day attendance at CAPA, Pittsburgh’s high school for the creative and performing arts. He did this all on his own, with little to no help from his mother or step-father. His talent and determination led to his acceptance at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama, where he graduated in 1991.

In Unprotected you get to hear all these stories from the man himself. 

I don’t read a lot of celebrity memoirs but I was a huge fan of Porter’s performances in Pose and so was intrigued when I saw this audiobook was available. It is honest, heartfelt, fierce and every bit Billy Porter. I have seen reviewers saying that the book is so much in Porter’s voice that they could hear him speaking the words in their head as they read. Listening to him narrate made it even better.  

Breaking with my habit of trying (though often unsuccessfully) to maintain neutrality on the format of the books I review, I am calling this post, for the first time, an Audiobook Review. I am recommending wholeheartedly that you pick up the audiobook version of Unprotected. It was a Five Star ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ experience for me, and likely will be one of my top non-fiction books of 2022.




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Title: Unprotected: A Memoir
Author: BIlly Porter
Publisher: Abrams Press
Publish Date: October 19, 2021
ISBN-13: 9781419746192
Publisher’s List Price: $28.00 (Hardcover as of 04/2022)