My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - as able over 4 days
Pages - 319
Publisher - Little a
Source - Bought
Blurb from Goodreads
Activist. Journalist. Survivor. One man’s journey from prejudice to Pride. Paul Burston wasn’t always the iconic voice of LGBTQ+ London that he is today. Paul came out in the mid-1980s, when ‘gay’ still felt like a dirty word, especially in the small Welsh town where he grew up. He moved to London hoping for a happier life, only to watch in horror as his new-found community was decimated by AIDS. But even in the depths of his grief, Paul vowed never to stop fighting back on behalf of his young friends whose lives were cut tragically short. It’s a promise he’s kept to this day. As an activist he stormed the House of Commons during the debate over the age of consent. As a journalist he spoke up for the rights of the community at a time of tabloid homophobia and legal inequality. As a novelist he founded the groundbreaking Polari Prize. But his lifestyle hid a dark secret, and Paul’s demons—shame, trauma, grief—stalked him on every corner. In an attempt to silence them, he began to self-medicate. From almost drowning at eighteen to a near-fatal overdose at thirty-eight, this is Paul’s story of what happened in the twenty years between, and how he carved out a life that his teenage self could scarcely have imagined. Emotional but often witty, We Can Be Heroes is an illuminating memoir of the eighties, nineties and noughties from a gay man who only just survived them.
I never used to read non fiction and now I find myself reading more and more. Paul Burston writes non fiction too (check out his other books, he has actually a fair few under his belt) so when this popped up (absolute bargain price for the treebook too) I had to get a copy (3 actually, one for me, my brother and BDWB for my workies). Paul takes us through his life experiences - how he dealt with being gay at a time when there was so much hate/stigma (lets face it even now in places we are still having to deal with this homophobic/prejudice) to becoming a fierce activist and out and proud.
Paul gives us a very real/stark/warts and all look at his life from being a youngster to the struggles he faced/addiction/relationships and one of the most important ones, his relationship with himself. He has been through some very dark times on his own personal journey and within the gay community. He has become a voice for the voiceless and done some amazing and tireless work but it has been a harsh road to get to where he is now.
We follow him through the years, the issues faced by gay people just for trying to be their true selves, love, proud and seen. The book isn't just a memoir, a survivors story it is also an education of what many of his community experienced and he himself between relationships, family, friends, the dating scene, work life. It is a busy book, Paul has achieved much and is still going strong, emotive at points the book shows Burston's absolute strength of character for all he has survived, achieved and helped to shape him as the individual he is today, 4.5/5.