They don’t call them BI-ographies for nothing: Six bisexual memoirs and autobiographies to read on the beach this Summer

readingBrush up on your bisexual history, find out more about a bi icon or just glory in the sensation of a life far more interesting than your own. From the outrageously trashy to the impressively high-brow, we’ve got you covered.

1. Alan Cumming – Not My Father’s Son: A Family Memoir (Canongate)

acSample quote: “It’s hard to explain how much that feeling of the bottom potentially falling out at any moment takes its toll. It makes you anxious, of course, and constant anxiety is impossible for the body to handle. So you develop a coping mechanism, and for us that meant shutting down. Everything we liked or wanted or felt joy in had to be hidden or suppressed. I’m sad to say that this method works. If you don’t give as much credence or value to whatever it is that you love, it hurts less when it is inevitably taken from you. I had to pretend I had no joy. It will come as a shock to people who know me now, but being able to express joy was something it took me a long time to be confident enough to do.”

Sample GoodReads review: “Not your ordinary celebrity biography.”

With a focus on family secrets and organised around an episode of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, Alan Cumming’s story is at times heartrending, funny, joyous and gloomy. Cumming’s troubled relationships with his family are explored with honesty and a knack for philosophical self-reflection that warm him to the reader. Ancestral and immediate family  share the spotlight in Not My Father’s Son. It really is not your ordinary celebrity biography.

2. Grace Jones – I’ll Never Write My Memoirs (Gallery Books)

gjSample quote: “Still tripping after the flight, I decided I was going to hitchhike from Luxembourg, and I took one of my big photographs and wrote on the back in big black letters: Paris. I had no idea how far away it was, or even that it was in another country. I stood on this big highway—it was a beautiful day. I felt I looked pretty hot in my cape and hat, certainly worth someone stopping for to find out what the story was, but all these sports cars whizzed past me without stopping, totally ignoring me. None of them stopped. I thought, Everyone in Europe is so rude! Eventually, a sports car skidded to a halt. It backed up to me, and the driver said, in English, by the way, “You’re on the wrong side of the road. Paris is the other way! I think it’s safer for you to catch a train.””

Sample GoodReads review: “Things I learned reading this book: Grace Jones is way fucking cooler than you.”

From a strict religious upbringing in Jamaica to excess and indulgence with the international jet set, Grace Jones has got some  stories to tell. Although the prose suffers from it, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs is, like Jones herself, unmoderated and raw. It’s packed with anecdotes from four decades among the creative elite as well as astute observations on culture and the odd never-knew-you-needed-it partying tip, this memoir is sure to blow the cobwebs out of your brain.

3. Sarah Bernhardt – My Double Life (State University of New York Press)

sbSample quote: “The opium that I had taken in my potion made my head rather heavy. I arrived on the stage in a semi-conscious state, delighted with the applause I received. I walked along as though I were in a dream, and could scarcely distinguish my surroundings. The house itself I only saw through a luminous mist. My feet glided along without any effort on the carpet, and my voice sounded to me far away, very far away. I was in that delicious stupor that one experiences after chloroform, morphine, opium, or hasheesh.”

Sample GoodReads review: “She definitely had no qualms about exaggerating, stretching the truth or just skipping over pertinent facts but that somehow made the whole thing even more enjoyable.”

Sorting the fact from the fiction in this romp of a memoir is an impossible task, for Sarah Bernhardt lived a fantastic life in a fantastic period of time, but she was also notoriously fickle in her relationship with the truth. If it sounds to good to be true, there’s only a 50% chance it is.  Nevertheless, as a snapshot of the demi-monde and bohemian theatrical scene in Belle Epoque  and fin de siècle Paris My Double Life is sans pareil.

4. Piper Kerman – Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (Spiegel & Grau)

pkSample quote: “I had learned to hasten the days by chasing the enjoyment in them, no matter how elusive. Some people on the outside look for what is amiss in every interaction, every relationship, and every meal; they are always trying to hang their mortality on improvement. It was incredibly liberating to instead tackle the trick of making each day fly more quickly. “Time, be my friend,” I repeated every day.”

Sample GoodReads review: “She seems to be marketing the book as this revealing story about how we’re all just human after all.”

You’ve already binged your way through four seasons of Piper Kerman’s fictionalised antics, so why not catch up on the real story. Self-confessed ‘nice blonde lady’ Kerman, finding herself behind bars for a crime committed years earlier, presents herself as entirely separate to her fellow inmates: they are criminals, she is merely youthfully transgressive; and it is this that makes Orange is the New Black a piece of pure class voyeurism. A prison memoir should not be an easy read, but this is. Devoid of anything even a little confrontational, it’s perfect for the beach.

5. Hans Christian Andersen – The Fairy Tale of My Life (Cooper Square)

hcaSample quote: “They told tales as they sat at their work, and every one related what wonderful things he had seen or experienced. One afternoon I heard an old man among them say that God knew every thing, both what had happened and what would happen. That idea occupied my whole mind, and towards evening, as I went alone from the court, where there was a deep pond, and stood upon some stones which were just within the water, the thought passed through my head, whether God actually knew everything which was to happen there. Yes, he has now determined that I should live and be so many years old, thought I; but, if I now were to jump into the water here and drown myself, then it would not be as he wished; and all at once I was firmly and resolutely determined to drown myself. I ran to where the water was deepest, and then a new thought passed through my soul. “It is the devil who wishes to have power over me!” I uttered a loud cry, and, running away from the place as if I were pursued, fell weeping into my mother’s arms. But neither she nor any one else could wring from me what was amiss with me.”

Sample GoodReads review: “What a strange man”.

Hans Christian Andersen’s sanitised autobiography is perhaps not as scandalous as his published (and unpublished) diaries, which reveal him to be a chronic masturbator with a penchant for sexless meetings with French prostitutes, but it is a source of endless fascination for lovers of folklore and children’s literature. Andersen’s profound sensitivity and wandering, fantastical soul is evident in his lush prose, making The Fairy Tale of My Life a sumptuous treat.

6. Diphallic Dude – Double Header: My Life With Two Penises (DDD Publishing) (e-book only)

dddSample quote: “Since my penises were both fully formed and functional my parents decided to ‘leave things be’. I remember at some point in my youth my mother explained that I had two for a reason so she and my father saw no need to remove one. Looking back, after reading over most of the medical reports I’ve seen, it might have also been due to the fact that both were almost equal in size and pretty difficult to determine which was the duplicate and which the original. To this day I don’t know I don’t know if the right one or the left one was the original. The right one is still strongest and the most durable, but that could simply be due to blood flow. The world may never know!”

Sample GoodReads review: “Unfortunately, having two penises has left the author with too little time to hone his writing skills.”

Let’s be honest: no one is reading this for the notorious DDD’s  literary prowess. We’re reading it because we are terrible, terrible people for whom morbid curiosity is an overwhelming force.  Coming in at a mere 75 pages, this e-book is nevertheless packed with details of the anonymous author’s many and varied sexual exploits. Is it good? No. Are you going to read it anyway? Probably.

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Libby Baxter-Williams

Libby is a 30-something Londoner, who spends more time reading picture books than is seemly. She became a bi activist entirely by accident, but now she can't imagine living any other way. In the event of an emergency, she'll have a large gin and tonic, thanks.
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