LIT REVIEW: “Freak of Nurture” by Kelli Dunham

  • Graphic Graeme Shorten Adams

As a youngling queer, sometimes I think I have an internal gaydar for role models, since homo adults who are also viable options for role models are just so fucking hard to find.


So when I picked up my review copy of Kelli Dunham’s book Freak of Nurture, I was delighted to break out into frequent giggles. Her humour in the midst of grief made me feel—this is the greatest compliment I can ever think of to give to a book—less weird and sad about being a human being.

Dunham has written and/or performed these 19 essays and short stories, some of which are excerpts from her comedy act. I’m not sure why a queer comedian would be on the Discovery Channel but the book jacket says she has been there. And on Showtime. She’s a nurse, who helped out with disaster relief in Haiti. Oh, and she’s a former nun so be excited for Jesus jokes.

My favourite essays were “Holy Mother of Pride,” “Pudding Day” and “The ABCs of Adventures in Gender.” The first is about Dunham’s relationship with her mother and it involves introducing her resigned mother to queer-land in the gayest way possible. The essay also explores their respective difficulties grieving their spouses, and how they were able to console one another. “Pudding Day” is about her deceased partner Heather’s battle with cancer and their resilient romance during it. “ABCs” is about all the stupid things people say about gender and the ridiculous lengths we all go through to categorize one another.

If this book wasn’t so deliciously unashamed of kink, I would get my mom to read it. Or maybe I should, subtly challenging her sex-negativity, “Hey Mom, wanna read this cool book? It’s this lesbian comedian—kinda like Ellen Degeneres—but younger and she doesn’t have her own TV show. She talks a little bit about God and a little bit about sex. She talks a lot about dealing with grief as a widow, making it hilarious because she has a wry sense of humour. I laughed a lot. Do you want to read it once you’re done with Eckhart Tolle?”

Buy the book at Topside Press.

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