by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
A SHORT JEW IN THE BODY OF A TALL W.A.S.P.
MARK OKUN AND HILLARY BROWER
(Dog Ear Publishing; 2013)
If you are a lover of books by Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris, and the like, then you are gonna live for Mark Okun.
Spanning the hippie era, the glitter-rock era, and the disco era, Okun's memoir, A Short Jew in the Body of a Tall W.A.S.P., touches on everything from Gay rights, the glitterati of New York City in the 1970s and '80s, being Jewish (and maybe Catholic), rebellion, coming of age, survival, love, and the bond of family.
Author and hairstylist Mark Okun does not pull any punches about his friends who died of AIDS, being HIV positive himself, or how physically ill, emotionally barren, and spiritually dead his life of drugs, alcohol, and partying eventually made him feel. In his commitment to life and the depth of his love for his adoptive parents, his grandmother, his friends, and his long-time companion, John, Okun finally finds happiness and contentment.
But don't let the heavy stuff scare you - this book is absolutely entertaining from cover to cover. It's an honest, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking account of the struggles faced by the author, who was adopted at birth by loving (short, dark, Jewish) parents. His memoir tells the stories of love, loss, adventure, sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and other misguided adventures - all of which he survived because of the love and support of his mismatched family.
'Growing up, I loved to tell stories. As a hairstylist, I have a great platform at which I can really open up about my past experiences,' says Okun. 'In hearing my stories, friends, family, and clients continually encouraged me to write a book. Knowing my friend Hillary loved to write, we agreed to collaborate when I met my birth family - and this is the story.'
As a tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed Gay man raised by a loving family, Okun reflects on the feeling that his genes are at war with his upbringing as he tries to figure out how he fits in his own world. Through A Short Jew in the Body of a Tall W.A.S.P., he shares his personal love, loss, and late-night adventures.
With dashingly good looks as a young Gay man, doors opened at an early age for acceptance into the world of hard partying, music, drugs, and sex. It was a wild and fun ride yet it came with a toll to pay. When the alcohol and drugs wore off and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS hit hard, it was the strong family values of his adoptive parents that provided him with the strength to overcome the odds.
The book is filled with colorful characters of the times in the Gay world of the era, telling stories of the party life, the struggles in the Gay community for acceptance, and how everything crashed around Okun as he watched his friends - one by one - get sick and die from this unknown disease.
Finally coming full circle by choosing sobriety and a healthier lifestyle, Okun is encouraged to find his biological family. True to his flamboyant nature he agrees to meet them on The Gordon Elliot Show. His reaction to the unification is not what you might expect.
A Short Jew in the Body of a Tall W.A.S.P. is available online at www.amazon.com and www.bn.com. Visit the author's website at www.markokunbooks.com/wordpress.
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