Writer Alysia Abbott did not have the most ordinary of childhoods.
Her mother died when she was two years old, so she was raised by her father—a gay writer—in San Francisco’s bustling cultural scene of the 1970s. Then the 80s saw the plague of AIDS sweep through her father’s community of friends.
Now, Abbott has written a memoir about her childhood, called “Fairyland”—and she’s also planning speaking engagements this weekend in Roanoke. She hopes her story will spark more lead to more open minds and hearts about different lifestyles.
In her book “Fairyland,” writer Alysia Abbott details a nomadic life of adventure with her father-- in a community of gay men looking for liberation. The pair moved frequently, amidst a cast of revolving roommates and very little structure. Abbott says she was the only child among adults—and the only girl among men.
"When I was a child, I struggled with feeling different. It wasn't just that I had a gay father-- I had no mother, no siblings. I went to a private school supported by my grandparents, but at home we had no money. And so I always felt a little different and that was hard. But it was also a time when I felt very loved by my father. I remember having adventures with him, poetry readings, having my drawings in his books. It was complicated," she said.
Eventually, just as Abbott was finding her own independence through academics, her father—like so many of his friends—succumbed to AIDS. She became his primary caregiver.
"As much as it was hard for me to accept-- I didn't want to lose him or my life-- but I didn't want someone else to take my place. I wanted that experience to feel close to him."
These days, Abbott lives in Cambridge Massachusetts—it’s what she calls a very mainstream life. A husband, a house, two cars, two kids. But her childhood gave her a lifelong connection with civil rights issues
"There's not been a lot said from the perspective of children of gay parents, especially who grew up in the 70s and 80s. I wanted my book to be a window into my relationship with my father, and also in the context of how we lived and how it made us. I'd like us to have more discussion of civil rights and look at that history and figure out how far we've come and how far we have to go," said Abbott.