Welcome to the world of “the unsures,” Angela Kelly's affectionate term for women falling at various points on the in-between scale of gay and straight.Meet Liza, the single mother from an under privileged background, used to finding partners who will give her a sense of security. Then there's Jennifer, the stripper who really does have a heart of gold. Sandy is the direlyWelcome to the world of “the unsures,” Angela Kelly's affectionate term for women falling at various points on the in-between scale of gay and straight.Meet Liza, the single mother from an under privileged background, used to finding partners who will give her a sense of security. Then there's Jennifer, the stripper who really does have a heart of gold. Sandy is the direly sexy friend Angela chased for years before winning over. Annie presents herself as a teacher and mentor but proves to be a manipulative narcissist. These and the other characters present a rich tapestry of love, lust, obsession and, finally, redemption.Threaded between these stories of failed romance you will find self-discovery and a coming of age and awareness. Join Angela Kelly as she learns about her own issues, dysfunction, addictions, and interpersonal dynamics that contribute to her attraction to unavailable women ... and their attraction to her....
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If you picked this book off the shelf because of its title, you probably need to read it as much as I needed to write it.Thus, this novella length memoir begins, implying from the very first sentence that this is a book about self-discovery. In a way, it is. This is the author’s journey along one very specific path in her life, introducing the reader to various women she has loved over the years, women with whom relationships ultimately failed or never developed in the way the author hoped. She calls these women “the unsures,” those floating between the points A and B on the concept of gender and sexual identity. We meet her first crush at the age of eleven, the one the author believes set the pattern for a good part of her adult life, and hip-hop with her as she ages. Each story is a window, and little by little, we come to feel like we know the author, sometimes better than she knows herself. They vary in tone and length, but always end up coming back to her. Ultimately, however, this is not about a lesbian loving an “unsure.” This is about a woman with an obsessive/addictive personality choosing emotionally unavailable people to fall in love with.I don’t mean to diminish the author’s experiences. This is the journey she took. This is the one she knows. But there’s an undercurrent that runs throughout her stories, one that makes complete sense considering her background and the experiences she’s had, that implies this type of relationship is all about sexual identity. It’s not. The author does have a point that her odds of meeting someone unavailable to her are greater than the general population due to her orientation, but the fact of the matter is, this happens all the time. For instance, women fall for married men. They justify their continued involvement with lines like, “Oh, I give him something his wife doesn’t,” or, “As soon as he sees how much better I am for him than she is, he’ll leave her for me.” The author uses these same justifications to explain her doggedness in sticking with her obsessive relationships, too. Because ultimately, it’s about the emotion and the individual doing the obsessing, not just the sexual identity.I bring this up because I think the author does herself a slight disservice in her tone at the top of the story. Right away, she’s reaching out to women just like her. If you picked this up… There’s a sense of exclusion implied from the start, that if you’re not a lesbian, you won’t be able to truly understand what she went through. But I recognized and identified with her almost from the start. Forget about the other people I’ve known who chose the wrong people. I can think of two separate, caustic, full of turmoil relationships I had that mirror some of hers. I understood exactly why she fell into stalking behavior. I read her chasing after some of these women feeling sick to stomach, because I saw the train wreck that was to come. I would hate to think that people pass on this memoir because they won’t identify with it. Its audience is much broader than its title and introduction suggest.It’s helped tremendously by the author’s voice. She’s accessible and self-deprecating, insightful and articulate. Reading her stories is like sitting down and chatting with a good friend in the corner of your favorite café with extra large mugs and huge sticky buns because there’s no need for pretense between you. I was done with this before it felt like I actually got started, a single sitting that made it imperative—and possible—to immediately flip back to the beginning and read it again. Though there’s a sense of sameness permeating many of her encounters, that’s due to the thread binding them all together—the author and her obsessive/addictive personality—not the other women. She manages to paint each with its own individual brush, coloring each relationship in its own unique hue.My biggest niggle about the work itself comes with the ending. She concludes her tale with Annie with this: Ironically, the most significant thing I can say about my relationship with Annie is it taught me enough lessons, it brought me enough cleansing pain, that I became willing to face demons, to acknowledge my part in the pattern that haunted me for years. More importantly, as a result of that process, I was able to write this book, and share it with you. For that, I am truly grateful. Yet, we never hear or get to see how she got to that point. Annie excised the author from her life, and then…everything was okay. The only thing to come after this is the author’s afterword, in which she discusses memoir as a means of therapy and emotional introspection. She repeats how writing about these women helped her grow, but I never felt I knew how she got to that point. I was just told she learned from it, rather than shown, and felt a little cheated as a result. This isn’t necessarily a flaw of the narrative. Memoirs are not novels, and this one in particular is very focused in what it was attempting to present. But at the same time, I felt like she was trying to show me the journey she took to get past falling into these obsessive traps, but while she provided the milestones along the way, she decided to skip the last fourth and instead drop me straight at the destination.But life is not about easy answers or smooth rides. We make our choices, and then we find ways to live with them. Sometimes, we’re fortunate enough to move on. Sometimes, we’re fortunate enough find strength to do so by reading about others moving on.
Unavailable is a heart-breaking story of one woman’s desperate search for love. Her story reads very much like an Alcoholics Anonymous confession (for good reason, as it turns out), being the emotional outpouring of a woman in need of healing . . . and, perhaps, validation. It’s a search that seems hopeless at times, doomed to failure by her choice of unavailable lovers, but Angela is a sadly endearing narrator who never extinguished my hope for her happiness.Angela is a lost, wounded soul, in desperate need of love and affection. She’s also a woman who regularly confuses friendship with love, and who leaps upon every misunderstood opportunity presented to her. She is a co-dependent addict, plagued by the physical demons of drugs and alcohol, and by the spiritual demons of her own wishful thinking. She is entirely aware of her own issues, but is far too emotionally involved to be able to help herself. Her love is child-like and selfish, all about wanting what she cannot have. She craves the physical fulfillment of oral sex when lovers are unwilling to provide more than cuddling, and craves the intimacy of cuddling when they’re unwilling to provide anything more than the purely physical act of oral sex. She’s passionate, intense, fully committed to the moment, but all at her own expense.Her lovers include an older schoolmate, an abused woman, a co-worker, a stripper, a recovering addict, another stripper, and motivational speaker. They are all, in their own way, as damaged as they are unavailable, and each woman takes advantage of her desperation. Some are bi-curious, others doubt their own sexuality, and others are convinced of their bisexuality. Sadly, it’s a woman she pays for intimacy (her first stripper) who represents her healthiest relationship. There are moments of real caring between her and Jennifer, an honest give-and-take, mixed in with the lap-dances. It’s also the only relationship where clear boundaries are set (which she ignores), and one where there appears to be the potential for long-term friendship (if she could simply be content with that).In the end, even clean-and-sober, Angela is a woman who repeatedly makes poor choices. However, she never comes across as a victim, and never once tries to blame her failures on the unavailable women around her. Those experiences leave her with a better understanding of herself and, even though I suspect there are more mistakes ahead, we’re left with the hope that she may, one day, allow love to find her . . . instead of forcing it into a situation where it doesn’t really exist.DISCLAIMER: This book was received from the publisher for the purpose of a review on Queer Magazine online.
The plot of this autobiographical book is likely to be familiar to most lesbian readers. Usually, a story of unrequited love for another woman (or several) is fictionalized or changed into a romance with a happy ending. In some versions, the fictional beloved or the frustrated lover dies at the end of the book. Names and details are changed to disguise the raw material out of which these plots are woven.This book looks painfully plain, drawn strictly from life. It is an unflinching look at the author's one-sided relationships with seven girls/women who were, as she says, unavailable to her in an emotional sense, although some were sexually available on their own terms (when their boyfriends were away). It is hard to see how anyone could survive so much emotionally-draining experience while stone cold sober. In fact, as the author explains, she developed addictions early in life, and they contributed to her blind attachments and her misinterpretation of ambiguous responses. The world of rehab, twelve-step programs and relapses weaves through these accounts of dyke drama.In an introduction, subtitled "The Unsures," Angela Kelly explains the social context of her one-sided crushes:"If you are a lesbian, it is highly unlikely you haven't come across the women I refer to as "the unsures." Perhaps you had a different name for them or found these women in your life to be indefinable by words alone. The unsures go beyond the bisexual realm. I exist in a world where, for myself, I can only ever imagine having been born gay or straight." She goes on to describe herself as being more "sure" than most: "Most people actually don't live in the head space or even the emotional space I do, where gay and straight exist in a clear-cut dichotomy. There is a lot of room between points A and B."However, there are more variables here than sexual orientation, as the term is generally understood. There are people in the world who can't make emotional commitments. There are the kind of relationship dynamics that are often described in on-line profiles as "It's complicated." There are bona fide lesbians who play mind games with their dates.As the author shows, however, the pain of a broken heart does not depend on its cause. And her pattern of yearning for those who turned away was established when she was still in elementary school.The first chapter is titled "Chapter 1: Laying the Foundation (The Ellen Trainer Experience)." Angela (who comes to seem familiar enough to the reader to be referred to by her first name) describes her fascination in Grade 5 with an older girl, 14-year-old Ellen Trainer. Angela, a budding writer even then, devises a plan: "I would write a short story about my love for The Train [Ellen's nickname], and I would get Mrs. Johnson to read it to her class, thereby reading it to Ellen."The adult Angela later wonders why the teacher, Mrs. Johnson, agreed to this plan. Instead of the applause and admiration young Angela expects, she is met with stunned silence, followed by whispers. The outcome is dismally predictable:"What I do remember is Ellen Trainer never spoke to me again and from that moment on there was snickering in the girls' locker room when I went to gym class." Eleven-year-old Angela is described as a bewildered target of social disapproval she couldn't understand at the time:"I thought I wanted Ellen to be my best friend. My homosexuality was obviously apparent to a great number of people long before it was recognizable to me." This is almost a generic coming-out story, but Angela's straight-forward (so to speak) writing style makes her isolation seem especially personal.Chapter 2 shows the teenage author developing a crush on a slightly-older young mother who has a complicated relationship with the violent father of her child. Angela, of course, has a chivalrous desire to rescue her beloved, Liza, from abuse, and can't understand why Liza consents to let her ex visit her at night.Over the following chapters, the "unsure" women in Angela's life juggle her with men who are clearly more important to them, and some suggest that a threesome scene would resolve the emotional conflict. As Angela struggles to become clean and sober, she meets women in the recovery movement whose lives are in flux. Most of them seem unable to make a definite decision about whether they want a sexual relationship with Angela.One of the more interesting chapters is about a stripper called "Sunrise," who is gradually revealed to be a nice-enough woman named Jennifer. At the time, Angela doesn't fully grasp the fact that sex workers, by definition, are in the business of selling an illusion of personal attraction. Angela's obsession and Jennifer's dilemma seem equally poignant as Angela pays Jennifer more than she can easily afford for lap dances and dreams of an exclusive relationship.This brave story is presented as self-help and a mirror for the like-minded reader. It is written in a style that looks artless but well-organized, poignant and concise. It is a hell of a saga, and is very believable. One can only hope that writing it set her free enough to write something more imaginative and less clinical next time. ----------------------
Read this because I got it from one of the Goodreads giveaways. I went into it thinking it was a novel, but that's my own fault. It's actually one hundred pages exactly of essay-like chapters on various relationships the writer has had with women who fall somewhere along the bisexual spectrum--from "bisexual enough to sleep with a lesbian who's attracted to me" to "bisexual enough to treat a friendship like a relationship but never let it get off the ground."Kelly's stories are more compelling when they're intertwined with her struggles with other addictions, but she keeps her focus on the relationships--or "relationships"--at times. She states early in the book that she is self-centered, and this is apparent even when she's writing in a present-day perspective. Even post-recovery and post-therapy and post-drama, that egocentrism makes the writer Kelly less sympathetic than any of her stories of stalking and pushing boundaries ever could.Overall, I did enjoy this book, although I think 100 pages is just enough for its focus.
While I found parts of the book hit much too close to home, this was more of a script from therapy sessions. The good news is that the sessions may have worked and the author learned something about patterns and motivations.So, while entertaining on a certain level, I cannot say that this would be high on my recommended list.
Read this to edit it, published it through JMS Books LLC in 2011.