Many celebrity memoirs are written for the wrong reasons. Rarely do stars give their fans a story worth reading, a story that should be told. Fortunately, ex-Mad Men star Bryan Batt’s new book, She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother: A Memoir (Harmony Books, www.randomhouse.com/crown/harmony-books), is not just another predictable memoir.
The story of his childhood and coming of age is worth telling, but that is only part of the book. The narrative focuses heavily on his relationship with his mother, Gayle, a classy Southern powerhouse who comes from a long line of women with attitudes. During many chapters, his character seems to be on the sidelines, while his mother confronts her drama with strength and sass.
Batt writes of an upbringing in New Orleans that was composed of parade floats and glitter, Cajun restaurants where the servers know you by name, and a tight God-fearing community that finds temptation in movies such as Cabaret.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Batt’s vision of New Orleans sadly seems like a fantasy. And after reading his description of growing up gay in the Big Easy, the reader wonders how anyone from that city could come out straight.
Once he grows up, Batt’s life continues to provide interesting material, from his rise on Broadway to his beginnings on perhaps the best series on television right now, Mad Men, in which he played closeted gay man Sal Romano.
While some anecdotes do drag on, Batt’s first book shines with its unique attributes: a colorful setting and a core relationship between mother and son that holds the story together.
David Goldberg is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.