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Firebird: A Memoir
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Firebird: A Memoir

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  439 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
In Firebird, Mark Doty tells the story of a ten-year-old in a top hat, cane, and red chiffon scarf, interrupted while belting out Judy Garland's "Get Happy" by his alarmed mother at the bedroom door, exclaiming, "Son, you're a boy!"

Firebird presents us with a heroic little boy who has quite enough worries without discovering that his dawning sexuality is the Wrong One. A s
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ebook, 224 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published September 22nd 1999)
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Mary
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Childhood's work is to see what lies beneath. (p.28)

I have a thing for dysfunctional-childhood-fucked-up-parents memoirs. Mark Doty doesn't so much write about his harrowing childhood story as he paints it on a canvas, the prose as swirling and mystical as Van Gogh's Starry Night, the pain piercing and sharp. As a poet his writing is lyrical and rich and deeply moving.

What was it like to be a child in the 50's and 60's? A child of terrible parents? A child who's gay in the 50's and 60's and who
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John
Five-stars for Doty's storytelling skills - he picks just the right vignettes, coming across as meaningful, but never saccharine. And it's not just a gay story either, but one about not fitting in, either in the outside world, or inside his nuclear family's (growing) dysfunction. I suppose if I had a quibble it would be that I didn't care for his discussion of drug use late in the book, but his life was what it was.

Highly recommended
Steven
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a strange twist of time and space, Mark Doty and I have lived parallel lives. The details are slightly different, but the characters and life lessons are all identical. Our mother is the “dominant emotional figure” in our shared life. She is prone to depressive episodes, but we are still drawn to her because she has “legitimate access to the stuff of craft, the tools with which beauty is made” (49). Our father is a vague figure of authority who, in retrospect, we “do not think…wanted to be fa ...more
James
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gltbq, autobiography
How well do we know others? Our family, our friends, ourselves? How do we perceive each of these? Through a glass, darkly, or through a perspective box, in a way like an artist. From the opening page of Mark Doty's poetic memoir, Firebird, the theme of art is present.
First it appears in a description of the famous "perspective box" of the Seventeenth-century Dutch painter Samuel Van Hoogstraten. Then as the narrative continues the artistic view and way of life is a theme that provides a way to
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Dom Zuccone
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
A depiction of a major poet as a child tap dancing on dexidrine trying to please his mother is an image we all might do well to contemplate.
Wei Tchou
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The WORDS, Mark, they're like...like...POETRY!
Ross
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Art had a past, and a future; to dance or paint or write was to enter a tradition, a conversation of human gestures across time. The Masters went before, and pointed toward just how far there was to go. And what you made, for better or worse, might be here tomorrow."

Beautifully written and well described memoir of one of America's great poets and growing up gay in the 60's.
Luanne Castle
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Mark Doty, an American poet (b. 1953), wrote a wonderful coming-of-age memoir called Firebird.

To the outside world, the four members of Doty’s middle-class family could be in a sitcom of the time period: the father is an engineer, the mother looks respectable, the older sister is popular, and the little boy is bespectacled and bookish. But all is not as it seems. Alcohol wreaks its slow destruction on the family.

But most crucial to Doty’s identity is a difference that occurs even before the dis
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courtney
Sep 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
reading this, gregory orr's book, The Blessing and mary karr's Liar's Club in quick succession is a pretty interesting endeavor. these authors all struggled through painful childhoods to achieve their poetic voices. doty's experience growing up gay in the 1960 seems to be his vehicle toward expression. the isolation and interiority he felt in school, at home, as a runaway, in his ballroom dance class, determined his position as outsider. as outsider, he becomes observer. the way he tells the sto ...more
Benjamin
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Mark Doty recalls his childhood years from the late 1950s and into 60s and 70s. The second child, his sister much older, he is a chubby, bespectacled, sissy American boy born of the South. His father is an engineer and the nature of his work means they are constantly on the move. His mother, who never works, makes the best of this sometimes pursuing her interest on art and giving attention to Mark's education in the arts. But it is not an easy life for Mark, aware that he is different - he loves ...more
Kristen
When I read Mark Doty’s prose, I feel like I’m reading poetry. It’s not just his beautiful use of language, the lyrical rhythm of his sentences, or the acuity of his insights. Those are important, too. But what makes me give myself over to his prose in a way that I associate more with poetry is his rich sentient sensibility, the way his thoughts and preoccupations seem to emanate from and inhabit the world around him. Doty’s deftly vivid descriptions of the expansive coastal landscape of Provinc ...more
Laura  Yan
I guess I had expected this memoir to be a different kind of memoir--narrative driven, maybe, like other ones I'd read. But Mark Doty is a poet (a fact I barely knew, I barely knew anything about him except that his name looked familiar, from some essay I read in a class once). And for poetry Firebird is all of that: the prose enchanted, the lines lyrical, every scene captured with a sense of breathlessness. It is a memoir about being gay, about being an outsider, about the dysfunctional (of cou ...more
Sonja
Apr 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Doty's prose is amazing -- like overly rich chocolate. You have to read it through slow. You have to be an ent when you read this thing, or you'll miss something important.

Though I empathize with the troubles Doty faced growing up - prejudice, discrimination, and some very troubling parents (to make the understatement of the year), I am somewhat troubled by how he resolved those issues, especially with the archetypal Mother figure embodied by the Virgin towards the end of the memoir.

Still, the
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James
Jul 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is so lovely but was so hard for me to read. Doty's experiences resemble mine as a queer kid. I, too, dances around in "Husky Boy" jeans before I learned shame.

I'm reading again the scene in which he goes to a doctor he's never met to ask for a note to get out of PE. He tells the doctor that he needs to be excused because he is homosexual and "'can't handle being in PE.'" The doctor writes the note, and I can feel Doty's relief. Even though I had to suffer through PE, I'm so happy for
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Richard Jespers
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Doty is fabulous. His training and practice as a poet mean that he creates beautiful, powerful prose. The Firebird, the ballet, is a controlling metaphor for much of the book. A product of his own creative powers, the Firebird is an image his mother eschews when she sees him dancing to the music of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, hissing,

“Son, you’re a boy” (101).
Out of the specific the universal is born.
Gina Whitlock
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not only a book on not fitting in because author Mary Doty realizes he is gay, but a book on not fitting in just because . . . . This books explores loving family connections and how they are sometimes destroyed by alcohol, sorrow , apathy and neglect. This book is a gem because Doty is such a contemplative soul. Finished it last night , wait, early this morning, about 1:30 am. It was worth staying up to read.
Gillian
Oct 06, 2010 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
The title image "Firebird" comes from a description of Doty doing improvisational dance to Stravinsky's Suite of a Firebird at his grade school. His memoir is filled with the lyric translation of art into the body. "Who is this boy who pirouettes in his Husky Boy jeans as if he hadn't a shred of shame?" - p. 80
Cayr
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mark Doty is an amazing writer. In this memoir, he writes about growing up gay in Arizona in the '60's. It's an introspective look at himself as a boy - to - young man; at his familial relationships; as well as his relationship to the world at large -- including his relationship with himself.

His story is full of rich imagery and honesty, and as always, Doty's prose is perfection.
Karen Douglass
A longtime fan of Doty's memoirs and poetry, I was perplexed by this memoir. While it gives the reader great insight into the childhood of a man in constant struggle to claim his identity, the style is out of character. Not till half way through the book does the language seem authentic to Mark Doty, a very fine poet.
Elizabeth
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mark Doty takes his memoir and shapes it into a painting brushing multiple colors and flourishes throughout his life while using many brushes. His memoir is packed with embellishments and edgy situations that occur as he s discovering his homosexuality. Provocative. Fast moving. Never dull. Doty offers new version of writing a memoir.
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Marti
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After hearing Mark read his poetry and speak at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, I wanted to read this memoir about his early life. It was extremely well written and an amazing story of survival despite severe family issues and a lonely nomadic life.
Artifice Magazine
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rebekah
The # of books called "Firebird" that I have read in my life is rather staggering. A popular metaphor I suppose.

Mark Doty's is a pretty good use - I'd let him use it w/o royalties, if it came to that - and for a poet, a rather grounded and not-too-narcissistic memoir.
R.
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The # of books called "Firebird" that I have read in my life is rather staggering. A popular metaphor I suppose.

Mark Doty's is a pretty good use - I'd let him use it w/o royalties, if it came to that - and for a poet, a rather grounded and not-too-narcissistic memoir.
Mark Shortliffe
Mark Doty writes memoirs like it is his job. Still Life with Oysters and Lemons is one of my all time favorite books but Firebird, at the time I read it fell short. It is more memoir that "Still Life" with far fewer connective musings. It felt less personally connective and more self indulgent.
Kallie
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for fresh insights into people (of any gender) who identify as 'other.'
Shelves: memoir
Half-way through, I know this will be one of my favorite memoirs. Doty's ability to render detail in fresh language, without sentimentality or preciousness, is near phenomenal. I will read 'Firebird' more than once, I am sure.
Susanna
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, coming-of-age
This book was GORGEOUS. I loved the story and I especially loved the way Doty tells it. He is a master of reflection in memoir, something I'm studying myself. Plus, of course, I loved the tale of an artist becoming himself.
Jackie Sheeler
Sep 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i'm about 1/3 through and loving this book. doty is a very tender writer.
Caren
Jul 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Doty's writing is so good! Very interesting reading the prose of a natural poet. Really beautiful stuff.
Leslie St. John
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Memoir at its best! I totally blushed when I saw Doty at AWP. I seriously would have passed out if I had to ride the elevator alone with him. Beautiful writer, beautiful man.
Elle
Mar 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This memoir is poetically written. He captures the dysfunction, the isolation and the struggles. That being said, the book felt disjointed and choppy to me.
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Mark Doty is the author of six books of poems and two memoirs, Heaven's Coast and Firebird. A Guggenheim, Ingram-Merrill, and Whiting Fellow, he has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for Nonfiction. He teaches at the University of Houston, and divides his time between Houston and Provincetown, Massachusetts.
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“Even sad stories are company. And perhaps that's why you might read such a chronicle, to look into a companionable darkness that isn't yours.” 4 likes
“...words can help us to see what is graceful or human where lovelines and humanity seem to fail...” 0 likes
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