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Fairest: A Memoir

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  747 ratings  ·  133 reviews
A singular, beautifully written coming-of-age memoir of a Filipino boy with albinism whose story travels from an immigrant childhood to Harvard to a gender transition and illuminates the illusions of race, disability, and gender

Fairest is a memoir about a precocious boy with albinism, a "sun child" from a rural Philippine village, who would grow up to become a woman in Ame
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published May 26th 2020 by Viking
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Meredith May 26, 2020. I don't know the ins and outs of NetGalley but I will ask!…moreMay 26, 2020. I don't know the ins and outs of NetGalley but I will ask!(less)

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Elyse  Walters
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it by the author Meredith Talusan

This is a reflective coming-of-age memoir.
Meredith is a trans albino immigrant from the Philippines. She moved to the United States with her family at age 15.
From her childhood as a boy in the a gay student at Harvard becoming gender trans woman.....she examines many sides of her sexuality, gender issues, immigration, race, class, privileged opportunities, colonial mentality of colorism,

I enjoyed
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, recs
wow! there’s so much going on here, and all of it’s amazing. Talusan pairs her eventful life story with incisive reflections on class, race, gender, and sexuality; the copy’s comparison of this sharply written coming-of-age / transition memoir to cmbyn happily makes no sense.
MEREDITH! Ugh. I loved this book. Fairest is Meredith Talusan’s memoir as a Filipino boy, a gay man, and transgender woman. From beginning to end she bares everything about her past, her struggles, and her growth into who she is today. Fairest is equally an immigrant story, a gay-coming-of-age story, and a story about the discovery of womanhood.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣

It truly is a powerful book that reflects on all the complexities of being a human being and navigating life. It has so much to say and gives you so
May 26, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2020-releases
May 26, 2020: Happy release day to this Filipino-American, transgender immigrant woman with albinism's coming-of-age memoir focusing on race, class, gender transition, sexuality, immigration and disability. ...more
Casey the Reader
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, nonfiction, memoir
Thanks to Viking Books for the free advance copy of this book.

Meredith Talusan was born a boy with albinism in the Philippines. After a childhood of being treated like a public spectacle, Talusan immigrated to the U.S. at fifteen and discovered that in America, she was perceived as white. Her memoir covers these years as well as her education at Harvard and beyond, where she struggled to fit in to white gay male culture, eventually coming to the conclusion that she did not want to fit in the bo
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best memoirs I’ve read. I loved every word. Cannot wait for this to come out so I can give it to everyone.
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really struggled to get through Fairest, which I expected to enjoy. I disliked the author, the way they were fixated on physical beauty, held such disdain for others, and seemed to lack meaningful relationships. I never really heard about any friendships in the entire book, except the one the author ruined with a horrible betrayal. The beginning was interesting where they write about growing up as an albino boy in the phillippines, but once they get to the US, it felt like a collection of anec ...more
A memoir about the life so far of Meredith Talusan, a writer/artist trans woman with albinism from the Philippines who immigrated to the US as a teenager. This book sails right past the conventions of both the typical trans and immigrant memoir.

It's not the story of someone who always knew she was a girl. And it's about someone who fits into American racial categories in a very unique way, as someone perceived as white who is Asian.

Her writing is beautiful, and she boldly looks at herself, sha
Jul 09, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 23, 2020 added it
Ok, I had always harbored a vague affection for meredith because of that article where Jacob and alok bag on Meredith so hard. I now realize that coming across likable compared to Jacob “you’re offensive for not fucking me when I wanted you to” tobia and alok “little girls can be kinky” vaid-menon is probably not the hardest thing to do. I do appreciate the recognition that transition is a strategy that made sense in certain situations but wouldn’t make sense in others. Still though!!! Buying se ...more
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Viking for this free copy!

3.5 stars. There is a lot of story in Meredith Talusan's memoir. As a Filipino-American immigrant, albino, trans woman, she tells her coming-of-age story at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and disability. The writing is very simplistic and straightforward, so you don't ever feel overwhelmed by her multitude of experiences or her going back and forth in time.

What I found most interesting was the constant acknowledgment of privilege throughout the
Mary Beth Hustoles
Aug 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Definitely a mixed effort. The story of her childhood and the many ways color, nationality, gender and appearance create reality and relationships was intriguing, but even Talusan’s excellent writing couldn’t make up for how unlikeable she was as a protagonist. Betraying your best friend, paying for sex with a young boy, constant commentary about her beauty and intelligence: it all left me more annoyed than awakened.
Jun 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
I’m one of the very few who did not like this book. I only made it through a quarter of the book before I had to give up. It seemed to drone on about the same basic things over and over without ever getting to a point. Biography & Memoir
Nothing of existence is binary, and Meredith Talusan excavates the complicated intersections of her own identity in this exquisite, unapologetic gem of a memoir.

FAIREST is close to linear, but shifts back and forth through time and place as Talusan explores the fluidity and construction of her experience. She was born in the Philippines and lived mainly in the small village of Talacsan as a child. Her parents sent her to be raised by her grandmother, because she was born “anak araw” --- a sun ch
Deedi Brown (DeediReads)
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
All my reviews live at


Fairest is an expertly written memoir that has so much to give its readers. I definitely recommend it.

For you if: You enjoy memoirs, particularly by LGBTQ+ people.


“I came to understand that what I wanted was to be seen as my complete self — my gender, my race, my history — without being judged because of it. I wanted people close to me to see an albino person who had learned how to look and act white so the world
Sarah Cavar
I was really impressed by this memoir and blew through it quickly. Meredith consciously resists trans autobiographical norms and refuses to attribute her identity to dysphoric pathology. Her emphasis on the cultural and relational construction of identity is the best I’ve seen in a memoir like this, and the emotional consequences of this construction (from family confusion to sexual and romantic rejection) are deftly explores. I hope to see more trans memoirs like this — trans memoirs that desta ...more
Kathleen Gray
May 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely wonderful memoir than defies characterization. It's often hard to review memoirs because it feels as though you are critiquing someone's life and life choices but this one- this one was easy. It's a beautifully written story that goes in so many directions due to the fascinating life Talusan has led so far that it should not be put on any single shelf. Born an albino male in the Philippines, Talusan made it to the US at the age of 15 and found his world changed. And then came Harva ...more
Beth Loflin
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway-shelf
This is a great memoir. Put aside your beliefs of gay, lesbian, trans and just appreciate the human story that this author writes. I applaud her for being able to find her true self in a VERY ugly and unaccepting world. Years of searching for ones self and discovering, that THIS is what makes me happy. Excellent.
Taylor Cunningham
I hate rating memoirs because it feels like you’re rating someone’s life. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed this more as a physical copy, but it just didn’t capture me. There were definitely shining moments.
Vanessa Rogers
It's not that I didn't expect it to be good, but the degree of how good this book was didn't hit me until I was already at least 2/3 done. But it was SO GOOD.

There is so much going on but it's never overwhelming. Meredith is unique in so many different ways that this story is truly one of a kind. I can't even think of anything typical about it.

I don't want to ruin any part of it, so all I'll say is that it's a book that should be read, especially if you're looking to diversify your bookshelf.
Sep 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and absorbing. In particular, I loved the way Meredith used art (theater! Literature! photography!) to talk about self discovery. A really thoughtful book about race , gender, sexuality, American imperialism, and “passing”
Aug 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Meredith has such a unique perspective and a truly singular journey to self-discovery, for that alone this book is worth the read. However, I did not find the writing nearly as compelling as it should be. Meredith would be describing incredible highs and lows, and yet, I felt little to no emotions. I found myself slow to pick this book back up and was never entranced enough to be fully invested and feeling alongside the author.
Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer, biography, asian
A compelling memoir that never really turned into a full Movie in my Mind. I might have to revisit this one when I'm not stuck in bed, because the more I think about it the more I feel like I should have loved it. ...more
Roger Klorese
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
In FAIREST, Meredith Talusan takes us on a journey that may be unfamiliar to many. It was to me. Not because it was written by a trans woman, but because many aspects of her experience, and the book that tells it, are different from so many others. From her experiences as an albino boy in the Philippines - initially understood as a defect - she gained a strong sense of otherness; it also positioned her in a special place to be a child star. Her intelligence gave her strong advantages as well. He ...more
Annika (whatannikareads)
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book reached me in a very different and deeper way than most books I've read this year. Meredith's story is such an interesting story to read; you really care about him growing up as a young boy, his life in college and his mid-twenties, and then her transition into present day.

I really loved everything about it. It pushed me out of my own comfort zone, in that Meredith took way more risks and experiments than I ever did in college. I vicariously lived through the mid/late 90s and earl
Dec 11, 2020 added it
talusan might be the only person who can write this kind of memoir, as it's written from her perspective as a trans filipina woman with albinism, who immigrated to the states, attended harvard, then transitioned. i especially loved reading how these identities intersect in how others perceive her, and in turn her self-perception, as well as how she oscillated between visibility (being the only light-skinned person in her village) and invisibility (assumptions about her perceived whiteness and na ...more
Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
a rough one but p good. I listened to the audiobook read by the author since it was available from the library. i think what resonated with me most is how talusan really absolutely gets at the sort of double alienation that comes with dealing with how the world encounters intersecting identities. bits of this made me cry for sure and stop listening for a while bc it was kinda hard! this book has a tone of having gone through a lot of pain and coming through changed but not bitter. lots to think ...more
Jennie Chantal
DNF audiobook at 20%

Talusan frequently refers to white beauty standards and the privilege she experiences because she is perceived as white but has yet to acknowledge or criticize the white supremacy behind them. I kept waiting for her to talk a bit about colorism in the Philippines and give some context for the reader but it just hasn't come yet and that's soured me enough that I'm going to move on.
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I keep thinking that these critically acclaimed memoirs from (relatively) young queer writers are gonna disappoint me, but I keep being blown away! A stunning and heartfelt story, a delight and a revelation to read. I couldn't put it down. ...more
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Meredith Talusan has written for numerous publications, including The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, VICE Magazine, and The Nation, and has contributed essays to several books such as Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution in Trump's America and the New York Times' Bestselling Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. Her debut memoir, Fairest, is fort ...more

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