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Vaughan, S. (2018). One of These Things First, by Steven Gaines, Delphinium Books, Harrison, NY, 2016, 272 pp.. Psychodyn. Psych., 46(3):437-440.

(2018). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 46(3):437-440

One of These Things First, by Steven Gaines, Delphinium Books, Harrison, NY, 2016, 272 pp.

Review by:
Susan Vaughan, M.D.

In One of These Things First, gay psychiatrist-author Steven Gaines charts his sometimes sad and often funny and certainly colorful life from suicidal Bar Mitzvah boy in Brooklyn to being admitted to Payne-Whitney Clinic in its prime with the crème de la crème of Manhattan’s lunatic rich and famous. This book is a quick, fun read, largely due to Gaines’s playful yet masterful storytelling. We feel the shtetl within which he grows up, his single block in Brooklyn, in a manner that makes it feel alive, yet we understand why he felt stifled. His and his family’s world revolved around Rose’s Bras Girdles Sportswear, his family corset business. Gaines has a natural gift for bringing characters to life, such as Fat Anna, his favorite (Catholic) salesgirl at the store.

The story starts with Gaines’s suicide attempt when he was 15 and then flashes back to growing up in Brooklyn, where the only “homo” he knew was likely transgender and sported manicured nails and plucked eyebrows. Michelle/Michael was the resident freak in Gaines’s mind, and it would have been hard for him to recognize himself in either Michelle/Michael or in Christine Jorgensen, “a homo who went to Sweden and had his dick and balls cut off,” in the parlance of his family. The owners of the local luncheonette first out Steven to himself, curtsying to him as if he were a little girl. In that moment, Steven vows to himself he will not be gay even as he fantasizes about the shirtless Lawnmower Boy and sneaks off to Aunt Rifka’s every afternoon to play Für Elise on the piano. It isn’t long before his secret, and his attempts to contain and deny it, gives him obsessive-compulsive urges to pilfer useless things, hoarding popsicle sticks and eggshells.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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