Hannah Gadsby is one of those rare Aussie legends who has been hyped to the nth degree, and yet somehow always manages to live up to it. Her memoir, Ten Steps to Nanette, continues this trajectory, delivering a wry, moving, funny and thought-provoking read that explores so much more than just the comedian's path to global fame.
Although the majority of Gadbsy's fans came to her work following the massive success of her Netflix special of the show Nanette, which detailed her experiences of misogyny, homophobia and ableism throughout her life, this book goes much deeper than the recent years of glory Gadsby has enjoyed.
The comedian remarks in the opening chapters that if the reader is seeking an inspiring rags-to-riches story of an underdog overcoming her barriers and reaching fame, Ten Steps is not that book. But I would argue that we do get that story - it's just layered with so much more.
Gadsby details her early life, growing up in small-town Tasmania with undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder, in a working-class family. Her life is set across a backdrop of the political rhetoric at the time on homosexuality, which significantly impacted Gadsby's own experiences of owning her sexual identity.
Gadsby uses an interesting structure to pull together the two narratives of the memoir - the first being her own, and the second being Australia's political journey from the homophobic foundations of the past to the point of the same-sex marriage plebiscite (which she does not in any way suggest was an example of progress made). The book is separated into 10 parts, and each includes sections that detail the political context, interspersed with Gadsby's story.
It's a clever technique, that really shows how the personal is political and vice versa - it's clear to the reader that the experiences of discrimination, homophobia, anxiety and fear that Gadbsy endured were directly heightened and enabled by the political systems that were prejudiced against LGBTQIA+ people.
Despite these serious themes, however, Ten Steps to Nanette is not gruelling reading. There is levity and humour, but most importantly there is authenticity and heart to Gadsby's writing. There is a deep vulnerability and openness in what she shares, and an unflinching honesty that makes the book genuinely enjoyable and moving to read.
I'm always sceptical of too much hype, and when a book is released by a famous person after they've recently shot to stardom, I assume it'll be quickly pulled together and not as high in quality as a result. But this is one book that thoroughly disproved my scepticism, and really delivered.
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