The Bold and Painfully Honest Don’t Tell Mama

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The Bold and Painfully Honest Don’t Tell Mama

When I start reading LGBTI books, the same question always lingers in my head – is this a true story, who is behind it? The same occurred when I opened Don't Tell Mama. Who are these people? Why exactly this country? Why this name? I imagined the actual conversations of the author that led to each character. As I was reading, I remembered our conversations with Garrard Conley, the author of the autobiographical work Boy Erased, and the way he talked about the deeply intimate and painfully personal moments of experiencing the so-called conversion therapy.

When the author of Don't Tell Mama – Nikolay Yordanov – characterized the novel as being a work of fiction with nine different characters from different countries and continents, I thought "Isn't the scope a little too ambitious?" It is very easy for a person to slip into the desire to create something spectacular and impressive and ultimately drown in pretentiousness and mediocrity.

Page after page, however, the stories of these nine individuals immersed me in their authenticity. Each one of them, regardless of their gender, color, country, seemed to have gathered and sheltered behind their name and face the myriad stories of people we work with every day at Single Step. All of those shared feelings, experiences, fears, suppressed words, remorse, torment, inner voices, shame, going over and over the same hypothetical situations, came to life with Alexander, Luke, Miembre, Iman, Kasim, Nae-il, Tamika, Hakim and Mathias.

Each of them was painfully familiar to me, even though their stories were taking place in countries I had never set foot in. I had touched the pain of each and every one of them.

Nikolay had managed to create vigorous and vivid characters that I kept chasing page after page, making me realize what a bold book this was. Don't Tell Mama is bold not only because it says out loud many things we often don't dare utter about our sexuality. Not only because it tackles taboos, not only because it is painfully honest at times. It is brave as a writer’s act. Real writing is a painstaking process – it requires preparation, research, quest, doubt, revisiting, rewriting, etc. The seven years spent working on this project have deeply permeated each character, thickened the feeling of every city – the way you hear it, feel it, and smell it. This book has the rare capacity to make even your skin feel what is love, death and the experience between the two.

I know that for some LGBTI people, Don't Tell Mama will open the door to embarrassing, shameful, and unpleasant moments in their own lives. Many will shudder, swallow tears, smile bitterly, but they may also recognize the gratitude and relief, the feeling of being loved and understood. For many, this will be the first Bulgarian novel to tell their stories so directly and to be a fair account of their own experience. A book they can be proud of. But this is not just a book about gay people. This is a book that wants to grab each of us by the shoulders, shake us, and tell us "Are you finally awake? Good, because we are all in this book, we're all part of love, death, and the experience between the two."

You can buy the book from here

Nikoleta Gabrovska