Author: Tim Anderson (Website)
Length: 333 pages
Genre(s): Memoir, Nonfiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing - March 11, 2014
Source: publisher / TLC Book Tours
Goodreads | Amazon
(I received this book from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.)
What’s a sweets-loving young boy growing up gay in North Carolina in the eighties supposed to think when he’s diagnosed with type-1 diabetes? That God is punishing him, naturally. This was, after all, when Jesse Helms was his senator, AIDS was still the boogeyman, and no one was saying, “It gets better.” And if stealing a copy of an x-rated magazine from the newsagent was a sin, then surely what the guys inside were doing to one another was much worse.
Sweet Tooth is Tim Anderson’s uproarious memoir of life after his hormones and blood sugar both went berserk at the age of fifteen. With Morrissey and The Smiths as the soundtrack, Anderson self-deprecatingly recalls love affairs with vests and donuts, first crushes, coming out, and inaugural trips to gay bars.
What emerges is the story of a young man trying to build a future that won’t involve crippling loneliness or losing a foot to his disease—and maybe even one that, no matter how unpredictable, can still be pretty sweet.
(from the author's website)
This was a fun memoir to read. Tim Anderson has been compared to David Sedaris (as far as Sweet Tooth goes), and I really did laugh as much while reading Sweet Tooth as I have laughed reading Sedaris’ books.
I was hooked from the first line of the Prologue:
To a boy whose ideal snack was Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, the existence of a disease like diabetes seemed like the dark work of a mean God.
Sweet Tooth is all about Tim’s experiences growing up in the 80s and early 90s in North Carolina, being a believer in God, being gay, and being diabetic. Without saying anything else about the book, that is one interesting combination, wouldn’t you say? I almost don’t know what else to say about the book without giving away the best parts. As a kid, Tim honestly thought that God gave him diabetes to punish him for stealing gay nudey magazines and masturbating to them whenever he could.
Sweet Tooth gives readers the funniest parts of Tim’s life from just before he was diagnosed with diabetes through his time in college (and then a brief epilogue describing his life as an adult). Of course, I think it’s funny because I didn’t live it. I can imagine that it wasn’t too funny for Tim while he was actually experiencing everything he writes about, and that it took him a lot of hindsight to be able to find the humor in all of it. I mean, the man doesn’t take care of himself at all after he finds out he’s diabetic. In between each chapter is a mini-story about different diabetic crashes he experienced and the ridiculous things he did while they were happening. He didn’t check his sugar levels like he should have, he gave himself extra insulin shots to counteract all the sugar he continued to eat…it’s just ridiculous. But he writes about it in a way that makes it all hilarious, even though he was putting himself in a lot of danger at the time.
And the stories about being gay and trying to find a romantic partner? He was so lonely and frustrated, but I guffawed at so much of it. I couldn’t help myself. I tried to put myself in Tim’s shoes and think about how I would have handled the same situations, and I decided that I would have been just as awkward about it. Hell, it was awkward enough as a young cis woman in a sea of cis men back when I was in dating mode.
One of my favorite things about the book is the language–Tim doesn’t hold back or sugarcoat (punny!) anything, and the way he writes is what makes the book so hilarious to me.
For example, this is what goes through his head when he realizes it’s time to tell his Mom and Dad that he’s gay:
Was it really time to tell Mom and Dad? Ugh, really? What on earth would that sound like?
Mom, Dad, I’m totally gay, but don’t worry, I’m really unpopular with the boys.
Mom, Dad, I’m dying to suck a dick, I just haven’t found the right one yet.
There is nothing subtle about the way Tim writes about his life, and that made Sweet Tooth fantastic.
I’m having a hard time writing about this book the way I’d like to, but I loved it and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in a comedic memoir about being gay and diabetic. Again, there are no holds barred where the language is concerned, but that is one of the best things about the book.
I’ll end this with a few of my favorite lines from the book:
- “I’d seen photographic proof that it is possible for two hot, sweaty young men to strip down, lube up, and get it on with each other, out in the open, with the lights on, gleefully, on a kitchen counter. This was in direct opposition to the way I imagined real-life homosexuals did their dirty deeds–hiding in a bathroom stall while constantly checking to see if the cops are coming, holed up in an out-of-the-way motel where folks usually go to get murdered, or weeping uncontrollably while tugging on a dude’s balls in a public library janitor’s closet. I can’t overestimate this breakthrough. Sure, the guys in the pictures may have been lisping their ABCs while receiving their blow jobs, but here’s the thing: If anyone cornered them in the hallway of their high school and called them, oh, I don’t know, “Tinkerbell Tim,” these dudes looked like they could and would punch back. Or whack them in the face with their rock-hard cocks, whichever.”
- “As all gay folks know, the road to gay hell is paved with the good intentions of straight people.”
- “‘Like when you first got here, you looked like your cat had just shit on your favorite CD.’
‘But this is just my normal expression.’”
(Tim had Bitchy Resting Face! Hee!)