Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-10-30
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



BOOKS Chris Rush looks back on 1970s adolescence in debut memoir
by Lauren Emily Whalen

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Chris Rush was a closeted Catholic 12-year-old when he took his first tab of LSD.

"My older sister introduced me to [drugs] at a very young age," the author of The Light Years said via phone from his Tucson home. "That said, if my sister hadn't given it to me, I could have gotten it easy as pie from the kids at school. The whole country was under a wave of psychedelics in 1968."

What followed was a rollicking cross-country adventure involving Christian drug smugglers, runaway flower children and even the president of the Amalgamated Flying Saucers Club of America. After decades of substance abuse, going clean, coming out and eventually establishing a career as an award-winning painter, Rush decided to write down the memories of his adolescence—which became his first book.

"About 10 years ago I was seized with a great curiosity about … what had happened," he said. "I thought it was going to be kind of a romp [but] the more I wrote, the more peculiar it became. I realized I might have lived a very strange childhood."

Although Rush didn't officially come out until age 20—"I showed up at a queer bar and danced with another guy"—he never doubted who he really was.

As the middle child in a suburban New Jersey family, Rush said he "very much grew up around all the slanderous terms. 'Sissy' certainly followed me my whole life! I can't say I was offended because it seemed somewhat accurate, [but] I really didn't know what I was supposed to do.

"When the events of the book transpired, I was aware that I was a total love child," Rush continued. "And one of the things that I was in love with, besides the mountains and LSD and my favorite sister, was boys."

Acting on said love was a bit messier. "I was madly in love with many of my peers, beautiful young men," Rush said. "I didn't suffer with that knowledge, but sometimes when I attempted to act out, there were problems. And that got complicated. ... At a certain point, I was paralyzed."

As Rush explained, "Gay liberation was very much an urban phenomenon, and I wasn't in New York or San Francisco. Stonewall is a great story, but no one knew about it." Looking back, this lack of information was an opportunity to define queerness for himself. "In trying to understand who I was and what I was supposed to look like, I had to invent it on my own."

While writing The Light Years, Rush called on his career. "The one thing I knew as an artist … was studio life. I knew how to sit still alone in a room for long periods of time," he said. Rush read memoirs set in the same era and decided to avoid clichés of drug-fueled anecdotes. "I slowed down and tried to remember in a way that was particular to me."

Rush also put himself back in his younger shoes. He said, "I decided to write as much as I could in the mind of the child and teenager and young adult [I was], because otherwise I was going to spend the entire book explaining why the hell I did all that crazy stuff! I tried to enter in the memory of what I once thought, so I could stay close to the events and write in a way that was really experiential and fresh."

Lastly, he spoke to members of his large family. ( Rush is one of seven children. ) "They're a chatty bunch and they just talked," he said. "I don't think they got the idea [I was writing a book] until the third or fourth interview."

Now that The Light Years is out, "there had to be a little intervention here and there. There were some tears," he said. "But they've really come out in supporting the whole enterprise. They realize there is something wonderful about capturing this crazy time."

When it came to Rush's now-92-year-old mother, "I think she was a little troubled by the book, but when she read the review in Time Magazine, she was just fine. She said, 'when I read a review of your book, I think of my life in a new way.'"

One family member Rush couldn't interview was his father, who died two decades ago and "really disliked that he had a gay son."

"He really confided in no one," Rush said, "and there's not much evidence of his inner life to be found anywhere. I had to do a great deal of contemplation and a little sleuthing to understand how he ended up the man I knew." In doing that, "I fell in love with him all over again. He's a perfectly flawed human."

For Rush, the most challenging part of writing The Light Years was "to find what the book was trying to reveal." For this he had the help of his partner, the novelist Victor Lodato, and his editor Colin Dickerman, who is also gay. "We talked about what was essential, what we needed to do to make the piece work," Rush said. "I had the book by the fourth edit, I just had a little too much book!"

The Light Years has garnered positive reviews comparing Rush to David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs. "I am the same age as Sedaris, and there are some similarities," Rush said. Writing-wise, "I took a lot of inspiration from Denis Johnson," he said. "There's this certain kind of high lonesome Western desert lore, that I feel very strongly about. It's contemplative [and] very American."

Rush continued with a laugh, "But I'm also a queen from New Jersey. I'm loud. I'm ridiculous. I'm campy! I got caught up in these very strange circumstances and found an adventurous way to proceed."

The Light Years is available wherever books are sold.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Local LGBTQ activism topic of panel at library discussion 2019-11-04 - Chicago Public Library's Pride Heritage Committee and Brave Space Alliance hosted a panel discussion, "LGBTQ Activism's Past, Present and Future in Chicago," Oct. ...

Gay News

BOOKS Life's a witch in Augusten Burroughs' new memoir 2019-10-30 - After reading Augusten Burroughs' new tome Toil & Trouble some readers might have a "Witch, please?!" reaction to the memoirist's big reveal that ...

Gay News

Five Worth Finding: TeaPotBrew, 'The GayBCs' and more 2019-10-29 - —TeaPotBrew Bakery: Nestled in the South Loop/Prairie District, this bakery ( 1802 S. Wabash St.; 312-966-6001 ) features dozens of teas, delicious sandwiches/pastries ...

Gay News

'Boystown' author starts new series 2019-10-21 - Jake Biondi—the author of the Boystown series—will release his new Majesty series Friday, Dec. 13. The official title of the book is Majesty ...

Gay News

Community reacts to Women & Children First anti-trans vandalism 2019-10-20 - Women & Children First bookstore, the Chicago Therapy Collective and Andersonville Chamber of Commerce joined forces Oct. 20 in a community activation event ...

Gay News

Local author Tedd Hawks writes 'Burn' 2019-10-17 - Out Chicagoan Tedd Hawks has written the novel Burn—which encompasses the intersecting queer lives of an elderly man in Edgewater, a down-and-out accountant ...

Gay News

MOMBIAN LGBTQ-inclusive books, and hope, in rural schools 2019-10-16 - LGBTQ students in rural schools are more likely to face bias and discrimination than those in urban and suburban ones, but their schools ...

Gay News

Angry Black Hoemo talks race, LGBTQs and sex positivity 2019-10-16 - Some queer people who have spent time on Twitter have probably discovered the name "Angry Black Hoemo" on their timelines. Angry Black Hoemo, ...

Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Ensemble: An Oral History of Chicago Theater 2019-10-16 - Author: Mark Larson $13; Lethe Press; 243 pages Chicago has proven itself many times over that it is multifaceted. It is a ...

Gay News

Gerber/Hart opens lesbian history exhibit 2019-10-15 - Gerber/Hart History & Archives launched a new exhibit, "Lavender Women & Killer Dykes: Lesbians, Feminism & Community in Chicago," with a reception and ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.