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Review: Fairyland, By Alysia Abbott

Fairy steps into adulthood

When two-year-old Alysia Abbott's mother died in 1973 it was assumed that she would be adopted by her aunt Janet. A child needs a mother, so the thinking goes, and the one thing that Alysia didn't need according to her extended family and America's legislating bodies, was a homosexual father.

But Steve Abbott, a poet, comic-book artist and gay rights activist, decided to raise his daughter alone and moved her to San Francisco where the pair immersed themselves in their very own "fairyland", a chaotic and boho world of drag queen room-mates, late-night poetry readings and Steve's various lovers.

Abbott's affecting and open-hearted book is drawn both from her own recollections and from her father's journals, which she found after his death in 1992 from complications resulting from Aids.

As well as telling the story of a gay man struggling to bring up a child with limited funds and in the face of moral opposition, Fairyland is also the tale of a young girl who says that she always felt "right side up with Dad" but upside down in the wider world, and who strove to keep her father's sexuality a secret into her adulthood.

The rueful tone of Fairyland would suggest that this is her atonement.