on September 1, 2020
Genres: Personal Memoirs
Published by Atria Books
A moving, hopeful, and refreshingly candid memoir by the husband of former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg about growing up gay in his small Midwestern town, his relationship with Pete, and his hope for America’s future.
Throughout the past year, teacher Chasten Glezman Buttigieg has emerged on the national stage, having left his classroom in South Bend, Indiana, to travel cross-country in support of his husband, former mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Pete’s groundbreaking presidential campaign. Through Chasten’s joyful, witty social media posts, the public gained a behind-the-scenes look at his life with Pete on the trail—moments that might have ranged from the mundane to the surprising, but that were always heartfelt.
Chasten has overcome a multitude of obstacles to get here. In this moving, uplifting memoir, he recounts his journey to finding acceptance as a gay man. He recalls his upbringing in rural Michigan, where he knew he was different, where indeed he felt different from his father and brothers. He recounts his coming out and how he’s healed from revealing his secret to his family, friends, community, and the world. And he tells the story of meeting his boyfriend, whom he would marry and who would eventually become a major Democratic leader.
With unflinching honesty, unflappable courage, and great warmth, Chasten Buttigieg relays his experience of growing up in America and embracing his true self, while inspiring others to do the same.
I didn’t know anything about Chasten Buttigieg before I saw this audiobook on my library app. His husband’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for President was over before my state voted. I also refuse to pay any attention to any campaigns years in advance of the election just on general principles, so most of the things in this book were new to me.
Chasten grew up in rural Michigan where everyone he knew was conservative. He was even a 4-Her. As a fellow 4-Her I loved hearing him talk about his experiences. He raised steers. He refers to them as the high value animal in 4-H except for horses. Then he adds, “Don’t even get me started on horse people.” I cracked up and then called my mom. That’s how I knew this guy was legit. He spoke a shibboleth. Livestock 4-Hers and horse 4-Hers each think that other group is insane and unreasonable. I was a horse person. I still side-eye livestock people. I was all in for this memoir after that.
He had a sense that he didn’t fit in but didn’t know what to do about it. It took a long time for him to realize that he was gay because that just was not even an option in the world around him. Once he realized that he was gay it was very hard for him because he had internalized the message that he could be not be happy or loved or have a good life as a gay man.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have a happy coming out story with his parents. His gayness did cause a rift in his family for a while. He left home and slept in his car for a while. He had trouble focusing on his studies in college and didn’t do well at all. All of these experiences make him very different from the typical person you see in national politics.
Eventually he is in graduate school to become a teacher when he meets a guy on a dating app who happens to be mayor. Chasten had no interest or experience with politics. Suddenly he was going to fundraisers and being approached about policies in the grocery store.
Then 1 year after getting married, his husband brings up running for President. Chasten quits his job and comes full time into campaigning. He gets a crash course in how not to embarrass his husband. He needs to try to define a role for himself and finds it in visiting schools and LGBTQ centers.
Chasten narrates the audiobook and does a good job. He’s cheery and funny and obviously feels strongly about the issues he’s discussing.
One thing that bothered me though. His husband is known nationally as “Pete”. Chasten said that his friends call him “Peter.” Who uses a longer name for friends and family? It is creepy. Other than that it made me more interested in seeing what this family does in the future. They are young and Pete is still a power in the Democratic party. We’ll see what the next few decades hold.