Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father


Press & Publicity


Named a New York Times Editors' Choice and one of the best books of 2013 by The San Francisco ChronicleGoodreads, and others, Fairyland is now available in paperback and is being made into a movie by Sofia Coppola. The French version of Fairyland is now available from Editions Globe.

After his wife dies in a car accident in 1973, bisexual writer and activist Steve Abbott moves with his two-year-old daughter to San Francisco. There they discover a city bustling with gay men in search of liberation—few of whom are raising a child.

I’m so glad you wrote this book.
— Terry Gross, Host of NPR's Fresh Air

Steve throws himself into San Francisco’s vibrant cultural scene. He takes Alysia to parties, pushes her in front of the microphone at poetry readings, and introduces her to a world of artists, thinkers, and writers. But the pair live like nomads, moving from apartment to apartment, with a revolving cast of roommates and little structure. As a child Alysia views her father as a loving playmate but as she gets older Alysia wants more than anything to fit in. The world, she learns, is hostile to difference.

In her teens, Steve’s friends—several of whom she befriended—fall ill as “the gay plague” starts its rampage through their community. While Alysia is studying in New York and then France, her father comes to tell her it’s time to come home; He’s sick with AIDS. She must choose, as her father once did, whether to take on the responsibility of caring for him or to continue the independent life she worked so hard to create.

Praise & Reviews

Fairyland is [a] daughter’s compassionate, clear-eyed reckoning with [the] truths that defined her singular girlhood at the dawn of the gay liberation movement.
— Alexandra Styron in The New York Times Book Review
Alysia beautifully remembers the innocence of the age between the disappearance of the Beats and the onset of AIDS.
The San Francisco Chronicle
The striking photo on the cover of Fairyland looks like it could have been taken one hundred years ago. It gives a sense of the otherworldly childhood that Abbott recounts in this memoir about growing up with her openly gay, single father in San Francisco in the nineteen-seventies and eighties. The memoir doubles as a portrait of a city and a community at a crucial point in history. Her memoir is funny, strange, and sweet—she remembers playing dress-up with her father’s flamboyant friends, learning about sex and gender without a mother, being immersed in art and creativity and, finally, watching as the AIDS epidemic decimated the life she knew.
The New Yorker
An affecting memoir.
[S]he writes up to a standard that would do any writer-parent proud...Fairyland is written in shiningly clear, precise prose that gives it literary as well as testimonial distinction.
Booklist, starred review
As a chronicle of American culture, Abbott’s story matters.
The Boston Globe
[Fairyland] tells more than the story of one person; [it] opens a window on an entire society.
O, Book of the Week
What makes this story especially successful is the meticulous way the author uses letters and her father’s cartoons and journals to reconstruct the world she and her father inhabited. As she depicts the dynamics of a unique, occasionally fraught, gay parent–straight child relationship, Abbott offers unforgettable glimpses into a community that has since left an indelible mark on both the literary and social histories of one of America’s most colorful cities. A sympathetic and deeply moving story.
Not one to shy away from details—be they exuberant, flamboyant or emotional—Abbott’s Fairyland is an ode to family, love, and life. Do yourself a favor, read it.
Library Reads
It is [as] honest and loving an assessment of a father/daughter memoir as has ever made it onto the printed page. And the writing itself is glorious, evocative, at times hypnotic.
New York Journal of Books
In Alysia Abbott’s gorgeous account of her 1980s San Francisco childhood, a whimsical gay poet becomes an intelligent father, his motherless daughter a forceful and articulate young woman, and a rich, dizzy fairyland is shuttered by a plague. As a chronicle of the moment when the San Francisco of Armistead Maupin became the city of Harvey Milk, when gay and experimental poetry flourished in California, Fairyland is vivid and indelible. As the portrait of a conspiracy of love between a father and a daughter, it is heartrending, a brilliant addition to the literature of American memoir.
— Honor Moore, Author of The Bishop’s Daughter
Generous, precise, and deeply moving, Fairyland is a love story that not only brings a new generational perspective to a history we’re in danger of forgetting, but irrevocably shifts the way we think about family itself.
— Alison Bechdel, author of Are You My Mother?
Clear-eyed and heartrending, Fairyland captures a singular time and place in American history. It also captures something much more important: what it means to be truly loved—and to love truly. A beautiful book.
— Andrew McCarthy, author of The Longest Way Home
Fairyland is a vivid, sensitively written account of a complex but always loving relationship… This is not only a painfully honest autobiography but also a tribute to old-fashioned bohemian values in a world that is increasingly conformist and materialistic. I couldn’t put it down!
— Edmund White, author of A Boy's Own Story