Natural Venus

Steve Cirrone’s childhood penis: almond-brown in color. His friend John’s: pink, like the family dog’s. Cirrone’s debut novel/memoir grasps readers by the lapels and unleashes with a barrage of tall tales from childhood—some bizarrely hilarious, some arguably freakish and mean (i.e., Rita, his sister’s Mexican friend “with deformed hands”). The stories mostly have to do with growing up gay and the balancing act of finding an identity while dealing with mother and her eccentric, unmistakably Italian Brooklyn family. Think Augusten Burroughs minus the alcoholism. While the author claims the work is highly fictionalized, the book, at times, can be too self-absorbed to keep the reader fully engaged. However, Cirrone’s tenderness, humor and shocking confessions are enough to win out in the end.