Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Painful ancestry

One of those other things I’ve been wanting to write about…

I read the memoir I’m Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming. His acting career got a big boost when he played the Emcee on Cabaret. For that he won the 1998 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. Many of his roles have been sexually ambivalent, some transgender. He is bisexual and lives with his husband. Though his acting career is mentioned in the book, that’s not what it’s about.

In 2010 Cumming was invited to be on the British TV show Who Do You Think You Are?. The show explores a mystery in a person’s ancestry. Cumming and the show settled on his maternal grandfather. He was in WWII but never returned home. The family received word that in 1951 he died of a shooting accident in Malaya (now Malaysia). What really happened? Cumming wrote about the key sites in his grandfather’s life where filming was done and what he learned about his grandfather at each stop.

At the same time Cumming was dealing with the abuse he suffered from his father while growing up. Near death from cancer the father lobbed one more emotional grenade at Cumming, just as filming for the TV show was about to begin.

While Cumming’s descriptions of abuse are hard to read I found his story of recovery to be fascinating.

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