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Wild Dances: My Queer and Curious Journey to Eurovision Hardcover – May 9, 2023
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A memoir of glitz, glamour, geopolitics, and the power of pop music, following a misunderstood queer biracial kid from small-town Georgia who became the world's foremost Eurovision Song Contest blogger.
As a boy, William Lee Adams spent his days taking care of his quadriplegic brother, while worrying about his undiagnosed bipolar Vietnamese mother, and steering clear of his openly racist and homophobic father. Too shy and anxious to even speak until he was six years old, it seemed unlikely William would ever leave small-town Georgia. He passed the time alone in his room, studying maps and reading encyclopedias, dreaming of distant places where he might one day feel free.
In time, William discovered that learning was both a refuge and a ticket out. So even as he struggled to understand and to get others to accept both his sexuality and his biracial identity, William focused on his schoolwork, his extracurricular activities, and building community with the students and teachers who embraced him for who he truly was. Though his scholarship to Harvard parachuted him into a whole new world, he still carried a lifetime of secrets and unanswered questions that would haunt him no matter how far he traveled.
Years later, as a journalist in London, William discovered the Eurovision Song Contest—an annual competition known for its extravagant performers and cutthroat politics. Initially just a fan, he started blogging about the contest, ultimately becoming the most sought-after expert on the subject. From Albania, Finland, and Ukraine, to Israel, Sweden, and Russia, William was soon jetting across the Continent to meet divas, drag queens, and aspiring singers, who welcomed him to their beautiful, if dysfunctional, family of choice.
An uplifting memoir about glitz, glamour, geopolitics, and finding your people, no matter how far you must travel, Wild Dances celebrates the power of pop music to help us heal and forgive.
The Amazon Book Review
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From the Publisher
—Thúy Đinh, NPR
"A breathtaking and beautifully written book: it’s lodged itself in my heart. It’s about so much more than Eurovision – and I say that as someone who loves Eurovision!"
"Adams is an outspoken and humorous narrator . . . Fans have come to know and love [him] for his informative, dishy Eurovision commentary on everything from vocal tone to sartorial missteps; with this book, he is certain to increase his fan base."
"Extremely well written and always interesting, Adams’ memoir ends with a touching affirmation of his love for John."
—Michael Cart, Booklist
"An amazing true story more fascinating than fiction. Adams works through problems most of us couldn’t even imagine—all the while, he’s grappling with being gay in a world where his identity subjects him to abuse. Adams used reading as his refuge from despair. With a scholarship to Harvard and an unlimited imagination, he fights his way to the top by turning a hobby into a hugely successful career. But like all of us from difficult backgrounds, Adams is constantly plagued with family issues. How he handles his life’s outrageous challenges—with dignity and courage—will lift your heart. A courageous story well told."
—David Crow, author of The Pale-Faced Lie
"Wild Dances is a pitch-perfect piece of autobiographical storytelling, a love song to the inspirational power of pop and the enduring resilience of queer kids with big dreams. William Lee Adams, already known to the world in his scintillating Eurovision commentator persona, proves to possess a rare talent as a writer. Effortlessly blending piercing emotion with tongue-in-cheek humor and a strong grasp of political context, Wild Dances is sure to captivate readers who seek a story with both style and substance."
—Kai Cheng Thom, author of Falling Back In Love With Being Human: Letters to Lost Souls
"Wild Dances is an unlikely whirlwind: a globe-trotting memoir about a biracial queerdo from Atlanta who somehow becomes the world's foremost expert on Eurovision—the bedazzled talent show that launched the careers of Celine Dion, ABBA, and Olivia Newton-John. Wild Dances is also about death and grief. Which isn't the thematic pairing one might expect. But nothing about William Lee Adams's heartfelt journey is predictable. Your heart WILL go on!"
—Mickey Rapkin, author of Pitch Perfect
About the Author
- Publisher : Astra House (May 9, 2023)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1662601573
- ISBN-13 : 978-1662601576
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.31 x 1.07 x 9.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #356,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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William's writing is beautifully evocative. He really did the work to bring the reader along on his journey from the homes in Georgia where he grew up to the performance arenas of Europe.
This book is for anyone who wants to feel inspired to believe in themselves and be themselves against all odds. Bravo!
I came away with such a rich picture of his life, which I wasn't expecting.
William tells the stories of growing up with unflinching honesty that is also compassionate and sensitive. He shares the difficulties, but always showing there was so much love. He paints such vivid pictures, the people in his life come alive in these pages. As do the emotions, always so genuine and touching.
His wonderful sense of humor is in these pages as well, be it his delightful observations of Eurovision, or in exploring the very human foibles you'll find in every family. His openness makes this story so relatable, no matter how different your story, and so very touching. Just a beautiful book.
I'm not the gifted writer William is, so I'm not doing this book justice. Just know it's moving and a story you won't soon forget.
Top reviews from other countries
Before I read this book, like thousands the world over, we "knew" William through his work on WiWiBloggs, an indispensable tool for following the ebb and flow of Eurovision fortunes. On WiWi, William has always come across as supremely witty, impeccably well-informed and never lost for words. Along with his fellow presenters, he creates an atmosphere which is camp, pacy and fun. "But what", I often wondered" "is this guy's backstory?" This book fills that void.
In so many ways, it reminded me of Mike Leigh's amazing film, "Secrets and Lies" as the mess, repression of truth in a family's past emerges to cast shadows and ultimately liberate the characters at the centre of the story. Of course, if you are a Eurovision addict like me, this tome is pure gold, with its endless behind the scenes snippets and encounters and William's own emergence as a respected and recognised commentator. But what is REALLY striking about this book is the author's fearless appetite for life and his refusal to become a victim, especially during those formative years of early adolescence. He is a LGBTQIA Super Mario: constantly falling and taking knocks, dusting himself down and soldiering on. Two things aid him: his immensely deep-rooted sense of self-belief (where did that come from?) and also good old fate/serendipity. Although often in the background in this book, his husband, Ben, is a force of calm stability, financial and emotional support and solid love. Had their paths not crossed at Harvard? A real "Sliding Doors" moment.
Among the many qualities I loved about this book, is the author's honest self-criticism and painful process of emerging wisdom and self-knowledge. He is wise enough to turn to therapy at critical junctures of this journey, to know when he cannot do it all and when to ask for help. And towering above it all, is not Eurovision, or campy drag acts on European stages, but the joys and pain of family life. The Epilogue and William's unfolding relationship with his disabled brother, John, requires several boxes of tissues.
When Conchita Wurst won in 2014 for Austria, she saluted the LGBTQIA community and uttered the words: "You know who you are - we are unity - and we are unstoppable." This book is the author's very own "Rise Like a Phoenix" and cannot be recommended highly enough. If you love Eurovision you will learn even more. If you know nothing about the contest, it will provide a wonderful introduction. But more than anything, if you are a human being dealing with tensions in your family, on the wrong end of bullying and hate, then take a leaf from this book and find somewhere deep down, that part of you which is unbreakable and not open for compromise and negotiation.
He has definitely had an interesting life. I think I learnt a lot about people in general from this book. And of course there were lots of interesting Eurovision facts.