Book Review

¡Hola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer

Genre | Memoir
Page #s | 224
Publishing Date | June 2021

From popular LGBTQ advice columnist and writer John Paul Brammer comes a hilarious, heartwarming memoir-in-essays chronicling his journey growing up as a queer, mixed-race kid in America’s heartland to becoming the “Chicano Carrie Bradshaw” of his generation.

The first time someone called John Paul (JP) Brammer “Papi” was on the popular gay hookup app Grindr. At first, it was flattering; JP took this as white-guy speak for “hey, handsome.” Who doesn’t want to be called handsome? But then it happened again and again…and again, leaving JP wondering: Who the hell is Papi?

What started as a racialized moniker given to him on a hookup app soon became the inspiration for his now wildly popular advice column “¡Hola Papi!,” launching his career as the Cheryl Strayed for young queer people everywhere—and some straight people too. JP had his doubts at first—what advice could he really offer while he himself stumbled through his early 20s? Sometimes the best advice to dole outcomes from looking within, which is what JP has done in his column and book—and readers have flocked to him for honest, heartfelt wisdom, and of course, a few laughs.

Goodreads

Although I’ve followed Brammer on Twitter for years, I have to admit that I’ve never read the advice column that inspired this book! I will be rectifying this oversight, since Brammer is an incredible author who combines personal anecdotes with universal guidance with ease.

This book is short and sweet, marching through significant portions of his life in chapters prefaced by a hypothetical advice question. It’s lovely to think of this book as a love letter to his past selves, helping him work through the doubts and concerns that plagued him.

I particularly loved the chapter about spending his adolescence dating a girl. Despite identifying as a gay man, he has a lot of fondness for that relationship, because our interactions are far more nuanced and meaningful than simply addressing (or not addressing) sexual gratification. For all the queers coming out later in life, it’s a nice lesson in appreciating our pasts for what they gave us, rather than focusing on what was denied to us.

Far less relatable, but equally great, was his chapter on reconciling his Hispanic identity with his privilege and a family that tried to Americanize as quickly as possible. Watching him grow under the tutelage and teasing of older Hispanic coworkers was adorable, and I liked how he rewrote his history to show the drive and determination that resulted in becoming Americanized actually being the most Hispanic quality possible.

This is a book all about treating ourselves gently, sharing stories with grace and with an eye toward growth and wholeness. Brammer is a talented writer, and though I’m not eager to read his porn descriptions (a funny/depressing chapter about capitalism and the hustle!), I am excited to read his work going forward.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

¡Hola Papi! is the book for memoir enthusiasts who want a hits-the-highlights reel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

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