Book Review

Ten Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby

Genre | Memoir
Page #s | 400
Publishing Date | March 2022

Multi-awardwinning Hannah Gadsby transformed comedy with her show Nanette, even as she declared that she was quitting stand-up. Now, she takes us through the defining moments in her life that led to the creation of Nanette and her powerful decision to tell the truth-no matter the cost.

‘There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.’ -Hannah Gadsby, Nanette

Gadsby’s unique stand-up special Nanette was a viral success that left audiences captivated by her blistering honesty and her ability to create both tension and laughter in a single moment. But while her worldwide fame might have looked like an overnight sensation, her path from open mic to the global stage was hard-fought and anything but linear.

Ten Steps to Nanette traces Gadsby’s growth as a queer person from Tasmania-where homosexuality was illegal until 1997-to her ever-evolving relationship with comedy, to her struggle with late-in-life diagnoses of autism and ADHD, and finally to the backbone of Nanette – the renouncement of self-deprecation, the rejection of misogyny, and the moral significance of truth-telling.

Equal parts harrowing and hilarious, Ten Steps to Nanette continues Gadsby’s tradition of confounding expectations and norms, properly introducing us to one of the most explosive, formative voices of our time. 


If you’re interested in reading Hannah Gadsby’s memoir, you’ve probably already seen and loved her stand up special(s) on Netflix: Nanette and Douglas. She wowed me with her humor, yes, but especially with her honest reflections on trauma and autism. All three of these qualities are very much in play in her memoir, which shares stories from each year of her life up to the release of the show that made her famous.

She doesn’t share all of her stories, though. Much like the way Nanette dissected the art of comedy while being comedy, this memoir dissects the experience of trauma through its form. She explicitly states that a biographer would want to highlight those moments of abuse, violence, and trauma; as the person who lived through them, however, she emphatically does not. Instead, we learn about her trauma only when another story necessarily brings up feelings or people that were involved. It’s brought up almost against her will, and is not dwelt upon longer than necessary. It’s just like a real trigger; it’s a brilliant choice, and also really nice to read someone’s memoir who is not willing to share her trauma for an audience’s “entertainment.”

I also loved her decision to share her personal history alongside Tasmania’s homophobic history. Even when she is too young to remember the specific events, they inform the world in which she grows up. It’s also an incredible reminder of just how openly and violently homophobic governments and people were just a decade or two ago. We shouldn’t take our current experience for granted; nor should we assume it will always be this way (as is all too obvious in anti-trans laws and opinions today).

All of this sounds quite dour! Just like her comedy shows, it’s hard to describe how something so affecting and heavy can also be funny and charming. But it is! Hannah is a master of comedy, knowing how to guide her audience (whether audience or reader) through a story with a deft touch. You’re in good hands here, folks.

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

Ten Steps to Nanette is essential reading for lovers of memoirs, and it’s especially valuable as an honest reflection on life as a queer autistic person.

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

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