"Gives an almost cinematic portrait of Windsor...you would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved." ―New York Journal of Books
"A must-read for any young queers who want to know where our community came from." ―Harper's Bazaar
“A captivating and inspiring story of a queer woman who believed in her right to take up space and be seen.”―BuzzFeed
"An enrapturing memoir. Don't miss out on this essential read." ―Library Journal
"Brash, funny and brave." ―NPR
In early 2017, I was hired by LGBTQ icon and activist Edie Windsor to help her write a memoir.
Edie's landmark Supreme Court case, United States v. Windsor, ruled that denying federal recognition of same-sex marriage was a violation of the Fifth Amendment, paving the way for marriage equality in all fifty states. There's much to say about the legal proceedings, but the book Edie wanted was a more intimate look at her personal life, from her childhood in Philadelphia, her realization that she was a lesbian, to her active social life in Greenwich Village's underground gay scene during the 1950s. Edie was also a trailblazing woman in computing, working her way up the ladder at IBM developing software.
In the early 1960s, Edie met Thea Spyer, a widely respected clinical psychologist and expat from a Dutch Jewish family that fled the Nazis just before WWII. Edie and Thea's partnership lasted forty-four years until Thea died in 2009, not long after they wed in Canada. Since the U.S. didn't recognize the marriage as legal, Edie was hit with a massive estate tax bill that wouldn't have applied to a married heterosexual couple. After taking her case all the way to the Supreme Court and winning, she eventually found love again, marrying Judith Kasen-Windsor in 2016.
Edie and I sold a partially completed manuscript to St. Martin’s Press, but she passed away unexpectedly not long after. I was both devastated and unsure how to move forward with the project, but eventually completed the book with the help of her enormous archive of personal letters, as well as many hours of interviews with those who knew her best at different points in her life.
Since there were certain stories that I didn’t feel comfortable writing in her voice, the book evolved into a memoir/biography hybrid, with my voice coming in at the end of each chapter to help fill in gaps with tales from her friends and family, as well as historical details about how the gay rights movement evolved up until her court case.
I’m honored that the result, A Wild and Precious Life, was a finalist for a 2020 Lambda Literary Award and named one of NPR's Favorite Books of 2019.