Like many of you, I wanted to get back into reading great books in 2020. I told Joey about this new goal I had in late 2019, and so when he gifted me a copy of Jonathan Van Ness’ book, Over the Top, for Christmas, I knew I had to start there.
I am a huge fan of JVN (I mean, who isn’t?)! I fell in love with him and his effervescent personality when the new iteration of Queer Eye debuted on Netflix in early 2018. Once Joey, my mom, and I basically binge-watched the entire first season in one weekend, I started listening to his super fun & informative podcast, “Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness.” I loved learning along with JVN about topics that were all over the spectrum! I learned about Brexit one day while another week I’d learn about how the founder of Tarte got her start. I highly recommend listening to at least one episode of his podcast to get a feel for his personality and sporadic way of storytelling. It can be confusing at first, but he’s super lovable and real that you learn to pick up on things quickly.
Anyway, back to the book. With my familiarity with JVN and his personality, I dove into this book totally reading it in his voice. I could even imagine the gestures he would make when reading certain excerpts explaining figure skating moments (I know nothing about this sport) and Michelle Kwan.
Of course, the entire book isn’t just banter or jokes. Over the Top discusses important topics like sexual abuse, prostitution, drug & alcohol addiction, HIV, among many other heavy topics. When we see or hear JVN, we see only positivity and lightness. His story, as dark and sad as it is, is such an important one to tell.
Many times, we may feel uninterested in memoirs when we assume that we cannot relate or think that we don’t have a connection to that person, their community, or what they represent. For example, I honestly did not know much about these types of struggles that are the norm for many in the LGBTQ+ community. This book was a great starting point for me to understand a group of people in society that are fighting for their voices to be heard, their issues to be addressed, and how I can become an ally.
What was also just amazing about JVN’s story is his determination, towards the latter part of the book, to succeed. Despite the many setbacks and pretty much most of his worst nightmares being realized, he has become a beacon for many, not just in the LGBTQ+ community, but for many more that want to bask in that positivity and joy despite their traumas.
I really hope that you get a chance to give this book a read. It’s a pretty concise read, and trust me, you’ll be glued to it!
Have you read Over the Top? What did you think?
Thanks for stopping by!
-The B of V