Jonathan Van Ness’ new book hopes readers will ‘Love That Story’

Jonathan Van Ness is always curious — their podcast and Netflix series “Getting Curious” surely gives that away. Now book lovers will get curious, too.

In their second book, “Love That Story: Observations From a Gorgeously Queer Life” (HarperOne, 241 pp., Out now), Van Ness invites readers along for a journey across 11 educational chapters involving queer history, body shaming and impostor syndrome.

Fans of Van Ness’ 2019 memoir “Over the Top” can expect fewer gut-wrenching stories (but a major trigger warning if you’ve lost a pet recently) and more empowering resilience and the rewards that come from expanding your mind.

“Saying that you’re an HIV-positive survivor of sexual abuse and drug addiction, it’s a pretty big Band-Aid to rip off,” Van Ness, star of “Queer Eye,” says over a Zoom call. “Once I got that one ripped off, I was just like, ‘Oh, nothing’s going to feel that intense again, probably, knock on wood.'”

Think of this book as more of a peek inside their brain and why they think the way they do.

“I want to write what I’ve been learning about, what’s been driving me,” the energetic, ebullient Van Ness says. “I want to give insights into where I am, and why I am this way, and what I’ve learned to make me think this way.”

The book mixes the personal and historic: the history of marijuana prohibition in the US; white fragility; the HIV social safety net; and the queer backstory behind Van Ness’ hometown of Quincy, Illinois. They uncovered where queer people used to congregate, dating back to the 1830s and through today, and the important local figures involved. Discovering all this reminded Van Ness of how transgender, nonbinary and queer people have been erased throughout history.

“You’re made to think that you’re the first one,” they say. “You’re made to think that there’s no one else around you.”

This thought process shines through in another chapter dubbed “TERF Wars,” which takes direct aim at trans-exclusionary radical feminism. People who hold these views, such as author JK Rowling, believe that transgender women’s existence is a threat to all women.

“I think that for trans and nonbinary fans of JK Rowling who felt triggered by her transphobia, the pain was compounded because so many of us turned to her storytelling to escape the suffering inflicted on us,” Van Ness writes in their book.

Van Ness — who uses he, she and they pronounces — says this view comes “from a place of hurt” and “a place of fear.”


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