Naturally Tan by Tan France is a memoir that’s both funny and heartwarming. I am so touched by this memoir. I don’t often read memoirs and was not expecting to feel so touched. This one really tucked at my heart strings.
In this heartfelt, funny, touching memoir, Tan France tells his origin story for the first time. With his trademark wit, humor, and radical compassion, Tan reveals what it was like to grow up gay in a traditional South Asian family, as one of the few people of color in South Yorkshire, England. He illuminates his winding journey of coming of age, finding his voice (and style!), and marrying the love of his life―a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City.
From one of the stars of Netflix’s runaway hit show Queer Eye, Naturally Tan is so much more than fashion dos and don’ts―though of course Tan can’t resist steering everyone away from bootcut jeans! Full of candid observations about U.S. and U.K. cultural differences, what he sees when you slide into his DMs, celebrity encounters, and the behind-the-scenes realities of “reality TV,” Naturally Tan gives us Tan’s unique perspective on the happiness to be found in being yourself.
Who is Tan France? Tan is a British-born designer, made world-famous because of his role in the Netflix show Queer Eye.
I picked up this book because I was incredibly curious about how a gay British (and Muslim) man ended up with a gay Mormon in Utah. It’s an intriguing story, at least to me. And I am so, so glad I read this memoir. Tan France seems like the nicest of men. And it left me thinking, Good for you, Tan. Good for you!
What I love
Oh gosh, what don’t I love is more appropriate as I was truly touched by everything. Tan begins his memoir where all good memoirs begin, with stories of his youth in England. He was born in the UK and grew up in a religious Pakistani family in England.
Unfortunately, this means that his youth was spent combating racism and enduring punches from the boys who weren’t keen on ethnicity (for lack of better words on my part). This really made me teary-eyed. Either I’m overly compassionate or it brought back memories of my own volatile youth in Germany. My hard-working parents were foreign guest workers in the German automobile factories. This means that while they were hard at work bringing back the West German economy, I was frequently beat up (yes, really!) by German kids because, well, I don’t know really know why. Maybe because my skin was a bit tanner or maybe because I had an accent when speaking German or maybe because I always smelled like garlic. I don’t really know, but I can still feel that forceful tuck of my long braid at the hands of the bullies. And maybe that’s why this portion of Tan’s memoir captured my heart forever and ever.
But the book is not as dire as it sounds. Most parts are laugh-out-loud funny, like the time his father, who was forever competing with his brother (Tan’s uncle), bought Tan a Barbie house just because Tan’s uncle bought his daughter a Barbie house. Tan was secretly overjoyed at his new Barbie house, but had to act nonchalant about it.
It’s also really obvious that fame and fortune has not gotten to Tan’s head. He doesn’t spend his money in a frivolous manner and still lives in Salt Lake City with his husband.
Tan also gives the reader a super valuable clue: celebrities don’t live like celebrities. Meaning, even they don’t spend their money on the designer clothes and jewelry for events. It’s all loaned to them or given to them for free. This really hit home for me because so many of us try to keep up with the Joneses when the truth is that the Joneses don’t spend their money on luxury goods.
I also really love that he ignored the messages and Facebook requests from all those mean people who reached out to him after he became famous. I would have done the same thing. Good for you, Tan.
What I don’t love
I think all the times he had to endure racism in England and here in the US (those unprofessional Border Patrol workers at the US airports, don’t even get me started!), that’s what I don’t love.
Tan’s story tucked at my heart strings and I’m so happy he found his happily ever after.
Do you read memoirs?
If you’re off today because of Labor Day, enjoy! I hope you have a great day with some good books and a nice cup of tea! xoxo, Jane
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