As part of my Camino de Santiago obsession, I devour books set on the Camino as much as I can. I prefer nonfiction travel memoir, but I also read the odd fiction book using the Camino as its setting.
A month ago, I would have said, “Yeah, representation matters. But it’s not everything. I can read non LGBTQ works too.” And, yeah…obviously I can still read non LGBTQ works. I do so often. But after reading two Camino de Santiago travel memoirs in a row that are from LGBTQ perspectives, I realize that it does matter…and more than I thought it did. It was an absolute delight to find these two books.
When we last walked the Camino back in September of 2019, we saw some signs of LGBTQ pilgrims…but we also came across intolerance at these signs. There is ALWAYS graffiti along the Camino. I seldom have a problem with graffiti overall. It can actually be quite artistic and beautiful…this is especially true along the Camino. But also…it seems like some people just carry markers as part of their pilgrim experience. They mark everything in their path from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela.
Some of the graffiti we found on the Camino the last time around was the rainbow kind. The calling card of LGBTQ+ members. At first, it was rather touching to see it. Awwww…how nice! But then…
I was thrilled to have found 2 LGBTQ pilgrims’ books in a row! I read them both over the course of the past couple of weeks and LOVED each of them!
First, though, let me step backward for a minute. The author of one of my FAVOURITE Camino books pointed me toward the first LGBTQ Camino memoir I read, so I’d like to shout out them first for helping me find my way to these new books.
It was Beth Jusino who first mentioned TRAIL MIX to me. Beth reviewed an ARC of the book prior to its release. I was so glad to have found it! You can check out Beth’s incredible Camino memoir, Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago, by clicking on the picture above.
Now, the 2 LGBTQ Camino Memoirs…
Trail Mix: 920km on the Camino de Santiago by Jules Torti (2021, Rocky Mountain Books)
A rollicking travel memoir that invites the curious, the initiated, and even the skeptics to tag along on the ever-changing landscape of “The Way”’
For many, walking the Camino is a decision predictably triggered by death, divorce, or a career crisis. It’s not Everest and it ain’t no walk in the park, but the Camino ‘family’ continues to inexplicably grow. In 2018 alone, 327,342 pilgrims were received at the pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Pilgrims worldwide are attracted to the gilded mystery and hope of the Camino. Like the Ouija board, magic 8-ball and Ann Landers, it surreptitiously provides answers.
There is snoring. Sleep apnea. Threadbare patience. Frayed nerves. Sour socks. A lot of salami. Shifting from a walk-in closet to a walking closet of just 10 pounds, Jules and Kim decided to walk the historic Camino before their lower backs (or any other body parts) decided otherwise. Jules learned all the essential Spanish they’d need — luckily everything that was necessary ended in ‘o’: vino tinto (red wine), queso (cheese), corto (small beer), chorizo (sausage), baño (bathroom). Trail Mix is the open, frank, and funny story of one Canadian couple voted most unlikely to agree to such a daunting social experience.
This book was a delight to read. Torti’s memoir was rife with humor. I really enjoyed her quirky eye and it was amazing to see the Camino through her often comedic lens. She walked the Camino with her partner, Kim. There’s actually a proposal along the way. As with all Camino memoirs, the couple meet colorful characters along the path and get into some pretty amusing predicaments. It has some laugh out loud moments in it. Like many pilgrims, Jules & Kim walk beyond Santiago de Compostela to Muxía and Finisterre…the end of the world. It was a surprise bonus to read a Camino memoir from a member of the LGBTQ+ community. It made me wonder if there were any others out there.
CLICK HERE TO PICK UP YOUR COPY OF TRAIL MIX.
Overweight, undertrained and terrified: A Camino Diary by Connor O’Donoghue (2017, Self-Published)
This is the entertaining and sometimes inspirational story of one morbidly obese 35-year-old Irishman who decides to walk 708 kilometres across the Camino de Santiago, an ancient Christian pilgrimage in Northern Spain one summer. On the journey, he faces a variety of physical and mental obstacles. The book is written in diary format, at turns poignant and funny in a light, pacey style.
I absolutely loved this book, for many reasons. The humour, sometimes delivered in very poignant ways and sometimes off the cuff, had me in stitches. It was a page-turner, as the author had me deeply invested in the will-he-make-it narrative. I don’t know if I ever championed the goals of a hero in a novel as deeply as I hoped Connor would make it to Santiago de Compostela at the end of this book. No spoiler alerts here…if you want to find out if our hero walks into Santiago, you’ll have to pick up a copy! With a lovable and endearing narrator, this book will hold your attention all the way to the end. Also…it was refreshing to read a Camino retelling from a fellow LGBTQ perspective. I’d have no problem recommending this book to Camino enthusiasts and memoir enthusiasts alike. As a fellow Camino de Santiago pilgrim, I particularly enjoyed O’Donoghue’s gentle roasting of the God of the Camino. No, I don’t mean St. James. I’m referring to John Brierley here…the creator of the Camino’s most used guidebook. This was an excellent quick read!
CLICK HERE TO PICK UP YOUR COPY OF OVERWEIGHT, UNDERTRAINED AND TERRIFIED.
Hi, Kevin. Thanks for the post! In addition there’s Carolyn Wood’s Tough Girl and my memoir, Cancer, Kintsugi, Camino (Shoshana Kerewsky).