Book Review: ‘American Savage’ by Dan Savage

American Savage Book CoverIf you have ever read a Dan Savage column; heard him speak; or watched him on YouTube, you’ve pretty much know everything that is in American Savage. Rather than be any real insights from the twenty-plus years that Savage has been dispensing advice and being an activist, American Savage just rehashes much of what we already know.

Savage discusses being non-monogamous; monogamish to use his own phrasing. He discusses how to negotiate being open with your partner. How to set expectations and rules around what type of monogomish relationship you will have.

He talks about being open to trying new things sexually with your partner. Things that may be outside your comfort zone, but still within reason, in order to help provide them with something they want or need.

He rants on about the hypocrisy of religion and regales us again with his stories of Peter LaBarbara aka Porno Pete.

The majority of the book reads like a Dan Savage greatest hits collection vs. something where you really learn more about Savage, or gain insight into the journey that led Dan Savage to some of his most well-known positions. The only chapters where you really get anything behind what you already know is when Savage talks about his mother’s death, and when he talks about his dinner debate with Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage.

Savage writes a touching, emotional, wrenching chapter on his mothers end-of-life ailment, and how that formed his own opinion on medically-assisted suicide. He talks about the choice of suffering during a prolonged death or, perhaps, finding quicker peace with being able to choose medical assistance to ease the pain and process of death. It’s a very powerful chapter. I had to stop reading every few paragraphs to prevent myself from dissolving into a crying jag. It’s this kind of back-story that helps to provide more depth to Savage as a person, and allows us to see him as human being beyond just the sex-talk dimension that we’re all familiar with.

The chapter on the National Organization for Marriage debate with Brian Brown provides less personal emotion, but still is satisfying in the background it provides. While a lot of the community has watched the video of the debate, we all would love to know some of what happened before the cameras rolled and after they stopped. Dan provides us with the lead up to the event, and the follow up. Both are book-ended with reactions from Savage’s husband, Terry, which is well worth the read in-and-of-itself. This is the kind of stuff that we’re really interested in reading and learning about Savage.

A lot of us are already familiar with his thoughts and opinions (and those who aren’t probably don’t buy his books). What we would like to know more about is the path of how Savage formed these thoughts and opinions, and a little bit more about the man himself. Had Savage provided more of this type of material and less rehash, American Savage would have been a much more insightful read.

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