James Peter Taylor's life story, as recounted in Willow in a Storm, almost can't help but induce disbelief. As a young boy in the 1930s, he endures extensive sexual abuse at the hands of his father and several other people, eventually forming a long-term homosexual relationship with one abuser, in which he experiments with cross-dressing at age 13. As a young man, he impregnates and abandons a succession of women, sometimes marrying them, always making false promises, while intermittently working, attending college, committing minor crimes, and playing sports, at one point with a basketball team that defeats the Harlem Globetrotters. Sentenced to a year's hard time for passing bad checks, Taylor is violently assaulted in prison and decides for his safety to take on a "female" role among the incarcerated population. He returns to it after he is sentenced, in 1955, to life in the federal penal system for killing a man during a botched robbery. Relying on his submissive role for survival, Taylor makes it to his parole date in 1981, only to be falsely accused of participation in a robbery and sent back to prison for parole violation, where he suffers a life-threatening attack and fights for his release until 1995, when he finally gains it as an elderly man in ill health. His memoir, co-written by his wife, Kathleen Murphy-Taylor, suffers from repetition and a lack of cohesion, and sometimes gets bogged down in details during its matter-of-fact reporting of Taylor's life, but the facts are undeniably fascinating, the book thought-provoking. For more info call Scarletta Press at 612.455.0252.
Tue., Dec. 18, 6:30 p.m., 2007