“Lyrics of My Life: My Journey with Family, HIV, and Reality TV” by Branden James— An Inspirational Journey

James, Branden. “Lyrics of My Life: My Journey with Family, HIV, and Reality TV”, Cleis Press, 2020.

An Inspirational Journey

Amos Lassen

Branden James was a finalist on the 2013 season of America’s Got Talent. Since then, he has toured with The Twelve Tenors and sang for Pope Benedict XVI and The Mandela Family in South Africa. He has also performed at The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago and tours internationally in a cello and vocal duo called Branden & James with his husband, Australian cellist, James Clark.

Coming out and sharing intimate details of his broken ties with his religious family, he received many messages from fans who could relate to his personal struggles. He realized that he had to becompletely authentic about whom he is in order to help others and continue to help himself. In “Lyrics of my Life”, he shares further stories of his struggles with depression, the time when he contracted HIV, and how he suffered from sexual abuse while in school and identifying with the Christian faith.

This is a memoir that highlights the conflicts of growing up gay in a world that saw him and what he believed as a sinful way of life. He sought and found solace in his passion for music.  He writes  about his unstable life as a young adult, estrangement from his family and his will to overcome adversity. As he searched for his own personal freedom, James finds reconciliation with his family, rediscovers his faith, and “realizes that affliction and hardship are not what define us as human beings.”

He grew up in California with evangelical Christian parents with four children who were always dealing with financial troubles.  We read of what he experienced as he was able to accept hissexuality and his struggles with reconciling it with his Christian faith. He had to deal with self-inflicted shame, drugs and alcohol, becoming HIV+, and finding who he is.

He faced ups and downs in his personal life. It was his appearance on “America’s Got Talent” that led to his becoming the performer.  Then he met his future husband James and found the sense of purpose he had been searching  for.

This book is an inspiration to young LGBTQ adults who are  struggling to find their way to adulthood as it shows some of the missteps and error that anyone can face.