Review: Shane Jenek – Caught in the Act

Caught in the Act: A Memoir
Shane Jenek aka Courtney Act

“Boy, girl, artist, advocate. Courtney is more than the sum of her parts. Behind this rise to national and global fame is a story of searching for and finding oneself. Meet Shane Jenek. Raised in the Brisbane suburbs by loving parents, Shane realises from a young age that he’s not like all the other boys. At a performing arts agency he discovers his passion for song, dance and performance, and makes a promise to himself: to find a bigger stage. … Told with Courtney’s trademark candour and wit, Caught in the Act is about our journey towards understanding gender, sexuality and identity. It’s an often hilarious and at times heartbreaking memoir from a beloved drag and entertainment icon. Most of all, it’s a bloody good time.”

This book will be an eye-opening and brilliant ride for anyone who is part of the queer family, or would like to know more about the lives of the queer. That being said, it’s important to remember that this is the experience of only a single person. Shane/Courtney is one of the newer queers on the scene – which is to say that unlike other books I have read (nonfiction – My Epidemic; fiction – The Things We Promise), the specter of HIV/AIDs isn’t the main ‘threat’ to Courtney. Instead it comes in the form of front-page homophobia (you’ll never have a job with kids if you’re gay) and TV-show nastiness/misperceptions.

There’s a lot of navel gazing in this memoir which can largely be enjoyed, actually. The only points for me where this got a bit cloying was at the end and I actually would have been happy enough to end it perhaps a chapter earlier.

Who knew that casual sex could be so interesting? Or so nuanced? Shane/Courtney illuminates the way that sex can be viewed as a pleasant distraction but also a way of learning about yourself. Even if you have previously read about male-male sex and been perhaps disgusted, it’s worth reading this book to get a different perspective.

I have a friend in mind who I am going to give this book to for Christmas. I know he’s going to love it, because he’s a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I personally don’t understand the allure of the show, but this book totally made me rethink the other reality TV shows I’ve watched and their portrayal of people as Characters (Lego Masters I’m looking at you).

If I gave non-fiction stars, this would be getting a 4.5/5. This was a very enjoyable read, and one I’d recommend to a range of audiences, even those people you might think would be interested.

Pantera Press | 2nd November 2021 | AU$32.99 | paperback

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