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Audiobook Review: CAKEWALK by Douglas Bell

CAKEWALK by Douglas Bell

Genres: LGBT, Adult, Queer

Die-hard traditional Texas is the backdrop where success and nonconformity cannot coexist for Bryan Hicks, an African-American divorced father of two kids, Lindsey, the athletic golden child, and Lance, the unorthodox queer thespian.

Bryan’s mother loves bragging to her high-society girlfriends about Bryan’s accomplishments and promotion to VP at a large multinational oil/gas company. Bryan vigorously steers clear of conversations with his mother about who he is dating because Bryan has been secretly dating Nadia, a transgender woman.

Cakewalk is contemporary fiction based on Douglas Bell’s past experiences. Bell speaks from an African-American heteronormative (privileged) cisgender voice to candidly expose the trauma of transphobia and homophobia. Bell wants to humanize the struggle of trans women to live on their terms. Bell asks us to believe in ourselves, trust in ourselves, and don’t let society define who you are. There is enough courage within you to be the person you want to be.


I was compensated with a small amount for my time and effort in reading the book and writing this review. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and are based on my honest personal experience reading the book. Nor did the publisher in any way shape or form ever pressure me to give a positive review.

CAKEWALK delves into the complexities of identity, family dynamics, and societal expectations against the backdrop of socially conservative Texas. The protagonist, Bryan, a successful Black divorced father, navigates the delicate balance between his corporate aspirations and his personal life. Bryan grapples with maintaining his public image while concealing his relationship with Nadia, a white transgender woman, from his prideful and homophobic mother.

Bryan tries to support his teenage son Lance, who aspires to be a drag queen while facing his prejudices and questioning social conventions. Bell’s autobiographical book highlights the challenges of finding love and acceptance in the face of modern racism and identity constructions, providing real insight into the problems brought on by familial expectations and societal standards. CAKEWALK delves deeply into the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality, following Bryan as he attempts to balance his own needs with those of society.

Being a person of color myself, Bryan’s difficult connection with his mother because of her homophobic beliefs struck a deep chord with me and reflected the inner battle that many of us experiences when we have to deal with family members who hold divergent beliefs. Bryan’s predicament was portrayed in a way that made me think about my own experiences negotiating societal concerns including gender standards in my family, racial equality, and LGBT rights. It is a paradox that those who have raised and assisted us also hold views that we find diametrically opposed. Deeply troubling issues like identity, loyalty, and the intricate dynamics of family ties are brought up by this dispute.

In my own cultural setting in East Asia, opposing the beliefs of elders—even if it’s on issues such as LGBT—can conflict with deeply held filial piety beliefs. It requires a careful balancing act between honoring family relationships and sticking up for one’s convictions. The complex relationship between family responsibilities and personal beliefs is a major theme in CAKEWALK, reflecting the complex issues that people encounter in real life when attempting to balance tradition and modernity, identity and belonging.

CAKEWALK’s autobiographical inspirations provided a unique challenge to me as a reviewer. I had to find a balance between making genuine critiques in the writing versus not accidentally offending possible real-life experiences from the author himself. One example of such critique is that although it makes sense for Bryan’s romance with a transgender lady and his relationship with his homophobic mother to take up a large amount of the story, considering their relevance to the LGBT topic. But I would still have appreciated for a more thorough examination of other relationships, like Bryan’s connection with his kid, in between these main points.

Although Bryan’s battles with societal expectations and his own identity are well-covered in the book, these themes may have been developed further to enhance the story and provide more depth to the way LGBT issues and family dynamics are portrayed. However, given the intimate nature of the author’s narrative, it is crucial to address critiques with empathy and compassion, which is highlighted by identifying the potential sensitivities surrounding these subjects. To effectively engage with works that profoundly resonate with personal experiences, it is imperative to provide insightful critique while keeping the author’s perspective in mind.

Ultimately, CAKEWALK is a moving and genuine depiction of the many difficulties people encounter when juggling the demands of their families, their gender identity, and their race. The narrative’s autobiographical quality gives it a depth and resonance that effectively conveys the complexity of these subjects. Although the book deftly explores important topics, such Bryan’s tense connection with his mother and his romance with Nadia, there is room for more investigation, especially when it comes to Bryan’s relationship with his kid.

My hope is that by enriching these dynamics, CAKEWALK could deepen its examination of LGBT issues within the context of familial relationships. Nonetheless, for readers seeking a work that resonates with the complexities of contemporary social issues, CAKEWALK remains a compelling and thought-provoking read.

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About the Author of CAKEWALK

Douglas Bell is a debut African American writer. He holds a BS in engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a MA in business from Texas A&M University at College Station. Bell currently works as an engineer and once made his living as a magician! The heart of any good magician is storytelling.
Bell relies on the mission of his Jesuit education: Being A Man for Others as the foundation for his service on religious and charitable boards.
Buddhist teachings and a small but strong core of straight, cisgender, transgender, gay, and lesbian friends have supported Bell’s desire to pursue another form of storytelling.

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