Finalist, First Non-Fiction, Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards, 2020
Farm Boy, City Girl: From Gene to Miss Gina details John "Gene" E. Dawson's life growing up in Depression-era Iowa in a poor farming Irish-Catholic family and his adult years spent living on the LGBTQ cultural edge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and St. Louis. The book offers a rare glimpse into the Mid-20th Century history of both rural Iowa and of LGBTQ individuals in Middle America—told by one who was there.
Part One, Farm Boy 1931-1949: Gene recounts his years growing up in the Great Depression, moving with his family from rental farm to rental farm until his parents could afford to purchase their own land and home. Life was difficult and often brutal for anyone during this time, but especially so for a gender-fluid gay child/teenager.
Part Two, Transition and Tragedy 1950-1959:
Part Three, City Girl 1960-: Gene returns to Cedar Rapids before finally moving on to live an open, full existence as Miss Gina in St. Louis. Even in the city though, life was quite hard for openly gay men, and Gene recounts multiple harrowing tales involving the brutality of police, gay bar life, and the unsung heroism of Midwestern LGBTQ people—years before the famous Stonewall riot in New York City.
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John "Gene" E. Dawson also was known as "Miss Gina" in his younger days. He considered himself a farmer at heart and also worked in factories and as a waiter, beautician, and tax preparer.
In 2019, Gene decided he wanted to get his book published while his health still allowed it. After "Farm Boy, City Girl" was published in April 2020, he enjoyed hearing every comment about it. Sadly, he passed away at age 89 in September 2020.