from City Pages, Mary 12, 1993
I remember when Borich blew everyone away in a writing class with a piece that ended in a fabulously intense sexy encounter. Four years later, that story has grown into her first book, Restoring the Color of Roses. It’s a journey through lovers and flings, straightness and queerness, through alcoholism and recovery through the edge of industrial Chicago where she grew up in a Catholic-Croatian-German-Polish neighborhood. What brings the “creative” out of Borich’s creative nonfiction is her tendency to descend into dream and imagination merging characters and events into composites.
from Gay Chicago Magazine, August 19-29, 1993
Nothing I could say in this review is more important than, “you must read this book.” Barrie Jean Borich has written the most compelling book of essays since Joan Didion’s The White Album. And, like Didion, Borich spares the reader no detail. Illness and recovery, dysfunctional family follies, addictions to alcohol and sex, twisted religion, and the uncertain meshing of past and present all combine on the page to become a feast of beautifully written prose. Restoring the Color of Roses won’t restore your faith in mankind, but it will introduce you to an important and valuable new force in the creative nonfiction genre. —Gregg Shapiro
from The Lesbian Review of Books, Summer 1995
Restoring the Color of Roses by Barrie Jean Borich is part storytelling, part dream collecting, and part memory. It feels like the familiar search for identity made along the road of family history in counterpoint to one’s own personal recollection.….This is a book about coming out. It is not the simple coming-out story in which the discovery is made and all is well. Rather it is the more common story in which coming out is ancillary to a host of other realizations. Borich shows how it is that when sexuality becomes genuine, not something we watch ourselves do from a distance, the patchwork of feelings and experiences is overwhelming. And she doesn’t take the easy way out of the dilemma; she doesn’t fall into the temptation of believing coming out makes that patchwork any less confusing, any less dismaying…This is a book for those who want to know how someone else has begun to figure out the melee of postmodern identity: how it is possible to survive the conflicts of sexuality, family, alcoholism, racism, and ethnic identity and still resist the impulse to jump in front of moving trains or take the next drink to numb away the confusion.
from Women Library Workers, Fall 1993
The author of this non-fiction work blends her unusual ethnic background (Polish, Croatian, Catholic) with her lesbianism, alcoholism and perceptions to create a strong, compelling book. Her descriptions of tensions between her Polish mother and Croatian father leads one to think of the long-simmering ethnic feuds now erupting in Bosnia. She looks at child abuse, suicide, and physical beauty with a magnifying glass and never flinches….The book clearly belongs in women’s studies and lesbian collections…—Pauline Klein
from Lambda Book Report, September/October 1993
The cities of the upper middle-west have not been a prime literary destination since the political novels of the 1930’s. But every book published by Firebrand Books is an adventure, and often it is an adventure into infrequently traveled places. Certainly this unsettling, well-written view of a seriously unhappy Croatian-Polish woman growing up on Chicago’s raw and beautiful south side is unusual stuff for literary memoir…Growing up in those middle years between the women’s movement and today, part of the generation that “solved” its problems with casual sex and casual drugs, in swift descent from the reality of her lesbianism, she strives to find a handle for survival. Weaving back and forth from the 1980’s to today, Barrie finally finds her way into the arms of a woman who works to restore her confidence….Oblique and painful, this book is not easy to read. However, if you care about the literature of your world, do read Restoring the Color of Roses. Read it if for no other reason than for the romantic and poetic view of the gritty, enthralling cities of the upper middle-west.—Barbara Grier