'I was a child who was a cuckoo in the nest, who knew that my parents were stupider than me'. He was a weird kid. In his bedroom not a scrap of wallpaper showed, because every inch was covered with pictures of aeroplanes, and every surface with models. Fantasy, painstakingly made real, took over his life, in a world of battles ruled by his teddy bear, Alan Measles, an infallible leader of serene masculinity. He grew up. And in 2003, an acclaimed ceramic artist of Arabic shocking pots, he accepted the Turner Prize as his alter-ego Clare, wearing his best little-girl frock, with a bow in his hair: another dream made real. Now he tells his own story, his voice beautifully caught by his friend, the writer Wendy Jones. The tale begins with his early childhood in Chelmsford, Essex, a rural Eden that ended abruptly with the arrival of the violent milkman who became his stepfather. It follows his to-ing and fro-ing between his parents' houses, and between boy's clothes and women's clothes, building the tight kiln of secrets that formed his emerging adult self - a violent and neglectful firing.
But as he enters a wider world through art college and the New Romantics, and tries awkwardly to fit in - 'I used to go to the Taboo nightclub in a black suit with skin-tight Lycra trousers and a jacket two sizes too small' - he starts to find a context for self-display and at last, in his early twenties, he steps out freshly baked as a potter and transvestite. Direct and down to earth, stuffed with insights, imagination and wit, and with illustrations of Grayson's own work, this book is unlike any other. But that's just the point - we don't have to fit in. PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG GIRL (Sort Of) is not only completely mesmerising to read, but a lifeline for all young boys who feel no one else is like them and who hug their dreams to themselves.
Grayson Perry, the controversial winner of the 2003 Turner Prize, is best known as a ceramic artist, but he also works with embroidery and photography. He lives in London and is married with a daughter. Wendy Jones is a teacher and a writer.