Adele Bertei with Nazelah Jamison - Twist: An American Girl (Ferry Building Store)

Adele Bertei
in conversation with Nazelah Jamison

An American Girl

An In-Person Event • Book Passage (SF Ferry Building)

Sun., March 19th • 2:00pm PT

This event will be hosted live at Book Passage's San Francisco Store. Please contact with questions regarding live events.
*Please note that masks are recommended for all in-person Ferry Building events.

“The mystery is how I managed to survive, and whether or not Maddie Twist remains alive and well and living like Brel in Paris, or beyond.”

Through the eyes of her alter ego Maddie Twist, Adele Bertei threads together the tapestry of an extraordinary, troubled childhood in the 60s and 70s. It begins with her beautiful mother, whose delusions of grandeur bring both wonders and horrors to the Bertei home.

It is her undiagnosed schizophrenia that eventually leads to the removal of her children, and the beginning of young Maddie’s wild journey. By her middle school years, Maddie Twist has moved through several foster homes and reformatories. With each new posting, she discovers sanctuary amongst her peers—outcast girls—while gaining belief in her identity, and unwavering trust in her own voice.

As she ages out of the system and finds herself navigating the world alone, Maddie’s only constant is a ribbon of music that weaves itself around her heart. She can sing, and she is certain it will be the beacon that guides her towards another life.

In frank prose without an ounce of self-pity, Twist is an episodic survival of the fittest, navigating the crooked rivers of poverty, race, sexuality, and gender. It is a world of little girl gangsters, drag queen solidarity, wild roller-skating, and magical thinking. With Twist, Bertei gives us a story of violence and madness, of heartbreak and perseverance, and, ultimately, redemption.

Adele Bertei began playing music in Cleveland with Pere Ubu’s legendary Peter Laughner, and as an original member of the Contortions, produced by Brian Eno on No New York. She was lead singer of the first out, queer, all-women rock band, the Bloods. Her singing and songwriting career includes recording, performing live, and writing for such diverse acts as Thomas Dolby, Tears for Fears, Culture Club, Whitney Houston, Scritti Politti, Sheena Easton, Jellybean Benitez, Lydia Lunch, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, the Pointer Sisters, and John Lurie. Bertei played a lead role in Lizzie Borden’s seminal feminist sci-fi film Born in Flames. She is the author of two previous books: Peter and the Wolves, and Why Labelle Matters, a finalist for the 2022 Lambda Literary Awards. Twist is the story of how it all started.  

Nazelah Jamison is a gifted poet, emcee, and vocalist who has learned from and graced the stage with some of the finest people in entertainment today. She has competed on and/or coached 12 National Slam teams; and has performed poetry & music across 3 continents. Until 2014, she hosted and co-produced The Oakland Poetry Slam & Open Mic, an on-going monthly poetry slam in Oakland, CA, as well as performing at venues around the SF Bay Area and the country. She has collaborated on music recording projects with the Rondo Brothers, and is embarking upon a career as a stand-up comedienne. Her first collection of poetry, evolutionary heart, was released by Nomadic Press in Fall 2016. Nazelah is well-known and beloved for her work with Spearhead and the French music group, Les Nubians, and her love of hip-hop translates onto the stage.


Adele Bertei photo courtesy of publicist; Nazelah Jamison photo courtesy of publicist



Book Passage Ferry Building
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
Twist: An American Girl By Adele Bertei Cover Image
ISBN: 9781736309339
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: ZE Books - March 14th, 2023