Furries are like sports fans who paint their bare chests in hopes of being seen on TV. It’s an analogy found early in Joe Strike’s 2017 book Furry Nation: The True Story of America’s Most Misunderstood Subculture, and one he disputes. Not all furries are in it for the attention, he points out, and only a small percentage of the community actually wears fursuits. But it’s an analogy that’s apt for Pittsburgh, the sports town where Anthrocon, the annual furry convention, has been held since 2006.
Pittsburghers gather Downtown every summer to watch and take selfies with the furries, many of whom happily pose for photos or wave and perform for the crowds. But while the furries have gotten a lot of local media attention over the years, it’s difficult to really understand the subculture without getting to know the people behind the masks.
Furry Nation provides a glimpse into the world with guidance from Strike, who is himself a furry. It often reads more like a book report than as an exposé for curious onlookers, but the author shares stories that humanize the fandom. It’s hard not to be excited for him as he describes personal moments, like stepping into his very first fursuit — a Komodo dragon, complete with an articulated tail.
Those hoping to hear about the more taboo part of furry culture will skip straight to the chapter titled “The Naughty Bits.” Yes, furry porn exists and is sold at conventions. But like the fursuits, it’s really just a small part of a larger community that, when it comes down to it, really isn’t that shocking.