A Heartbreakingly Honest Memoir

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CONTENT WARNING: child abuse, bullying, racism, homophobia, suicide attempt, drug use, alcohol use, anxiety, depression, addiction

This was a memoir that felt more like a story, and I couldn’t put it down. Brian Broome shares the story of his life, deftly weaving the experience as he watches a young Black boy on a bus with tales of his childhood and contrasts them with the experiences of his adulthood. While he shares these stories, he doesn’t hold anything back.

Growing up as a young, dark-skinned, poor Black boy in rural Ohio, Brian wasn’t in an ideal situation. He dealt with racism early, and faced abuse from his father in the hopes of helping him to act like less of a sissy. His peers bullied him for being gay even before he knew anything about sex, and this strongly influenced his views of race and sexuality for a long time.

“But my Black, male body has betrayed its manhood on many occasions. My hips have swing too freely, and my heart has allowed itself to be broken far too easily. Tears, by far, have been my most pernicious traitors, and it took a long time before I was able to dry the wellspring up. My body has finally learned.”

However, these internalized views impacted his behavior into adulthood, slowing his path to self-acceptance. A lot of the book was so painful to read, and there were so many times that I wanted to just give the author a huge hug and tell him that he was just fine the way he was, even though I know that it wouldn’t have changed those long-held beliefs.

But I think the part of the book that I enjoyed the most was how it portrayed the author as a work in progress. It’s a memoir, so it doesn’t all wrap up neatly with a full resolution the way a fictional story would. The author doesn’t share his story from a place of nirvana, where he has reached a place of perfection, emotional enlightenment, and complete healing. He just talks about his story and lives in his truth, using a simple yet deep and evocative writing style. I loved seeing his progress through life and the work he puts in towards self-acceptance.

“When I was a kid, I thought that the key to being a Black man was to learn how to properly lean on things to look cool. What I didn’t know at the time is that what Black men lean on the most, whether we want to admit it or not, is Black women.”