Thursday, April 8, 2021

Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir by Brian Broome


Gosh, this was beautifully written. Sometimes you read books that make you second-guess your own abilities as a writer because of the way that person can use a simple word or phrase to paint such a quietly evocative picture of a thought or idea. I kept having tons of moments like that while reading PUNCH ME UP TO THE GODS, which is a memoir that discusses what it is like to be gay as a Black man and how that gets framed by societal constructs of masculinity and sexuality. The author does this by doing something I've never actually seen anyone do before: he keeps pivoting back to this moment of watching a father and son at a bus stop, juxtaposing moments of their interactions against memories of adolescence and adulthood.

The usual warnings for memoirs of this type apply, so I won't get into those. I will say that Broome handled his subjects well and it seemed like he really made a concentrated effort to portray himself as forthrightly and honestly as possible, even at moments that weren't flattering to himself. I respected him a lot for that. This isn't really one of those inspiring, feel-good memoirs; instead it seems to serve as a serious recollection of some key moments that shaped his identity, for better or for worse. It ends on a bittersweet note. I think my favorite is the chapter written from the POV of his mother.

Anyone who enjoyed Saeed Jones's memoir, HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES, should definitely check out this work as I think they set out to accomplish very similar goals (in addition to the telling of their own stories). I think Jones's memoir felt a bit more like a news article in a casual periodical (like BuzzFeed) whereas this one felt more experimental and literary, but both are compellingly told and I liked them both for different reasons. It is definitely a book that makes you think and I won't be surprised to see it on the Goodreads Choice Awards list for Best Memoirs of 2021.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

4 out of 5 stars

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