cover image Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir

Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir

Brian Broome. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-358-43910-3

Broome debuts with a magnificent and harrowing memoir that digs into the traumas of growing up Black and gay in Ohio in the late 1970s and early ’80s. His reflections jump between locations and times, which Broome organizes into chapters titled by the stanzas of Gwendolyn Brooks’s classic poem “We Real Cool.” Another framing device utilized throughout is Broome observing a young Black boy on a public bus as he’s berated by his father, reminding Broome of his own childhood. “What I am witnessing, is... this ‘being a man’ to the exclusion of all other things.” Broome frankly details his early physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father, white teachers, and neighborhood boys, as well as his later struggles with shame, substance abuse, and melancholic attempts to find community in Black queer spaces (“Most of my night-time encounters I will spend the rest of my life trying to forget”). He uncovers deep, intergenerational traumas, and racialized queerphobia and misogyny (“White boys liked girl things and acting like a white boy or a girl of any color was prohibited”). There are no easy victims or villains in Broome’s painful, urgent telling—his testimony rings out as a searing critique of soul-crushing systems and stereotypes. Agent: Danielle Chiotti, Upstart Crow Literary (May)