Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional

Isaac Fitzgerald. Bloomsbury, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-63557-397-8

Journalist Fitzgerald (How to Be a Pirate) weaves a raucous mosaic of a rough-and-ready New England rarely seen with a transfixing story of his path to finding himself. In a series of essays, he recounts his impoverished childhood in 1980s Massachusetts and follows his escape from it through a litany of jobs and identities. In “Family Stories,” he charts the “stained and tattered map” of his dysfunctional Catholic parent’s lives and their bumpy road from “city poor to country poor.” A poster child of the “classic New England family, incapable of discussing... things openly,” Fitzgerald buried his past in drinking, drugs, and porn: “bonding relationships,” he writes in “The Armory,” “were based on the consumption of porn and communal jerking off.” By his mid-20s, he was “on the other side” starring in pornos. As he takes readers along on his search for salvation, he barrels through many venues—from San Francisco to Southeast Asia to Brooklyn to Kilimanjaro—recounting the “conversations that changed me” and eventually helped him overcome old ideals of masculinity and untangle his complicity in a racist society (in his case, “hipster racism”). “To any young men out there who aren’t too far gone,” he writes. “I say you’re not done becoming yourself.” The result is a marvelous coming-of-age story that’s as wily and raunchy as it is heartfelt. (July)
PW EDITORS’ PICKS FOR
THE BEST NEW BOOKS
PW EDITORS’ PICKS FOR THE BEST NEW BOOKS