In his thoroughly electric debut, Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir--winner of the Kirkus Prize, a Stonewall Honor Book and a Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year--Brian Broome will shatter your heart. Then make you laugh, sweat and cringe. And--all while eviscerating stereotypes and expanding notions of Black masculinity and queer identity--he'll shatter your heart again, then carefully, exquisitely, piece it back together.
Broome structures his multidimensional memoir around two themes: Gwendolyn Brooks's seminal poem "We Real Cool" and a thread detailing a bus ride during which Broome watches a young Black father offer lessons on how to behave--how to "be a man"--to his toddler son. Interspersed between lines of Brooks's poem and vignettes from the bus ride, Broome offers brutal memories and beautifully rendered stories from his own life, fleshing out the various ways he, too, has been taught, encouraged or forced to be a man. The sum is an exploration that with unflinching honesty and style creates room for Black masculinity like his: queer, sensitive, reflective, funny, flawed, terrible at basketball. (See that story for monumental cringing.)
With his book's dedication to "Brother and Sister Outsiders everywhere," Broome honors Audre Lorde, and he pays consistent, vocal homage to the Black women who have supported him throughout his life. He is also generous with the forgiveness that thrums through recollections of even the most brutal abuses--sometimes even his own. As a boy, Broome accidentally burned down his family's house. Now, he incinerates preconceived notions: of Black manhood, of storytelling and of their stakes--both for the writer himself and anyone lucky enough to be his audience. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer