Episode 52 - Brian Broome
Brian Broome's memoir, Punch Me Up to the Gods, absolutely floored me from the first page. It starts with an anecdote about a young boy named Tuan who is waiting at a bus stop with his father. The toddler falls headfirst on the concrete busway, and rather than tend to him, his father tells him to "shake it off, stop cryin' and be a man." Brian continues to observe the two as they make their way across the city.
As Brian tells the story of his childhood and young adulthood, he continues to weave in little vignettes about Tuan. He makes connections between how Tuan is treated and how he was treated as a boy. Lines from Gwendolyn Brooks' poem, "We Real Cool," serve as subheads.
Brian grew up in a small town in the Midwest in the 80s. He knew from an early age that he was different from his older brother, his dad, and the boys in his community. Brian was gay, impoverished and dark skinned, things that didn't endear him to anyone in his hometown of Warren, Ohio, including his parents. His father beat him in the hopes that he would stop acting like a girl.
When he reached adulthood, he began to abuse alcohol and developed a cocaine habit. It was during a stint in rehab that he started to write the stories that would become this memoir.
In addition to writing memoir, Brian is also a poet and a screenwriter. He has won several awards for his writing and is the K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and instructor in the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh.
Brian is incredibly engaging, and I enjoyed our chat very much. We discussed how he was affected by colorism as a gay, Black man, why he extended grace to both of his parents in writing this book, and why he's drawn to writing on buses.
- why as a child he viewed white not as a race, but as a goal
- how his mind was warped by TV growing up
- why one chapter is told from the perspective of his mom
During the show, Brian mentioned a writer he admired for being courageous and "classy" in a way that he would never be. The first listener to tell us this writer's name on either Twitter or Facebook will win a free copy of Punch Me Up to the Gods.
If you have won a ReadMore giveaway in the last 90 days, you're in eligible for this contest. If you and I ever walked to Cooper Middle together, you're probably ineligible. ReadMore doesn't have a friends and family plan. But we'll always have those memories of Mr. Toler.