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Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir

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A poetic and raw coming-of-age memoir about Blackness, masculinity, and addiction “Punch Me Up to the Gods obliterates what we thought were the limitations of not just the American memoir, but the possibilities of the American paragraph. I’m not sure a book has ever had me sobbing, punching the air, dying of laughter, and needing to write as much as Brian Broome’s staggeri A poetic and raw coming-of-age memoir about Blackness, masculinity, and addiction “Punch Me Up to the Gods obliterates what we thought were the limitations of not just the American memoir, but the possibilities of the American paragraph. I’m not sure a book has ever had me sobbing, punching the air, dying of laughter, and needing to write as much as Brian Broome’s staggering debut. This sh*t is special.” —Kiese Laymon, New York Times bestselling author of Heavy “Punch Me Up to the Gods is some of the finest writing I have ever encountered and one of the most electrifying, powerful, simply spectacular memoirs I—or you—have ever read. And you will read it; you must read it. It contains everything we all crave so deeply: truth, soul, brilliance, grace. It is a masterpiece of a memoir and Brian Broome should win the Pulitzer Prize for writing it. I am in absolute awe and you will be, too.” —Augusten Burroughs, New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors Punch Me Up to the Gods introduces a powerful new talent in Brian Broome, whose early years growing up in Ohio as a dark-skinned Black boy harboring crushes on other boys propel forward this gorgeous, aching, and unforgettable debut. Brian’s recounting of his experiences—in all their cringe-worthy, hilarious, and heartbreaking glory—reveal a perpetual outsider awkwardly squirming to find his way in. Indiscriminate sex and escalating drug use help to soothe his hurt, young psyche, usually to uproarious and devastating effect. A no-nonsense mother and broken father play crucial roles in our misfit’s origin story. But it is Brian’s voice in the retelling that shows the true depth of vulnerability for young Black boys that is often quietly near to bursting at the seams.   Cleverly framed around Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool,” the iconic and loving ode to Black boyhood, Punch Me Up to the Gods is at once playful, poignant, and wholly original. Broome’s writing brims with swagger and sensitivity, bringing an exquisite and fresh voice to ongoing cultural conversations about Blackness in America.


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A poetic and raw coming-of-age memoir about Blackness, masculinity, and addiction “Punch Me Up to the Gods obliterates what we thought were the limitations of not just the American memoir, but the possibilities of the American paragraph. I’m not sure a book has ever had me sobbing, punching the air, dying of laughter, and needing to write as much as Brian Broome’s staggeri A poetic and raw coming-of-age memoir about Blackness, masculinity, and addiction “Punch Me Up to the Gods obliterates what we thought were the limitations of not just the American memoir, but the possibilities of the American paragraph. I’m not sure a book has ever had me sobbing, punching the air, dying of laughter, and needing to write as much as Brian Broome’s staggering debut. This sh*t is special.” —Kiese Laymon, New York Times bestselling author of Heavy “Punch Me Up to the Gods is some of the finest writing I have ever encountered and one of the most electrifying, powerful, simply spectacular memoirs I—or you—have ever read. And you will read it; you must read it. It contains everything we all crave so deeply: truth, soul, brilliance, grace. It is a masterpiece of a memoir and Brian Broome should win the Pulitzer Prize for writing it. I am in absolute awe and you will be, too.” —Augusten Burroughs, New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors Punch Me Up to the Gods introduces a powerful new talent in Brian Broome, whose early years growing up in Ohio as a dark-skinned Black boy harboring crushes on other boys propel forward this gorgeous, aching, and unforgettable debut. Brian’s recounting of his experiences—in all their cringe-worthy, hilarious, and heartbreaking glory—reveal a perpetual outsider awkwardly squirming to find his way in. Indiscriminate sex and escalating drug use help to soothe his hurt, young psyche, usually to uproarious and devastating effect. A no-nonsense mother and broken father play crucial roles in our misfit’s origin story. But it is Brian’s voice in the retelling that shows the true depth of vulnerability for young Black boys that is often quietly near to bursting at the seams.   Cleverly framed around Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool,” the iconic and loving ode to Black boyhood, Punch Me Up to the Gods is at once playful, poignant, and wholly original. Broome’s writing brims with swagger and sensitivity, bringing an exquisite and fresh voice to ongoing cultural conversations about Blackness in America.

30 review for Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest 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 const Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest 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 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Raymond

    Punch Me Up to the Gods is a powerful memoir written by Brian Broome a Black gay man who grew up in Ohio and moved to Pittsburgh, PA. Broome's story is told in an interesting way, he prefaces each chapter with vignettes titled "The Initiation of Tuan" which covers Broome's observations of a Black father and his young son Tuan on a city bus. Broome observes how the father interacts with Tuan, telling the young boy to be a man and to not cry. These observations lead into Broome's own story which f Punch Me Up to the Gods is a powerful memoir written by Brian Broome a Black gay man who grew up in Ohio and moved to Pittsburgh, PA. Broome's story is told in an interesting way, he prefaces each chapter with vignettes titled "The Initiation of Tuan" which covers Broome's observations of a Black father and his young son Tuan on a city bus. Broome observes how the father interacts with Tuan, telling the young boy to be a man and to not cry. These observations lead into Broome's own story which focuses alot on colorism, Black masculinity, sexuality, race and internalized racism, drug addiction, etc. Tuan and his father remind Broome of his troubled relationship with his own father who would beat him viciously because Broome was not masculine enough. Brian's mom is another important character in this book; in fact there is one chapter where Brian writes in his mother's voice to tell her own traumatic story.  This book is definitely brutal and raw, at times it reminded me of Kiese Laymon's Heavy and Sapphire's Precious. Broome's writing is beautiful. I love how he describes people and places. It was after I finished the book that I found out that Broome is a poet which explains why his writing was so good. He closes the book with a powerful letter to Tuan. At the end of the book I felt that he was not just writing to Tuan but he was also writing to me and every other Black man who has been told to bury their emotions, be tough, don't show them your weakness, etc. Hopefully the wisdom of this book can help others recovers from toxic Black masculinity and allow for Black men to be more open about themselves, their pasts, and their feelings.  Thanks to NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Brian Broome for a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on May 18, 2021.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Remember Brian Broome’s name: he is going to be a major literary force. This debut memoir will break your heart, make you laugh and cry, and you’ll be rooting for Brian on every page. For readers of Saeed Jones’s excellent memoir and Augusten Burroughs.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vnunez-Ms_luv2read

    This book had me going through a variety of emotions. Anger, sadness, laughter, etc. very straight with no chaser account of the author’s journey of being gay and Black in a time that this was not accepted, especially in the Black family. I also enjoyed the chapters about atuan and how he tied them into his history. Mr. Brian, I thank you for allowing me the chance to live your story via your words. Blessings unto you in this thing we call Life. Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher This book had me going through a variety of emotions. Anger, sadness, laughter, etc. very straight with no chaser account of the author’s journey of being gay and Black in a time that this was not accepted, especially in the Black family. I also enjoyed the chapters about atuan and how he tied them into his history. Mr. Brian, I thank you for allowing me the chance to live your story via your words. Blessings unto you in this thing we call Life. Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for the arc of this book in return for my honest review. Receiving the book in this manner had no bearing on this review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Danna

    Brian Broome's Punch Me Up to the Gods is a powerful, thought-provoking read. It is a memoir, linked by short essays, detailing episodes of Broome's life starting in childhood and through his adult years. Broome is Black and queer; aware of his different-ness from a young age. Broome's "sissy"-ness is derailed by his father, whose idea of manhood is so stereotyped that it is painful to read. Broome's mother is stoic and, for the most part, also wants to keep Brian's more effeminate leanings tamp Brian Broome's Punch Me Up to the Gods is a powerful, thought-provoking read. It is a memoir, linked by short essays, detailing episodes of Broome's life starting in childhood and through his adult years. Broome is Black and queer; aware of his different-ness from a young age. Broome's "sissy"-ness is derailed by his father, whose idea of manhood is so stereotyped that it is painful to read. Broome's mother is stoic and, for the most part, also wants to keep Brian's more effeminate leanings tamped down. As a result, Broome is eager to escape rural Ohio as soon as he can. There is so much to unpack in this book; it feels hard to figure out how to summarize and what to take note of. Race, sexuality, alcoholism, addiction, domestic violence... this book touches on heavy subject after heavy subject. Yet, there is humor and a biting intelligence that make it oh-so-readable. I loved it, couldn't put it down, and was so deeply saddened. The world needs more books like Punch Me Up to the Gods. Highly recommended. Thank you to publisher for ARC in exchange for an honest review. Favorite quotes: “...what I am witnessing, is the playing out of one of the very conditions that have dogged my entire existence: this “being a man” to the exclusion of all other things. As Tuan’s father publicly chastises him for his tears, I remember how my own tears were seen as an affront. I remember how my own father looked at me as if I was leaking gasoline and about to set the whole concept of Black manhood on fire.” “But he would never apologize because he wanted to teach me that the world wouldn’t.” “... when it comes to white people, he has a shockingly short time to be cute before he becomes threatening. Black boys don’t get a long boyhood. It ends where white fear begins, brought on by deepening voices, broadening backs, and coarsening hair in new places beneath our clothing.” “But I had found that the distance between who white people already assumed I was and who I wanted to be was only as wide as my imagination.” “In that moment, she created within me the odd sensation of laughing through a deep ache. Like remembering something funny someone you loved once said while you’re sitting at their funeral. The feeling that confuses your body in an exhilarating way and you can’t differentiate between the tears born of mirth and the ones born of sorrow. Joy and pain get all mixed together in a yarn ball of emotions.” “People will tell you that times are different now, but I think we all know that only some love is granted public access.” “They’re JNCO jeans and they’re the latest thing. Everybody’s wearing them, but if I’m honest, I think they look a bit silly and I feel ridiculous in them. They have wide, flared legs. You know, for dancing. They’re so wide they cover your shoes and God help you if it rains. If the hems get wet, they get all soggy and heavy and, before you know it, you’re drenched from the calf down.” “I have only recently begun to factor my mental health into the act of living. Black life in America doesn’t seem to allow for it. As a race, we are often admired for how “strong” we are and for how much we have endured. The truth is that we are no stronger than anyone else. We have endured, but we are only human. It is the expectation of strength, and the constant requirement to summon it, fake it, or die, that is erosive and leads to our emotional undoing.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susie Dumond

    This moving literary memoir shows Brian Broome coming of age in small town Ohio while Black, gay, and poor. The memoir takes the form of essays, connected by scenes from a bus ride where Broome encounters strangers who remind him of different points in his life. It's beautifully written, poignant, and an excellent introduction to Broome's voice. He recounts painful traumas and dangerous coping mechanisms with grace and wisdom, all while also finding room for hope for future generations. I hope t This moving literary memoir shows Brian Broome coming of age in small town Ohio while Black, gay, and poor. The memoir takes the form of essays, connected by scenes from a bus ride where Broome encounters strangers who remind him of different points in his life. It's beautifully written, poignant, and an excellent introduction to Broome's voice. He recounts painful traumas and dangerous coping mechanisms with grace and wisdom, all while also finding room for hope for future generations. I hope to read much more from Broome in the future. Thanks to NetGalley and they publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    What a moving memoir! I am starting this review prior to finishing the book. One thing that surprised me was how immediately interesting Brian, the first-person narrator, is. The opening encounter with blond Bertrand really emphasizes the shaky ground of fast hook-ups based only on stereotypes of what one believes - and wants- the other to be, like a fantasy come true. Still, the relationship's demise on a neighborhood basketball court was a sad one, as were the childhood memories of being a ga What a moving memoir! I am starting this review prior to finishing the book. One thing that surprised me was how immediately interesting Brian, the first-person narrator, is. The opening encounter with blond Bertrand really emphasizes the shaky ground of fast hook-ups based only on stereotypes of what one believes - and wants- the other to be, like a fantasy come true. Still, the relationship's demise on a neighborhood basketball court was a sad one, as were the childhood memories of being a gay Black male among an Ohio school full of very athletic Black males. The immediate segue into a scene with a female was interesting but also heartbreaking in Brian's attempt to find an easier pathway in life by trying to be a boyfriend to a beautiful black twenty-year-old woman. The approving smiles of passers-by as Brian walks the street with her are the easy part. His failure to get much farther than kissing is not funny; the reader's heart will ache for him. The synopsis of this book might have sounded like simply another own voices plot line, but the brutally honest details and emotions make it excel.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Sligh

    “I thought that the key to being a Black man was to learn how to properly lean on things to look cool. What I didn’t know at the time is that what Black men lean on the most, whether we want to admit it or not, is Black women.” Y’all need to know, this is heavy. This hits hard. Broome does not spare us the niceties and gets to the real trauma they have endured, and will continue to endure as a Black gay man living in the US. Broome takes us through his childhood where he is belittled and abused “I thought that the key to being a Black man was to learn how to properly lean on things to look cool. What I didn’t know at the time is that what Black men lean on the most, whether we want to admit it or not, is Black women.” Y’all need to know, this is heavy. This hits hard. Broome does not spare us the niceties and gets to the real trauma they have endured, and will continue to endure as a Black gay man living in the US. Broome takes us through his childhood where he is belittled and abused by toxic masculinity. Not only must he be a tough man because he’s a male, but because he’s a Black male, and his surroundings have tried to indoctrinate him to be the tough male. He takes us through an attempt with a girl as his friends watch on to ensure he’s tough. We go through the humiliation and realization his school friends aren’t really his friends as they go to a club and he dances. Once it’s time to go, none of his white friends will allow him a ride home. It’s just one broken tragedy after another for someone just trying to be accepted. We also go through Broome’s adulthood with coping, uncertainty, then acceptance, and finally just.. healing. It was such a transformation to listen to someone so unsure, upset and alone thinking they were some abomination because they couldn’t be who others wanted them to be to then hear of this person sure of themselves and the avenues they now cross. While the future may be unclear, at least he’s sure of one thing: himself. This was absolutely beautifully written and I really enjoyed the audio. You know I love an author reading their own work. I did get confused on some of the stories as it would take me a minute to realize what timeline we were dealing with. Some had dates and others didn’t, so I got thrown off. But, when am I not confused, right? Overall, absolutely heartbreaking and incredibly well written. I highly recommend Punch Me Up to the Gods.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jayden

    *ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review* 3.5 stars. This book is a wonderful deconstruction of masculinity and trauma, particularly that faced by Black men and boys. Broome’s discusses his own upbringing, which was heavily impacted by his father’s opinion of what it means to be a man and how he, being a feminine gay man, is constantly fed the message that he is not enough and that something is wrong with him. Broome seems to assert that these ideas formed at *ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review* 3.5 stars. This book is a wonderful deconstruction of masculinity and trauma, particularly that faced by Black men and boys. Broome’s discusses his own upbringing, which was heavily impacted by his father’s opinion of what it means to be a man and how he, being a feminine gay man, is constantly fed the message that he is not enough and that something is wrong with him. Broome seems to assert that these ideas formed at home, but were enforced further when he went to school by what other Black boys and men expected him to be. There are themes of drug use, suicidality, homophobia, physical and sexual abuse. There are letters to a young Black boy that he Broome sees on the bus woven through the narrative of his own life story, that serve as a kind of reflection on what he’s learned. I feel that this narrative was particularly strong and tied the memoir together. It is a heavy read, and Broome is very good at evoking emotion in his writing. I do however feel that there seemed to be a lot of unanswered questions and loose ends. This particularly bothered me when it came to Broome’s drug addiction, as his treatment or decision to get sober is never discussed, it is just made clear that in the future he is writing from, he is sober. He mentions his visits to rehab in passing, but never how he got there. His siblings are also a part of the narrative that isn’t really explored, and while I understand that this book is about Brian’s life, it would have painted a clearer picture of the family had his siblings been in more of his stories. Overall, I very much enjoyed this read but felt it left things to be desired.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Veronica Foster

    In Punch My Up to the Gods, Brian Broome explores the pressures that Black men face to perform a certain kind of masculinity—one that he found particularly damaging as a Black, gay boy growing up in rural Ohio. In a series of stories organized by theme around Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "We Real Cool," Broome reflects on the way these requirements to "be a man" damaged his relationship with his family, complicated his efforts to find queer community, and resulted in longterm struggles with anxiety an In Punch My Up to the Gods, Brian Broome explores the pressures that Black men face to perform a certain kind of masculinity—one that he found particularly damaging as a Black, gay boy growing up in rural Ohio. In a series of stories organized by theme around Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "We Real Cool," Broome reflects on the way these requirements to "be a man" damaged his relationship with his family, complicated his efforts to find queer community, and resulted in longterm struggles with anxiety and addiction. I found Broome's efforts to untangle his challenging memories of his mother and father especially poignant and profound; throughout the book, he traces how their fear of the real and ever-present danger he would face as a Black man growing up in America led them to police his gender identity and sexuality in harsh and sometimes violent ways. Broome's thoughtful exploration of the fraught relationship between love and control is an important reminder of the way that American racism requires Black parents to make impossible decisions to try to keep their children safe. While I appreciated some of the fruitful juxtapositions offered by Broome's thematic narrative structure, without clear forward momentum the chapters sometimes fell into a bleak pattern of hope, humiliation, then defeat. Punch Me Up to the Gods reads a little like spying on confessional, and though it's evident by the end of the memoir that Broome finds in the sum of his experiences a clearer understanding of both himself and America, I needed a stronger connective thread to the realizations that define the final chapter. Nevertheless, Broome's story is an important one. I'm grateful that he shared it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cookie

    In this memoir, Brian Broome discusses his experiences as a gay, dark skinned Black boy growing up in Ohio. He chronicles many events in his childhood and young adult life where he was told who to be and how to act. His father was constantly telling him how to "be a man". His peers were constantly trying to push him not be gay. He never felt like he belonged to any group, being bullied for being Black and also being bullied by his Black peers for being gay. As he grew into adulthood he turned to In this memoir, Brian Broome discusses his experiences as a gay, dark skinned Black boy growing up in Ohio. He chronicles many events in his childhood and young adult life where he was told who to be and how to act. His father was constantly telling him how to "be a man". His peers were constantly trying to push him not be gay. He never felt like he belonged to any group, being bullied for being Black and also being bullied by his Black peers for being gay. As he grew into adulthood he turned to sex and drugs as a way to numb himself from his emotional scars. This was an intense and raw memoir. The stories he tells about his experiences growing up are unfathomable and horrific. Broome's ability to survive what he went through and to become a successful writer is a testament to his resiliency and perseverance. Broome's poetic and captivating writing style is really what sets apart this memoir from other memoirs for me. He is a gifted writer, framing his stories with emotion evoking words and phrases. I love that he ends the book talking about love - love for humanity and love for oneself. It's the silver lining that is needed after his disturbing stories. Here is my favorite quote from the book: "...all I hope is that you enjoy your life, in your skin, and on your own terms..." I listened to this audiobook and I enjoyed being able to hear Broome narrate his own words. ⚠️ racism, homophobia, substance abuse, domestic violence, bullying, child abuse Thank you to libro.fm for the gifted audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    There's a literary gut punch around every page in this book. Broome is frank when it comes to his experiences with racism and colorism, with homophobia, and with physical and emotional abuse. He doesn't shy away from all of the nasty ways all manner of people excluded and abused and humiliated him. His father beat him for various minor offenses. His black peers bullied him mercilessly for not fitting in. His white peers only ever used him for entertainment. He had a tough life, but he survived t There's a literary gut punch around every page in this book. Broome is frank when it comes to his experiences with racism and colorism, with homophobia, and with physical and emotional abuse. He doesn't shy away from all of the nasty ways all manner of people excluded and abused and humiliated him. His father beat him for various minor offenses. His black peers bullied him mercilessly for not fitting in. His white peers only ever used him for entertainment. He had a tough life, but he survived to tell it. And in telling it, Broome's created a great narrative work. He's a fantastic, sharp writer. The main theme of wanting love from other people without conforming to their expectations is present throughout. There's also this recurring intermission, broken up throughout the book, called "The Initiation of Tuan." It's about a little boy that Broome sees on the bus who's on the cusp of learning what's going to be expected of him as a black boy. I always looked forward to returning to these parts; they kept the pace of the book swift and engaging. It could be argued that the last part was overly sentimental, but... I appreciated it. This is a book for outsiders, for anyone who's been othered or abused for being themselves, but I think everyone should read it. *ARC received from HMH through BookishFirst

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andeigh

    I have never heard of Brian Broome before picking up this book. But, by the end of it I want to know more about him. This was an honest and raw memoir about growing up as a black gay male. The shame he felt about not fitting into the image of what a black man is supposed represent. Dealing with ridicule and teasing every day in school and at home, he adapts by trying to hide his true self from the people who should be most accepting of him. After years of abuse suffered at the hands of his own fa I have never heard of Brian Broome before picking up this book. But, by the end of it I want to know more about him. This was an honest and raw memoir about growing up as a black gay male. The shame he felt about not fitting into the image of what a black man is supposed represent. Dealing with ridicule and teasing every day in school and at home, he adapts by trying to hide his true self from the people who should be most accepting of him. After years of abuse suffered at the hands of his own father, he unsurprisingly ends up addicted to drugs and alcohol. The dark, and sometimes seedy, gay clubs he attends over the years seem to be the only refuge he had where he could be himself. There are bolded chapters throughout that tell us of his thoughts and feelings while watching a father and his son, Tuan, on a bus ride. Brian's story grabbed my attention right from the jump. This memoir was beautifully written as if he was personally telling us his life story, unlike some memoirs that seem forced or stuffy. There were many parts that made me sad for him, because everyone should be allowed to live their life without judgement. His writing style was easy to read and stay connected to. No fluff. Just straight up truth about the struggles of being a black gay man. Some of my absolute favorite parts were the chapters about (and for) Tuan.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    Punch Me Up to the Gods is a poignant memoir about Broome's experience growing up black in a world where systemic racism is prevalent. The book begins with a story about his father refusing to recognize him as a man because he is not "tough" enough. This behavior spills over to his friendships where a classmate tells him he's not man enough, and if he wants to prove that he's not a girl, he needs to be with a girl. He is 10 years old. He's a young child and already being harassed for acting weak Punch Me Up to the Gods is a poignant memoir about Broome's experience growing up black in a world where systemic racism is prevalent. The book begins with a story about his father refusing to recognize him as a man because he is not "tough" enough. This behavior spills over to his friendships where a classmate tells him he's not man enough, and if he wants to prove that he's not a girl, he needs to be with a girl. He is 10 years old. He's a young child and already being harassed for acting weak, and "acting white." At one point in he remarks that a "black boy's childhood is brief." It is clear throughout the book that he is forced to mature quickly because if he doesn't, he won't survive. As a gay black man, his life only becomes more difficult. Hard to read at times, but extremely eye opening. I am honored to have read the story of a man who is so resilient. This would have been 5 stars if it was one continuous narrative. I did not care for the chopped up "short story" style and wished it flowed more together. Broome has a powerful writing style that captured my attention early on. Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishers/Bookish First for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ivy Dickinson

    Brian Broome holds nothing back in this brutally honest and heartfelt memoir. His story pulls you into what can only be described as a difficult coming of age experience as he grapples with being a gay black man who has never truly felt that he belonged anywhere. Coming from a childhood fraught with extreme poverty and staggering abuse, Brian flees his hometown in search of true acceptance, only to struggle with addiction and a series of desperate attempts at connection that leave him feeling un Brian Broome holds nothing back in this brutally honest and heartfelt memoir. His story pulls you into what can only be described as a difficult coming of age experience as he grapples with being a gay black man who has never truly felt that he belonged anywhere. Coming from a childhood fraught with extreme poverty and staggering abuse, Brian flees his hometown in search of true acceptance, only to struggle with addiction and a series of desperate attempts at connection that leave him feeling unfulfilled and pathetic. Through it all, you'll be surprised by his grit and perseverance. The writing was incredible, although I was left with questions about certain relationships (siblings, mother, etc.). Each chapter reads almost like an individual essay, even though they are all woven together in the end. There is one chapter told from the POV of Brian's mother that left me wanting to know more of her story. The book shared some common themes with Augusten Burrough's Running With Scissors and John Boyne's Heart's Invisible Furies, which were both books that I loved. Trigger warning - themes of poverty, homelessness, abuse, sexual abuse, homophobia and drug use *ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review* available 5/18/2021

  16. 5 out of 5

    Allison Palmer

    Even though I'd never heard of author Brian Broome before, I was immediately drawn in by the book's cover and intriguing title. The contrast of a sweet smiling boy and these ferocious words swarming his face told me I was in for an intense read. "Punch Me Up to the Gods" was an immersive experience, so vivid and descriptive that I could see Broome's youth perfectly in my mind's eye. The story is strongest when he switches back-and-forth between watershed moments in his life - one moment he's a ch Even though I'd never heard of author Brian Broome before, I was immediately drawn in by the book's cover and intriguing title. The contrast of a sweet smiling boy and these ferocious words swarming his face told me I was in for an intense read. "Punch Me Up to the Gods" was an immersive experience, so vivid and descriptive that I could see Broome's youth perfectly in my mind's eye. The story is strongest when he switches back-and-forth between watershed moments in his life - one moment he's a child being verbally assaulted on the side of a rural road by a sinister, racist stranger before the narration switches seamlessly to a similar terrifying confrontation as a young man. Throughout the book, the author creates these scenes where tension builds steadily until you're holding your breath in fear and anticipation. We reach a satisfying and emotional conclusion as Broome writes from a distant beach, half the world away, able to reflect on his traumatic youth in the hope that we can create a more empathetic world without the crushing weight of toxic masculinity. If you loved Saeed Jones' "How We FIght for Our Lives" or Carmen Maria Machado's "In the Dream House," you'll be similarly affected by "Punch Me Up to the Gods."

  17. 5 out of 5

    willowdog

    Broome's enthralling biographical work recounts in very touching narrative the horrors of growing up different in America, but specifically in the Black family and gay experience. Brian's character as he grows up in the 90s with his family's version of what it means to be a Black man in the Black culture, and the role of women in the culture is explored. He deals honestly with the lies he tells himself and the role he plays to survive his internal racism, the real racism of America, and his homo Broome's enthralling biographical work recounts in very touching narrative the horrors of growing up different in America, but specifically in the Black family and gay experience. Brian's character as he grows up in the 90s with his family's version of what it means to be a Black man in the Black culture, and the role of women in the culture is explored. He deals honestly with the lies he tells himself and the role he plays to survive his internal racism, the real racism of America, and his homosexuality. The narrative is interesting as it revolves around a singular bus ride and his observance of a young boy with his father's interactions which bring his memories to life. Some chapters are written like a screen play--jumping from scene to scene--even directing the action of the memoir. In addition, the final chapter reminded me of Coates' Between the World and Me--a call to the boy on the bus to deal with his life in a true way. What I found offense was the introduction Yona Harvey. Let the reader decide what one wants to compare the work to. Thanks to Net Galley and publisher for this electronic copy in return for an unbiased review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Karen D

    Wow, I just loved this memoir. This tells of identity, as a Black man, and as a gay man, and at a very basic level, as a man, and what that means for his attempts to find himself and handle everyone's expectations of who and what he *should* be. It gets into racism, homophobia, toxic masculinity, family, and addiction in a way that's completely refreshing. It's an example of just truly great writing. That intangible, you-know-it-when-you-read-it quality of writing that sucks you in immediately a Wow, I just loved this memoir. This tells of identity, as a Black man, and as a gay man, and at a very basic level, as a man, and what that means for his attempts to find himself and handle everyone's expectations of who and what he *should* be. It gets into racism, homophobia, toxic masculinity, family, and addiction in a way that's completely refreshing. It's an example of just truly great writing. That intangible, you-know-it-when-you-read-it quality of writing that sucks you in immediately and doesn't let you come up for air until you're through. This covers his experiences as a young child, a young man in college, and an adult as well as his observations of a young boy on a city bus, and recognizing much of himself. It moves effortlessly between time periods, and even includes one segment from the perspective of his mother.  He very clearly is not trying to idealize himself, it comes off as brutally honest, even when it's not flattering. I'm so glad I read this, and would definitely recommend! Thanks to #bookishfirst and #houhgtonmifflinharcourt for an early copy of this!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Brian Broome's writing is emotional, breathtaking and full of self-awareness. This coming of age memoir will send your emotions all over the place. It's funny, innocent, sad, angry and at times very upsetting. Brian holds nothing back in his new book Punch Me Up To The Gods, he's frank and honest in his telling of his life growing up. He's a confused, young gay, black boy growing up in Ohio with the pressures to be a tough enough man from his dad and friends, from beatings, to sexual encounters t Brian Broome's writing is emotional, breathtaking and full of self-awareness. This coming of age memoir will send your emotions all over the place. It's funny, innocent, sad, angry and at times very upsetting. Brian holds nothing back in his new book Punch Me Up To The Gods, he's frank and honest in his telling of his life growing up. He's a confused, young gay, black boy growing up in Ohio with the pressures to be a tough enough man from his dad and friends, from beatings, to sexual encounters to just trying to grow up, he struggles. The book flashes back and forth between his childhood, to an encounter with a black father and son on the bus, and the present day, all exceptionally woven together to tell his story. A totally gripping, page-turner and will be one of the best memoirs of the year. Write Brian Broome's name down, read his memoir, I highly recommend it. Thank you to BookishFirst, HMH publishing and especially Brian for the opportunity to read the advanced-copy of this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    An advanced copy of this book was given to me by the publisher on Netgalley. All thought and opinions are my own. Punch Me Up to the Gods is Brian Broome's memoir on growing up Black and gay in a small-town in the 1980s. This memoir is incredibly well-written and truly provides a glimpse at what that was like and what Brian struggled with growing up. Obviously, as I'm not a black man and I didn't grow up during that time, the contents were not relatable but they were eye-opening. I would recommen An advanced copy of this book was given to me by the publisher on Netgalley. All thought and opinions are my own. Punch Me Up to the Gods is Brian Broome's memoir on growing up Black and gay in a small-town in the 1980s. This memoir is incredibly well-written and truly provides a glimpse at what that was like and what Brian struggled with growing up. Obviously, as I'm not a black man and I didn't grow up during that time, the contents were not relatable but they were eye-opening. I would recommend this book for those who want to know about that experience as well. One thing I would have appreciated from this memoir was a glimpse at where Brian is now. We look a lot at his use of drugs and alcohol as a young man and at him growing up, but I wanted some information past that. How did he move on past his addiction? Move into therapy? Where is he now? Some of this book is repetitive, so I would have liked some of that information to replace yet another chapter on partying and drugs.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Konet

    2021 is definitely turning into the year of biographies and memoirs for me and this book I will definitely remember for years to come, I think I may purchase it at publishing, it struck my heart so much. Broome grows up poor, Black and gay during a time when being a Black man is tough enough, let alone being a homosexual. This book is so gut wrenchingly honest, his family had a time accepting him. He is still a son and a brother. A little bit of love and understanding would have been so helpful 2021 is definitely turning into the year of biographies and memoirs for me and this book I will definitely remember for years to come, I think I may purchase it at publishing, it struck my heart so much. Broome grows up poor, Black and gay during a time when being a Black man is tough enough, let alone being a homosexual. This book is so gut wrenchingly honest, his family had a time accepting him. He is still a son and a brother. A little bit of love and understanding would have been so helpful to Broome in his youth. Shame on his family, in my opinion. I cannot say enough how this book touched all my emotions. I wanted to give nothing but love, acceptance and empathy for his journey and struggles. I truly enjoyed this memoir and I know it will be a re-read and a favorite. Highly recommended. Thanks to Netgalley, Brian Broome and Houghton Miller Harcourt for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Available: 5/18/21

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Cyr

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. At first when I saw that I won this book, I thought to myself Oh not another one I'm not going to read but I figured I expand my horizons and give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. It had a lot of different emotions and I found myself enjoying it and wanted to continue. I am sure growing up as a black boy is not easy with everyone looking and judging you for no reason but growing up as a back boy attracted to other boys is that much harder. How people judge you is wrong for feeling what you At first when I saw that I won this book, I thought to myself Oh not another one I'm not going to read but I figured I expand my horizons and give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. It had a lot of different emotions and I found myself enjoying it and wanted to continue. I am sure growing up as a black boy is not easy with everyone looking and judging you for no reason but growing up as a back boy attracted to other boys is that much harder. How people judge you is wrong for feeling what you do and how it led to other bad habits in life. I then found out this was a debut author which and I love to read books from debut authors. I find that the put their heart and soul into their first book and it makes it that much better. I have found reading debut authors helps me find new authors and broadens my scope of reading. I recommend this book to all especially if you want to broaden your horizons.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Keia

    TW: child abuse, domestic violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, racism, racial slurs, homophobia, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, bullying In his memoir, Punch Me Up to the Gods, Brian Broome takes us through a disjointed, nonlinear trip through his life. He recounts the kids who used to hurl racist and homophobic abuse at him as a kid, his constant striving for his parents’ love and affection, and his tumultuous adulthood filled with drugs, sex, and alcohol. All of these stories seem to come TW: child abuse, domestic violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, racism, racial slurs, homophobia, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, bullying In his memoir, Punch Me Up to the Gods, Brian Broome takes us through a disjointed, nonlinear trip through his life. He recounts the kids who used to hurl racist and homophobic abuse at him as a kid, his constant striving for his parents’ love and affection, and his tumultuous adulthood filled with drugs, sex, and alcohol. All of these stories seem to come back to the same message: society is failing our Black boys. White people force them to grow up too soon, Black culture forces them into rigid, outdated and harmful roles, and the world expects too much out of them. A lot of Broome’s memories are painful and hard to read, but also so important. The intersectionality of Black queerness is often ignored. Thanks to BookishFirst and HMH for this ARC!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "Punch Me Up to the Gods," a memoir by Brian Broome, details the course of his life as an adolescent who was teased about and punished from his sexuality into his adult years as a gay man living outside of the small town where he was raised. The book is split up into parts, which begin with Broome's thoughts and analysis of a father/son interaction he witnesses on a bus and how this relates to his own experiences. The writing is beautiful and poetics and makes you experience joy, sadness, laught "Punch Me Up to the Gods," a memoir by Brian Broome, details the course of his life as an adolescent who was teased about and punished from his sexuality into his adult years as a gay man living outside of the small town where he was raised. The book is split up into parts, which begin with Broome's thoughts and analysis of a father/son interaction he witnesses on a bus and how this relates to his own experiences. The writing is beautiful and poetics and makes you experience joy, sadness, laughter, and empathy for the experiences of LGBT people growing up in small town America. I am confident that this will be one of the best memoirs I read all year.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Ogburn

    3.5. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy of this memoir (to be published next month). I found this coming-of-age story heartbreaking; the author detailed his difficult upbringing as a gay dark-skinned black adolescent growing up in a small town in Ohio. He deals with systemic racism, homophobia, addiction, abuse and rape. The book is beautifully written but cringe-worthy and raw and at times difficult to read. I also felt there were a lot of loose ends 3.5. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy of this memoir (to be published next month). I found this coming-of-age story heartbreaking; the author detailed his difficult upbringing as a gay dark-skinned black adolescent growing up in a small town in Ohio. He deals with systemic racism, homophobia, addiction, abuse and rape. The book is beautifully written but cringe-worthy and raw and at times difficult to read. I also felt there were a lot of loose ends when I finished it and I wished the author had delved into his family relationships and his eventual path to sobriety.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Cleaves

    A moving exploration of dysfunction attendant to being black and gay in a less than loving household where anger-fueled violence substitutes for rational conversation. There are some odd artistic/authorial choices in the telling. Every other chapter observes a small boy and his father on a bus ride which is used as an instigator to personal recollections of lessons learned during his lifetime of how to be black and assaulting his perceived and actual gayness, which is anything but gay. He also e A moving exploration of dysfunction attendant to being black and gay in a less than loving household where anger-fueled violence substitutes for rational conversation. There are some odd artistic/authorial choices in the telling. Every other chapter observes a small boy and his father on a bus ride which is used as an instigator to personal recollections of lessons learned during his lifetime of how to be black and assaulting his perceived and actual gayness, which is anything but gay. He also explains his family by assuming the persona of his mother and introducing the reader to his maternal grandparents and his father from her point of view. Moving and memorable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    Thank you to Bookish First for the ARC of this book. Broome's book tells his story of growing up as a gay, Black man in small town Ohio, and it is unlike any memoir I've ever read. From his "be a man" father and his exhausted, disillusioned mother, to the relentless bullies and bigots in the schoolyard, to the alcohol and drug-hazed young adulthood as an out gay man, Broome shares an unflinchingly honest and tough account of his reality. His writing is superb, full of self-awareness and laced wit Thank you to Bookish First for the ARC of this book. Broome's book tells his story of growing up as a gay, Black man in small town Ohio, and it is unlike any memoir I've ever read. From his "be a man" father and his exhausted, disillusioned mother, to the relentless bullies and bigots in the schoolyard, to the alcohol and drug-hazed young adulthood as an out gay man, Broome shares an unflinchingly honest and tough account of his reality. His writing is superb, full of self-awareness and laced with just enough humor to avoid becoming a pity party. Broome frames the memoir with his present bus ride through town, as he observes a young Black man and his toddler son. It's an effective literary device, alternating between this little boy with a wide open future and the little boy turned man that Broome has become. I couldn't help but reflect on how far we've come as a country in terms of embracing all people, and how far we have to go.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Wow. I just finished reading Brian Broome’s memoir Punch Me Up to the Gods. This memoir is written as a series of essays interwoven with the author’s observations of a little boy on the bus. This memoir is not light-hearted. It is heartbreaking and emotional. He talks about domestic violence, addictions, and racism in America. I highly recommend this book. I could not put it down. I am looking forward to reading more of this author’s work. Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Wow. I just finished reading Brian Broome’s memoir Punch Me Up to the Gods. This memoir is written as a series of essays interwoven with the author’s observations of a little boy on the bus. This memoir is not light-hearted. It is heartbreaking and emotional. He talks about domestic violence, addictions, and racism in America. I highly recommend this book. I could not put it down. I am looking forward to reading more of this author’s work. Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Donna Wetzel

    Thanks Goodreads for my copy of Punch Me Up To The Gods: A Memoir by Brian Broome. This book is a very powerful book about the life of a young black man trying to find his way. I felt so sad for him throughout the book as he struggles to make sense of the world around him. The author is very articulate in his storytelling so despite the difficult subject matter, I couldn't wait to keep reading. This book will stay with me for a long time as I continue to be saddened by the way our society treats Thanks Goodreads for my copy of Punch Me Up To The Gods: A Memoir by Brian Broome. This book is a very powerful book about the life of a young black man trying to find his way. I felt so sad for him throughout the book as he struggles to make sense of the world around him. The author is very articulate in his storytelling so despite the difficult subject matter, I couldn't wait to keep reading. This book will stay with me for a long time as I continue to be saddened by the way our society treats gay men especially gay black men who want nothing more than to be loved and accepted.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    One of the things I love the most about memoir is the emotions they can inspire. Brian Bloom has created a wonderful emotional look at his life. Write this title down, its going to be a number best selling memoir. He's so honest, so raw and so open with us as readers. Its as if we are right there with him as he takes us through his stories. You can't help but feel so much for him! Thank you so much to the publisher and #Netgalley for the ARC One of the things I love the most about memoir is the emotions they can inspire. Brian Bloom has created a wonderful emotional look at his life. Write this title down, its going to be a number best selling memoir. He's so honest, so raw and so open with us as readers. Its as if we are right there with him as he takes us through his stories. You can't help but feel so much for him! Thank you so much to the publisher and #Netgalley for the ARC

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