A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE by Anthony Godby Johnson


One Boy's Triumphant Story
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 Extraordinary autobiography of child abuse, nomadic street life, and, finally, AIDS--written with uncommon sophistication by a 14-year-old. The son of outwardly normal Manhattan parents, Johnson endures unspeakable depravity at home (``While other kids were being tossed into the air, hugged and caressed, and lulled to sleep by their mothers, I was being flung into corners and slapped across rooms''). He's denied food, even a bed to sleep on, while suffering savage beatings by his parents, as well as sexual abuse at the hands of one of his mother's friends. The streets become his escape as he searches for food and rides subway trains all night with other abused children. Eventually, the boy, now 11 and on the verge of killing himself, calls a hot line for help. Two social workers from separate agencies respond. They meet at Johnson's hospital bed, fall in love with him, fall in love with each other, marry, and adopt the youth. The fairy tale potential evaporates, though, with the boy's subsequent AIDS diagnosis. Surrounded for the first time by a loving family, Johnson fights on with courage and dignity: ``I am not an object of shame, but a portrait of pride. I hold my head high and say my name aloud.'' With grace and honesty far beyond his years, the boy never lapses into self-pity. He roams beyond the shell of illness, touching on the joys of baseball and hot pretzels, delivering vivid and interesting portraits of family members, doctors, and friends. With an introduction by Paul Monette and an afterword by Fred (Mister) Rogers: A virtuous, unflinching, and unsentimental account of one boy's courage amid some of the world's worst cruelties.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-59501-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993