A man whose emotionally unstable father moved him from home to home throughout the 1970s and ’80s before dying of AIDS tells his story.
Schmidt was only 3 when his father was arrested on drug charges. In lucid, careful detail, he recalls being packed off to his grandparents’. He explains the drastic difference between their home and his return to life with his dad, exemplified by his father's reframing of the Christ story taught to young Schmidt by his conservative stepgrandmother: “That’s a government lie. The truth is, Jesus was part alien.” It’s comical in this case, but the chasm that yawns between his dad’s anti-mainstream ideals, which his son often finds sympathetic, and his neglect and unpredictable temper is a theme throughout. Matter-of-fact descriptions of horrific events—his father, while stoned, recalling how he once threw Jason’s mother down a flight of stairs and later tried to kill himself, for example—allow the story to stand for itself, unmarred by melodrama. At bottom, this is an intensely personal narrative that meditates both on the writer’s individual experience of abuse and the social issues at play in being the son of a gay father who becomes ill with HIV in its early days.
Teens and adults who favor memoirs will be fascinated and deeply moved, when they get past the daunting page count. (Memoir. 14 & up)