Bailey recounts his long journey from self-hatred to self-love in this debut memoir.
The author was born to a teenage mother on the South Side of Chicago, and he says that he was abandoned by his father after his mom refused to marry. The author internalized a perceived lack of love, he says, as he was raised by a selfish Baptist-preacher grandfather and a tough single mother. He writes that he was taught to blame himself for other people’s actions against him, and so he never reported the molestation that he suffered at the hands of a babysitter when he was 8. He says that his abuser told him: “If your mom finds out, she’ll kill you.” This emotional baggage, along with low self-esteem stemming from being overweight, created more complications for Bailey. He pursued women from a young age while simultaneously feeling like he was never good enough to be with them: “To say that I had lots of experience with unconditional love, somebody who was always there for me, somebody I could love and who loved me in return, would be a lie,” he writes. As he pursued a career as a Protestant minister and repeatedly attempted to find real love, he was forced to confront his fraught relationships with institutions, women, grief, God, and—most critically—himself. Bailey writes in a conversational style that doesn’t shy away from sentimentality: “I was awestruck, enticed, and later satiated and ravaged. I wanted her, she knew it, and it happened again and again.” His account of his journey is thoughtful and frequently compelling, although his chronological approach is perhaps too inclusive. At one point, for example, he tells of playing Ping-Pong with Cornel West in the student center of Howard University, which sounds fun but doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the story. The religious content is rather light, and Bailey’s struggles with his weight and its bearing on his treatment of women are very common and under-discussed issues among men. As a result, some readers may find inspiration to take a hard look at themselves.
A life story told from a unique but relatable perspective.