A memoir of the author’s incredibly dysfunctional nuclear family.
Porpora’s mother was a foulmouthed alcoholic who insulted the masculinity of her young sons and their very old father, whom she also accused of pedophilia and abuse. The former was likely a fantasy, the latter perhaps was not—or maybe it was self-defense on the part of the father, who was perpetually impoverished. It was hard to tell how the courts could justify custody to either one of them, though it occasionally reverted from one to the other, she fleeing to Arizona with her sons (occasionally living in her car or transient motels), he remaining in New York, where he once rented from a mother whose daughter became the author’s friend, until she was kidnapped and molested and they had to move. The primary solace of Porpora’s life was a dog who lived with his mother, but the dog eventually died. The boy had no friends except for, inexplicably, the most popular boy in school, a star athlete who avoided drugs until he became a heroin addict. Porpora wore a T-shirt with a picture of his dog on it, which was one of the reasons other classmates shunned him and called him gay. So did his mother and brother, and none of this seemed to register with the author as anything but the worst insult they could think of, until he belatedly realized that he was, in fact, gay. (The author does not explore the issue of sexual identity.) For reasons never really explained, he came to idolize Roger Ebert and took inspiration from an encounter with the film critic. He also had support from teachers, who recognized his writing promise.
As one teacher exulted after his acceptance to the Columbia Journalism School, “[p]eople with stories like yours don’t end up in the Ivy League.” And yet Porpora did, and now his stories have become the material for his piercing first book.