Arts & Leisure

Book review: Punch Me Up To The Gods — by Brian Broome

If you’ve been feeling numb around the edges lately, as, wearily, year two of the global pandemic marches on, you are sure to be fully woken up by this brilliant but raw memoir. The title references the oft-held-belief that “any black boy who did not signify how manly he was at all times deserved to be punched back up to God to be remade, reshaped.” Broome, well aware that he was gay from a young age, was raised with this precept, and accordingly, his father would routinely physically punish him; his father’s beatings “were like lightning strikes. Powerful, fast, and unpredictable,” all because of Broome’s genuine inability to behave as others insisted. Eight of the nine sections (the last, Tabula Rasa, is an epilogue by design) poetically take their titles from the lines of the famous Gwendolyn Brooks poem, “We Real Cool: Lurk Late, Strike Straight, Die Soon.” As Broome successfully, sometimes graphically, conveys the trauma that he endured, and it is gut-wrenching, it is never overly sentimental, rather what is revealed is Broome’s humanity — his grace, his strength, his courage, his refusal to conform. Broome has created a space for the reader to process and understand. 

— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.


9 New & Forthcoming Black Nonfiction Books

The Three Mothers, by Anna Malaika Tubbs

On Juneteenth, by Annette Gordon-Reed

Sum of Us, by Heather McGhee

Notes on Grief, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Somebody’s Daughter, by Ashley C. Ford

How the Word Is Passed, by Clint Smith

Buses Are a Comin’, by Charles Person

Just as I Am, by Cicely Tyson

My Time Will Come, by Ian Manuel

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