Generous, fearless, funny, and gentle, Broome chronicles his own story to understand how and where he (along with so many other Black outsiders) doesn’t fit in America. His sentences are pure style, a joy to read, and he slips between as many voices as he has existences: Black, gay, poor, masculine, abused, uncool, scared, addicted, ashamed, angry, proud, and full of joy. And on and on. Yes, that’s a lot of signifiers, but only because this is an awful lot of book. Where do you live when every space you inhabit is an intersection of tensions? How does a man who’s spent his life being choked finally learn to breathe? Broome interrogates the world with the rigor and tenacity of the greats, and Punch Me Up to the Gods is everything a great memoir should be.— Chris Lee
Brian Broome's Punch Me Up to the Gods is a love letter to James Baldwin while being a painfully honest memoir in its own right. Outlined by Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "We Real Cool," this memoir recounts the challenges Broome faced as a Black, gay man while growing up in a small working-class town in Ohio through his move to Pittsburgh where he is hopeful to find acceptance but spirals with addiction. Broome beautifully captures the conflicts he faced, from being seen as not masculine enough for the Black community to being fetishized for his skin color and assumed masculinity in the gay community, while using drugs to dull his pain for not fitting these prescribed niches. The chapter interludes in which Broome observes a toddler on the bus with his father allow him to recollect on the life lessons of his past as he travels through different neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, each evoking a different memory. A completely unique book full of moving parts that each inspire deep feelings from the entirety of the emotional spectrum, Punch Me Up to the Gods deserves recognition, as it is one of the most powerful memoirs I have ever read.— Madi Hill
A poetic and raw coming-of-age memoir about Blackness, masculinity, and addiction
“Punch Me Up to the Gods obliterates what we thought were the limitations of not just the American memoir, but the possibilities of the American paragraph. I’m not sure a book has ever had me sobbing, punching the air, dying of laughter, and needing to write as much as Brian Broome’s staggering debut. This sh*t is special.”—Kiese Laymon, New York Times bestselling author of Heavy
“Punch Me Up to the Gods is some of the finest writing I have ever encountered and one of the most electrifying, powerful, simply spectacular memoirs I—or you—have ever read. And you will read it; you must read it. It contains everything we all crave so deeply: truth, soul, brilliance, grace. It is a masterpiece of a memoir and Brian Broome should win the Pulitzer Prize for writing it. I am in absolute awe and you will be, too.”—Augusten Burroughs, New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors
Punch Me Up to the Gods introduces a powerful new talent in Brian Broome, whose early years growing up in Ohio as a dark-skinned Black boy harboring crushes on other boys propel forward this gorgeous, aching, and unforgettable debut. Brian’s recounting of his experiences—in all their cringe-worthy, hilarious, and heartbreaking glory—reveal a perpetual outsider awkwardly squirming to find his way in. Indiscriminate sex and escalating drug use help to soothe his hurt, young psyche, usually to uproarious and devastating effect. A no-nonsense mother and broken father play crucial roles in our misfit’s origin story. But it is Brian’s voice in the retelling that shows the true depth of vulnerability for young Black boys that is often quietly near to bursting at the seams.
Cleverly framed around Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool,” the iconic and loving ode to Black boyhood, Punch Me Up to the Gods is at once playful, poignant, and wholly original. Broome’s writing brims with swagger and sensitivity, bringing an exquisite and fresh voice to ongoing cultural conversations about Blackness in America.
About the Author
BRIAN BROOME, a poet and screenwriter, is K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and instructor in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is pursuing an MFA. He has been a finalist in The Moth storytelling competition and won the grand prize in Carnegie Mellon University’s Martin Luther King Writing Awards. He also won a VANN Award from the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation for journalism in 2019. He lives in Pittsburgh.
Yona Harvey is an American poet and recipient of the the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for her first poetry collection, Hemming the Water. Her second poetry collection, You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in September 2020. She is among the first Black women to write for Marvel Comics since the company's founding in 1939 and the first Black woman to write for the Marvel character Storm. She won the inaugural Lucille Clifton Legacy Award in poetry from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and teaches in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh. She facilitates creative writing workshops, delivers writing-specific speaker topics, and is at work on her first memoir. She currently serves on the editorial board of Poetry Daily.
One of Lithub's Most Anticipated Books of 2021
One of BuzzFeed's 75 Books to Add to Your 2021 TBR List
“Broome debuts with a magnificent and harrowing memoir that digs into the traumas of growing up Black and gay in Ohio in the late 1970s and early ’80s . . . There are no easy victims or villains in Broome’s painful, urgent telling—his testimony rings out as a searing critique of soul-crushing systems and stereotypes.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Punch Me Up to the Gods obliterates what we thought were the limitations of not just the American memoir, but the possibilities of the American paragraph. I’m not sure a book has ever had me sobbing, punching the air, dying of laughter, and needing to write as much as Brian Broome’s staggering debut. This sh*t is special.”
—Kiese Laymon, New York Times best-selling author of Heavy
“Punch Me Up to the Gods is some of the finest writing I have ever encountered and one of the most electrifying, powerful, simply spectacular memoirs I—or you—have ever read. And you will read it; you must read it. It contains everything we all crave so deeply: truth, soul, brilliance, grace. It is a masterpiece of a memoir and Brian Broome should win the Pulitzer Prize for writing it. I am in absolute awe and you will be, too.”
—Augusten Burroughs, New York Times best-selling author of Running with Scissors
“This book is light forged from darkness, in the way that James Baldwin’s writing is or in the way that Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight is but also in a way that is singular and vivid and wholly original. Brian Broome writes about the ‘real America’ we hear about so often—steel towns full of the forgotten working class—and the real America we rarely hear about—the Black folks, the queer folks, the Others in those spaces that push back against a narrative hellbent on erasing them. Punch Me Up to the Gods is furious and dazzling, poetic and gritty. It is vital for every type of reader and a gift to every reader who has had to fight to affirm their existence in this country.”
—R. Eric Thomas, national best-selling author of Here for It and Reclaiming Her Time
“Punch Me Up to the Gods feels like a scream at the end of a summit. It’s what happens when one has had to climb a mountain of -isms in the dark, abandoning training and precedent, to find a singular freedom. One separate even from the freedom sold to us in . . . well, books. But Broome has shattered every rule and has come to make a mess of what we think of as family, Blackness, sexuality, and most importantly, the memoir. With unflinching honesty, he delivers a necessary testament of his refusal to allow the strangling expectations of life to rob him of his personhood. We should all hope to be this courageous, not only in our writing, but in our living.”
—Jason Reynolds, New York Times best-selling author of Long Way Down and Look Both Ways
—Sapphire, author of Push and The Kid
“In Punch Me Up to the Gods, Brian Broome breaks the rules, and in doing so, breaks our hearts and our minds wide-open. He forces us to question what we think we know about the way narratives are constructed or who becomes a final authority. Memory carries its own weight in this work, the anchor drawing us back to what we already know but are retaught by experiencing Broome’s bright and curious language. This thrilling debut sparkles with deft honesty and shakes alive something hiding deep in the night of our psyches.”
—Camonghne Felix, author of Build Yourself a Boat
“I wish there was a way to teleport Punch Me Up to the Gods back to a twelve or a fifteen or even a twenty-five-year-old me to prove that the anxiety and pressure I felt to perform ‘appropriate masculinity’ wasn’t singular. Brian Broome’s remarkable memoir removes the veil from all of the performing, all of the acting, all of the preening, and just reveals, us—as flawed and as funny and as scared and as weird and as human as we can be. As we’re supposed to be. But since time machines don’t exist (yet), I’ll settle for adult me reading Broome’s hilarious and heat-seeking missile of a memoir and discovering a new-as-fuck way to write an old-as-f*ck story.”
—Damon Young, author of What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker
“Black, dark, queer, and poor. These are the vectors of Punch Me Up to the Gods. Brian Broome, literary son of the Black modernist giant Gwendolyn Brooks, writes from the center as one declared wrong among the wronged, one cast out of those cast aside, and one who desperately seeks tenderness. And on the hard road of growing up he finds wisdom, poetry, and love. This spectacular, unforgettable, and wholly innovative book is an ethical reckoning that tears us away from cruelty and invites us to witness real beauty.”
—Imani Perry, author of Looking for Lorraine and Breathe