Brian Broome’s journey to becoming a gay Black man was anything but smooth.
Little kids have it so easy.
Somebody feeds them when they’re hungry, buys them toys, and plays with them. Somebody escorts them everywhere, and if they’re small enough they even get carried. Yep, life is good—except when it’s not, as in the new memoir Punch Me Up to the Gods by Brian Broome.
He called Corey his “best friend,” but Corey was no friend to 10-year-old Broome. Sure, things were sympatico at first, but it didn’t take long for Corey to sense Broome’s insecurities and start humiliating him. Broome’s father hoped that Corey’s abuse might be “a form of therapy” for a boy who played with girls too much. Broome endured the abuse and didn’t complain to the adults because he was a little in love with Corey. Broome’s dad also beat Brian, for a multitude of reasons ranging from a pink shirt to his own frustration over brutal racism. (He admitted that he’d rather kill his children himself than let a white person do it.) Brian, in fact, often wished that he was white like the people on TV, since white parents really seemed to love their kids.
Broome dreamed of moving far away from the tiny working-class Ohio town of his birth to a larger city where he believed he could avoid the bullying and teasing. He did leave once, for college, but he was deeply humiliated by the racism and homophobia of his roommates. He soon asked his mother to come and take him out of college.
Being a man isn’t easy. Being a Black man in America can be brutal. Being a gay Black man led Broome to drugs, alcohol, and away from his family. “Yes, I was loved. Just not in ways that I could understand,” the author admits.
Be prepared to be messed with here. Your emotions may never be the same. There’s a tightly-coiled, ready-to-strike fist wrapped in melancholy and a miles-long people-watching incident in this book, both giving aptness to its title.
Happily, Broome also gives us a few moments of humor as he recalls things that occurred in his youth, or maybe just a few years ago. He surprises readers with similes that are sobering, in the middle of our laughter. He’ll step back, pick at something else, turn it over twice to examine it, and pull it into his tale.
You won’t regret picking up this wonderfully companionable, startlingly gracious and compelling memoir. Punch Me Up to the Gods is a don’t-miss, and devouring it is easy.
This article appears in the July 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.