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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Jimmy Neurosis’

A gay punk-rocker’s coming-of-age tale.

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Back then, you were a chameleon. Like most teens, you spent your time blending in through different personas. One day, you were this kind of kid; another day, you were that kind; next week, still another—as if you had a rack full of roles to try on and years to do it. And according to James Oseland in his new memoir Jimmy Neurosis, punk rock helped.

James Oseland

Moving yet again should have been no surprise for young Jim Oseland. His father had always been somewhat of a nomad; in each new town it seemed as though the first plan was to move again, just as the family got settled. But this time was different. This move was to California, and Oseland’s dad said he no longer wanted a family. Dad was staying in Minnesota.

So at age 15, Oseland hoped to fit in with his new ninth-grade California classmates at San Carlos High, but he realized on the first day that it wouldn’t happen. Still, over time, he managed to make friends with a boy who dealt weed and a tall Marilyn Monroe-ish exchange student who invited Oseland to explore the world of punk rock.

The music, the moshing, and the clothing were all things he’d seen on TV in Minnesota, but now that culture seemed attainable in California. In club after club, 15-year-old Oseland was welcomed for his uniqueness; not fitting in seemed to be the whole point. He even felt comfortable enough to admit, out loud, that he was gay.

It was something Oseland had known since he was very small, but he couldn’t articulate it until he was welcomed into the world of punk rock and started to blossom.

“Gone,” he says, “was the shy, awkward boy, to be replaced by someone with sharper edges.”

He gained a “boyfriend” who was more than twice his age, and after the boyfriend moved to New York, Oseland followed. When that relationship soured, the 17-year-old returned to California with a germ of an idea: California had changed. Punk rock had changed. And so, again, would Oseland.

Though at first it may seem like just another memoir, Jimmy Neurosis has two things that set it apart—the most obvious being that it’s a first-hand look at punk rock told not merely from its beginning, but also from the perspective of two coasts. 

But it’s also the story of an awkward, desperately wanna-be-worldly gay teenager who was highly promiscuous in the days just before the AIDS crisis began. AIDS is never mentioned, but readers can’t help but feel uneasy about the disaster that awaits Oseland’s circle of friends.

For readers who like edgy coming-of-age memoirs, and for old punk-rockers looking to take a great trip down memory lane, Jimmy Neurosis is an easy choice. 

This article appears in the May 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terry Schlichenmeyer is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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