Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

This is yet another book that I likely would never have read if it weren’t for my reading club. In April, we read a biography or memoir. While I was a fan of Bruce Springsteen in the ’80s, I had never heard of him before that. After that, I didn’t really follow him. So I was kind of “meh” about reading this book going in.

It is a little slow and choppy in the beginning part where he is talking about his childhood and family. The language is very poetic and flowery with similes and metaphors all over the place. Essentially what you would expect from such a prolific and successful songwriter. And the storytelling leaves gaps that seem to be expected to be filled in by the context but for me did not quite work. It left me feeling a little lost from what he was trying to say in places. But when he starts on his independent life and starting to make music for a living, it really hums! I listened to the songs as he mentioned them in the text. It felt a bit like having a soundtrack to the book.

Springsteen is a real poet and storyteller. He really gets to the heart of the human condition and shares it in a way that really connects with the reader and listener. While he doesn’t “tell all”, he is very open about the things he struggled with, particularly his mental health. He really did feel like an NJ working man who just happened to make it big.

My rating: 4/5

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Before the recent Academy Awards ceremony, the nominated short documentary The ABCs of Book Banning was available to watch in its entirety (you can watch the trailer here). The premise of the short film was to give banned books to school kids to get their thoughts on why they might be banned. It is well worth watching and is available on Paramount+. Gender Queer was one of those banned books, so I decided to read it myself.

The book is a memoir in graphic novel form. In it the author tells eir story of growing up with gender dysphoria and coming to understand that e was nonbinary and asexual. I have to admit that the whole transgender and nonbinary controversy is a little challenging for me. As a cishet man, I honestly don’t understand it. That’s part of why I read this book. But I don’t need to understand it in order to allow others to be themselves.

This book was exactly what I was looking for. It gave me a glimpse at the life of one real person who lived through the confusion of dealing with gender dysphoria and how e came to understand who e was. It was both educational and transformative for me. I now feel I have a better understanding of what this issue means and how it can be addressed with compassion and understanding. I still don’t completely get it, but this book was an excellent start on my growth in this area.

My rating: 4/5

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

For Black History Month (February), my book club read this book. The author is a former host of the Daily Show on Comedy Central. It is the story of his growing up in South Africa, both during and after apartheid there. It was educational, funny, and at times emotionally challenging.

Each chapter tells of a part of his life. These include a wide variety of experiences. There was the time he pooped on the floor of his house as a small boy because it was raining outside and he didn’t want to go to the outhouse. He once spent a week in jail for borrowing his step-father’s car without permission due to it having no proper title. Most emotionally and in the final chapter, he tells of how his step-father shot his mother in the head and left her for dead.

Throughout the book, he made me laugh. He also made me feel deeply for the people, like himself, that struggled through apartheid in South Africa and the challenging times afterward as the society adjusted to the new reality. But most of all, this was the story of a boy who loved his mother deeply and experienced the many ins and outs of growing up in a difficult time, coming out of it a wise and compassionate young man.

My rating: 4/5