Reviewed by Casey
Punch Me Up to the Gods is a coming-of-age story that explores Black manhood and queerness in the Rust Belt.
From the get go, we learn the opinion of Brian's father when it comes to masculinity: "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." After this expectation was set and his queerness became more and more obvious, Brian struggled with years of self-loathing, shame, and bullying at the hands of his parents and peers. As a young adult, he grappled with addiction, loneliness, and a dire longing for love. With sharp humor, he shares many desperate and cringey moments as he attempts to alter his own expectations of himself.
Between each essay, Brian also slowly writes about observing a small boy and his father on a public bus. When the boy falls down crying and the father tells him to "be a man," Brian is reminded of his father and the boys growing up around him who attempted to use manliness as armor. These snapshots are where we see Brian's growth, self acceptance, and hope that boys will someday too resist and reshape the concepts of masculinity.
Rating: 4/5 stars