Take it Like a Man

The Autobiography of Boy George (Book Review)

take_it_like_a_manFrom the title to the cover to the content, this book intrigues. As an author I can appreciate the power of a good cover and the hook of a clever title. As one who identifies with the pain and isolation of being an outsider, I can sympathize with the heart-wrenching struggle that led to the writing of this book. From the first page to the last I was engaged in a journey that seemed sure to lead to inevitable destruction. But instead of self-annihilation, George’s journey led to the rebirth of a troubled spirit. The narrative is raw and compelling. The story a familiar one of an individual who feels different from his friends and family but finds the courage to become unique.

At times I got lost in the endless string of names and people that came in and out of George’s life. It was amazing how one name flowed into a different one from one paragraph to another and yet I was able to keep on reading. More so, I wanted to keep reading to see where this journey would end. The endless names were only an external indicator of the confusion and inconsistency in George’s life, of the constant search for love and friendship, for acceptance—even if he had to buy it. People came and went. Friends changed loyalties. Lovers were inconsistent. And through it all, George remained on the edge of himself, still an outsider, forbidden by fame to be honest about who he really was. From the drama to the drugs, his was a life out of control.

Boy George B & W

The fun part of reading this book was that I could read it side by side with You Tube and the Internet to visualize what I was reading. The narrative was vivid and painted a colorful canvas, but to be able to search the internet and see a video of the Top of the Pops performance of “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” while watching drummer Jon Moss beat out the rhythm to a song written about him was intriguing. To see George stoned was horrifying, to see him happy gratifying. His story became real both through his words and his videos. And unlike in some of the interviews, where he was not being honest, in this book Boy George did finally “take it like a man.” In many unflattering passages, he assumed responsibility for his arrogance, his self-centeredness, and his outsized ego. I could feel the pain of his shame, the sting of media cruelty, the blows to his self-esteem when the press called him Junkie George or a fat cow, relentlessly focusing on his weight losses and gains in a way that would have made a weaker man (or woman) fold under the pressure.

His struggles were extreme, but painfully real. I admire George for having the courage to live his life on his terms. But more importantly, I admire the strength he found to fight his demons and struggle his way back to a better place. TAKE IT LIKE A MAN is a fascinating story about an outsider gone mainstream and then his journey back home to the unique individual he was meant to be.

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Classic Books About Outsiders

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! is the tale of two outsiders. The first, Thomas Sutpen, is set on creating a dynasty in Mississippi all while keeping himself apart from the local people (unless, of course, he finds himself in need of something). The second is narrator Quentin Compson, a Harvard student who finds himself unable to fit in because he carries the stigma of coming form the south, from a place that is as alien as another country.

Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger
Our anti-hero Holden Caulfield wanders the streets of New York, alienated from the world around him, flouting law and convention so as not to be what he calls “phony.” At six foot two-and-a-half inches, the 13 year old fits neither in the world of adults nor adolescents, observing both with lonely detachment.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The nameless protagonist of Ralph Ellison’s novel is a black man living in the 1930s who, because of his race and the troubles that come with it during this time, considers himself to be invisible. Though he is incredibly smart, he secludes himself from society for he feels society is doing the same to him.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The story of two outsiders, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is a classic outsider masterpiece. From the very beginning of the novel, Jane fails to fit in with the society around her until she meets Edward Rochester, with whom she falls in love.

Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick is the story of siblings Wilbur and Eliza who, because they are so heinous, are cut off from society by their parents. Though they are extremely smart when they are in close contact, their parents believe them to be mentally unstable and remove them even further from society, which only worsens their growing loneliness.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison’s tells the story of Pecola Breedlove, a troubled young black girl with zero self-esteem living in Ohio. Because she defines beauty as having blue eyes and being white (which she doesn’t have and isn’t), and has convinced herself that the only way she can be happy is to be beautiful, she alienates herself from the outside world and eventually goes mad.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

This classic, written by S. E. Hinton when she was 16 years old, is as profound today as it was when it was first published in 1967. According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and proud of it.

The Stranger  by Albert Camus
The protagonist of The Stranger, Meursault, is the epitome of an outsider. The emotionally detached character is indifferent when it comes to nearly every situation, a trait that sets him apart from the society and allows him to isolate himself easily. His painful honesty and lack of emotion keep his peers at bay, ensuring that he remains an outcast.

1984 by George Orwell
Winston Smith, although seemingly one of the compliant masses whose every move and thought is controlled by the government, leads a secret outsider life. His secret inner life rebels against the uniformity of his society and lands him in a world of hurt.

Have you read any of these books? Which one is your favorite? I will forever be a fan of The Outsiders.

Any other classic outsider books you want to add to this list?.

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On The Fringe

On the Fringe, A Collection of Stories from Young People on the Edge

On the
Fringe:

A collection of stories edited by
Donald Gallo

In every school at every grade, the school yard can be a war
zone of popularity and persecution, where no one really looks at the kids on the fringe. There’s a pecking order among students – an in crowd and those outside it, who are often ridiculed mercilessly for the “crime” of being different. In this powerful and timely collection, On the Fringe explores the teen outsider experience in eleven electrifying stories penned by some of today’s most acclaimed YA authors. A tomboy finds the relief of self-expression through her music, while in another tale a relentless bully tests the faith of an intensely religious girl. A cheerleader discovers that the  true soul of her school can’t be found within the cool clique; a football player finally stands up for a harassed fellow student. And a boy watches in horror as the school “freak” marches into his classroom with a loaded rifle.

On the Fringe brings to life eleven poignant stories of outsiders facing the constant struggle
of hate – and ultimately – acceptance. I encourage all those who ever felt persecuted, unloved, or left out to read this book. Hopefully, it will inspire you to write your own story. And please remember something important here. A good story always includes conflict, tension, an intriguing plot, and courageous characters. If you don’t allow for tension in your life, you run the risk of living an awfully dull story. Characters who overcome seemingly insurmountable trials are the characters that resonate, that live on in literature, and that make a difference in people’s lives.   Are you writing a good story? Or, are you missing an opportunity to be the hero of your own odyssey? Share your hero’s tale. What are you living through now that seems insurmountable?.

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