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America's Boy: A Memoir Hardcover – 6 Apr 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Books (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525949348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525949343
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 15 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,187,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I AM five years old and standing as dramatically as a five-year-old knows how in the middle of the Rouse Family log cabin in the Missouri Ozarks. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By jyxz on 12 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
Hmmmm. This book wasnt as good as I hoped it would be. I had no idea who it was primarily aimed at as it hopped across so many genres (merely skimming at some and drowning in others!). So he was obese, then a gym bunny. Asexual, then a closet gay, then out-n-proud. Obsessed by his brothers death. MORE than obsessed with the cabin he grew up in. And the very annoying fact that the book did not have a linear timeframe.

The biggest suckerpunch of all was the statement at the end to say that although it was a memoir, some names and places had been changed, characters combined, time compressed and scenes recast. 'I cannot claim that this is a work of non-fiction'.

Ummmm OK. Then dont label it as a memoir!

On the plus side, his writing style was very readable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 33 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Hilarious, Heartbreaking and Uplifting 8 April 2006
By Midwest Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
America's Boy is a brutally funny, heartbreakingly honest account of a boy struggling to grow up in the Missouri Ozarks (Wade would prefer being a Winnie the Pooh children's clothing model to gigging frogs and catching catfish barehanded!). Reading the memoir is like sitting with a good friend in front of a camp fire and trading those difficult stories of growing up and family that we all share. What sets this book apart from an inundated field, however, is the honesty and joy that the author brings to his story -- in spite of his struggles, there is a fondness and welcome brightness to his writing. He honors his past, his family and where he came from, in spite of how difficult his path was. This is a special book that will resonate with nearly everyone: Those who feel different, those who have ever felt that they had failed to meet parental expectations, those who have ever lost a loved one, those who have ever struggled to just be accepted as they are. I breezed through this book in just a couple of nights, and laughed, cried, and cheered the whole way. I can't wait to read Wade's coming books.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1970s Midwest is Best 25 May 2006
By J. Thilmany - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What a sweet, well-written book. And I don't think I say this because I grew up in a small town in Iowa around the same time period and so many cultural and corner-of-the-country references resonate with me. The story was poignant without being sappy; just a sweet memory of childhood, really, despite the nonheavy handedness (as dealt with here) coming out questions and the sadness and death surrounding the middle part of the story. I'll admit I found the transformation into a partying, kinda shallow-seeming gay man in the big city a little abrupt. Couldn't see much of the child in the man. And the author loses my sympathy over his admitted shoddy treatment of women. Kudos for honesty. Writing style kind of ran out of steam at the end, and the short "chapters" started to bug, especially once we were out of the Ozarks. But really well worth the read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I, too, am America's Boy 4 Jun. 2006
By Salvatore Sapienza - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A good memoir brings the reader into another's world, having them walk in someone else's shoes for awhile, and does so in an entertaining fashion. A great memoir does the same but goes beyond, bringing the reader to examine his/her own life in the process. "America's Boy" is a great memoir. Although Rouse and I were raised in vastly different manners, I came away with a better understanding of my own life's journey by reading his. Like many popular recent memoirs, Rouse's book is an easy read, full of witty pop culture references and funny tales of quirky family members and an unconventional childhood. What sets it apart is its sweetness and poignancy. The book caused me to reflect on my own losses in life and examine how they've shaped me. I came away with a greater appreciation of my own parents who - though very different from Rouse's - also did the best they knew how with the cards life dealt them. The, at times, shockingly honest Rouse reflects on the mistakes he has made and the people he's hurt, and I become inspired to examine my own weaknesses. Rouse's aunt tells young Wade how she hopes his life will be filled with many chapters. I know that I look forward to reading his next memoir and discovering more about myself in the process.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A smart and relatable memoir 15 Jun. 2006
By Bookreporter - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps a small town in the Ozark Mountains is not an ideal place for a young man who feels very different from everyone around him. Small American towns can be claustrophobic and, in the extreme, bigoted and intolerant. But if that young man is born into a flamboyant and loving family, acceptance and comfort may come in the end.

This is Wade Rouse's story, now published in his memoir AMERICA'S BOY. Rouse was born in 1965 in Granby, Missouri, a town in which everything, he writes, is bland, "white or off-white --- the people, the cars, the clothes, the houses." As a child growing up there, Rouse himself was anything but bland. The opening pages find him, at five years old, dressed in red high heels, a striped bikini and a tin foil crown with a sash proclaiming him "Miss Sugar Creek." Rouse's family, we sense, knows all along he is gay. And while they don't explicitly talk about it or even perhaps fundamentally accept it, they are loving and protective of him and accept that he is "different."

Just when, as a young adolescent, Rouse realizes he is really attracted to boys and not girls, his older brother Todd dies in a motorcycle accident. Afraid of hurting his family any further by coming out, Rouse pretends to be someone he is not for almost the next 20 years.

In order to help mask the hurt, Rouse eats. He finds comfort in food (and his family finds comfort in feeding him), and he thinks it will put up a barrier to intimacy. However, through high school and college he is popular with women, which adds another layer of stress to his life as he tries to thwart their advances without arousing suspicion.

Finally, in his 30s, Rouse comes to terms with his brother's death, his eating and his sexuality. He loses weight, explores his feelings about his brother, and tells his family and friends he is gay. Of course, all of this was difficult and strained many of his relationships, but in the end it was undoubtedly the right thing to do.

AMERICA'S BOY is a quintessential American story: the tug of conformity versus the pull of individualism. Happily, individualism wins in the end but not without struggle and pain. Rouse's memoir, while chronologically ordered, often reads like a series of vignettes --- the chapters are quick, easily read and the humor often belies the seriousness of the topic. Rouse's prose is light, witty and brisk.

AMERICA'S BOY really shines when Rouse describes his family, especially his wonderful and vivid grandmothers. These two women, very different from each other, encouraged him and loved him so strongly that the reader can feel it in the text. His entire family is interesting and make for a compelling cast of characters, with the likeable Wade in the center. Rouse's brother Todd haunts the story and powerfully moves Rouse in both positive and negative directions in his young life.

Wade Rouse's tale is about identity and family (and identity despite family). It is smart and bittersweet and, as a good memoir should be, deeply personal and relatable.

--- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Well-written, touching memoir by first time author 19 May 2006
By Bob Lind - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A rich and very touching, often amusing coming-of-age memoir covering the author's boyhood in the Missouri Ozarks, through his young adulthood, first gay relationship and "coming out" to family while living in St. Louis.

Long before Wade knew anything about sex, he and his family knew he was obviously "different" from other boys. An early scene in the book had him discovered by his family dressing up in his mother's polkadot bikini, pretending to be a beauty pagent winner. Rather than the reaction you'd expect, his parents and older brother just laughed it off, even played along with it a bit, as they did some other early signs of his homosexuality during his childhood. The reader might sense this as denial on the part of the family, but reading further puts it in better perspective as what is typical for his rather close, colorful family. They argue, they may even fight, but the unconditional acceptance and love is something that warms but also isolates Wade throughout his childhood and adolescence, as he feels comfortable only in his big house or at his grandparents' vacation cabin at Sugar Creek, where most of his fond childhood memories are rooted.

A traumatic family loss forces the "real world" to intrude a bit on Wade's cocoon of isolation, and he is frustrated by attempts to steer the family back to its normal routine. It also wakes up Wade to his own personal demons, including his compulsive eating, lying to friends and acquaintances to try to feel normal, and his growing realization that he is attracted to men. The latter becomes the focus of his efforts when he moves out on his own, and suffers through some relationships that were pre-doomed to failure, before meeting someone who will indeed make a major difference in his life.

The honesty and wit of Rouse's book invites comparison with Augusten Burroughs' memoirs of his boyhood in "Running With Scissors", but Rouse's was more innocent white-trash/hillbilly kitsch than outright dysfunction as was Burroughs. The richly drawn characterizations of the family members are vivid and identifiable by most readers, and one can feel the love and need for approval on the author's part. Rather detailed (352 pages) but short chapters make it easy to get through. Well written and recommended, four stars out of five.
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