~ My Thinning Years, Jon Derek Croteau
In My Thinning Years: Starving the Gay Within, a memoir by Jon Derek Croteau, published in September of 2014, the author talks a lot about his father, a bully who constantly criticized his wife and three children, Jared, Julie, and Jon. The youngest of three children who grew up in Ohio and then in Massachusetts, Jon was mesmerized by his mother's loveliness, and was very close to her. In this book, Jon says that his father, a volunteer athletic coach, "pushed him into the three sports that he considered manliest: basketball, baseball, and, worst of all, football", even though Jon enjoyed participating in musical theater and was an excellent singer. Jon was belittled, taunted, and abused by his father, emotionally and physically; his father beat Jon and his siblings with his belt, and he punished them by making them skip meals. His father often warned Jon not to eat "fattening" foods, and made him feel fat and self-conscious about his body. Not surprisingly, Jon developed eating disorders as an adolescent; he started to count fat grams and to severely restrict his caloric intake; and he started to run, compulsively.
"I kept running and cutting food from my diet. Oftentimes, when I'd run endlessly, suffering with determination, I would think about my father. I wondered if he would be sad if I collapsed on the side of the road."
My Thinning Years, Jon Derek Croteau
No matter what Jon did, it was not good enough for his father, who called him a "sissy" (and worse names), and made him feel terrible about himself. Jon struggled intensely as a youth, and became despondent and suicidal, largely because his father refused to accept him the way he was. Jon's father created (or at least contributed significantly to) the homophobic feelings that Jon adopted, and to his disgust with himself as a young man unsure about and unsettled by the onset of his sexual feelings. Jon admired girls and women, and had many female friends over the years (such as Katie, in preschool), but he did not feel attracted to them. As an adolescent, Jon did not want to be gay. He didn't want to be different from the other boys, who lusted after girls, yet he gradually realized that he was different, as he developed strong feelings for his best friend in high school, "Chad".
"After everything I've seen, my mission is nothing less than to help others."
~ Preface, My Thinning Years, Jon Derek Croteau
I'm touched and grateful when people who have endured very difficult pasts want to share their stories in order to help others. The author hopes his candid memoir will help others to stop punishing themselves and to accept who they truly are. My Thinning Years is a thoroughly engaging, touching, and sometimes funny memoir, which presents a portrait of a sensitive and gifted young man growing up with a quick-tempered, abusive, and homophobic father. Children are at the mercy of their parents, and they tend to internalize their parents' ideas and values. It upset me to read about Jon's father's beliefs and behavior, and about their profound effects on Jon; his father really was a tyrant. However, Jon's story is gripping, honest, and well-written, and it's also a hopeful, inspiring story about success. With the help of family and caring friends, and through an empowering Outward Bound trip, and counseling, Jon learns to accept himself, and he discovers how to best deal with his father, and how to overcome his eating disorders and psychologically grueling past.
Terrific news! The publisher, Hazelden, is generously offering a copy of this affecting memoir, My Thinning Years, as a giveaway (U.S./Canada only).
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Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, October 20. One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, October 21. Good luck!
Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me an advance copy of this memoir. For more reviews, giveaways, and other features, please visit the other stops on TLC's book blog tour for My Thinning Years.