Summer Reading Review: Karamo, My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing & Hope

My daughter and I used to binge-watch the reboot of Queer Eye on Netflix— she loved the home makeovers, Bobby’s energy and style; we both loved Antoni and the food. Tan was adorable. And Jonathon is just a lovable force. And then there was Karamo, orchestrating something not quite identifiable as “culture expert.”

When his memoir, Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing & Hope came out (pun?) in 2019, Karamo Brown visited Lafayette College. The teenager’s father had him autograph a book for her and we excitedly attended a public lecture he gave on campus that night.

Almost two full years later, I finally finished the book.

I have recently resumed reading in general so the fault does not lie with Karamo.

The book is light, simple in phrase, and mimics Karamo’s speech.

It’s a coming of age story. It’s the experience of a Black gay man, son of immigrant parents, struggling to find himself, share his voice and help people.

He has handled so many situations others know well— issues of addiction, relationships, family, sex, parenting. He spent so long yearning to reach out into the world that he nearly self-destructed in the process.

He’s very respectful of other people, only talking about himself— not violating the privacy of his kids, his extended family or fiancé. He doesn’t share glorifying tales of his wild boy days, focusing instead of why he was behaving that way and what he learned.

He structures the chapters not chronologically but thematically which makes it easy to understand the building blocks of who he is and how he came to be.

And even before George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter, he begged us as a society to listen to each other and be kind.

Streaming TV: Coming of Age stories

I tend to watch TV while doing chores or when resting between fatiguing tasks. I often watch TV on my iPad when putting Nala (my Goffin’s cockatoo) to bed.

I recently finished The Crown on Netflix which fed my love of history to my writer’s mind. When I work with historical documents in my academic work, I often imagine the lives in the text.

Though I do find it… awkward that they made a television series about living royals. Then I realized— it’s Queen Elizabeth’s coming of age story.

I recently watched Free Form’s Motherland: Fort Salem, which is an alternative history, a coming of age story and in my opinion— a political drama. There are heavy ethical questions in every episode even if the plot lines seem predictably anti-cliche.

And I find it difficult to extend my “willing suspension of disbelief” to accept that witches would call a truce with the Church and State and would serve as a conscript military.

And the magic is better than Harry Potter, and the technical aspects of it are done off screen though I don’t like that the magic is mostly vocal.

But I’m very anxious to know what happens next.

Speaking of coming of age stories, I also watched the French film Mignonnes (Cuties) that is trending on Netflix. Of course, the mainstream American discussion focuses on the objectifying and sexualisation of young girls.

The main character (Ami/Aminata) is French of Muslim descent hailing from Senegal. So her grandparents and community elders speak Wolof and she is black.

Traditionally, Muslims came to France as part of the African colonial legacy. Muslims struggle with their identity and acceptance in France— regardless of racial background.

So I immediately saw how all the kids from the French projects bonded through dance even if that dance was suggestive. The fat French girl, the Latina French girl who ironed her hair, the blonde and white French girl, the black French girl and, yes, the African Muslim French girl.

This was a story of the universality or growing up in a technology rich world as a poor female. And trying to find your place and a way “out” of difficult socio-economic places.

A very different coming of age story— offering a very different time and place— was Crip Camp on Netflix. I notice Netflix documentaries made by Netflix are often merely interviews and footage randomly strung together and as such rather boring.

Finally, I’m dying to watch a final documentary, and to some Jersey kids of the 1980s it might also be a coming of age story, Class Action Park. It’s currently on HBOMax and I am considering getting a trial so I can watch it.

Action Park was an amusement park in New Jersey with such crazy rides no one would insure them. Some of my friends used to go. I vividly remember the commercials.