TowleREAD is a regular audio feature in which LGBT authors read from their works. For this week’s TowleREAD audio selection, we return to the memoir, and bring you a very special excerpt from Rashod Ollison’s new book Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl, a book that is as much about music as it is about the coming-of-age of a kid becoming in touch with his sexuality.
Ollison sets up his reading for us:
Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl is a memoir about my formative years in central Arkansas, starting in 1983 when I was six and my parents bitterly divorced and ending in 1996, the year I graduated high school and my father died. There are flashbacks to the years of my parents’ childhood, giving context to the patterns of abuse and abandonment I saw growing up. Using literary devices such as dialog and magical realism, I evoke those years when soul music was a safe harbor for me.
In this excerpt, I’m in the fourth grade. My mother, two sisters, Dusa and Reagan, and I have moved out of the projects and into a new home. I start a new school, where I’m bullied and called a “faggot.” Finding no comfort or consolation at home after I share the incident with my teenage sister, Dusa, and later my mother, I retreat into a record by Chaka Khan, whose voice for me embodies defiance. I begin to engage music in a different way.
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Rashod Ollison is an award-winning pop music critic and culture journalist. He has been a staff critic and feature writer for the Dallas Morning News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Journal News (Westchester, New York), Baltimore Sun, and Virginian-Pilot. He also wrote a music column for Jet magazine. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Ollison lives in Virginia Beach. Follow him on Twitter at @rashodollison. Visit his website at rashodollison.com.
Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl is available here.
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