The Goldberg Variations: Rites of Passage
Jamie Goldberg suspects his homosexuality at an early age and manages to hide it from his homophobic ’70’s Detroit Community; his Jewish political activist parents; and even from himself until his rape, at the hands of a male prostitute, at the age of 15. Profoundly ashamed, he hides in two worlds one is a beautiful cocoon spun from music, art, theater and literature, another is darker with a sado-masochistic desire to obliterate his sexuality. Jamie must face his demons, both real and invented, discovering in the end that personal discovery comes at a very high price. But even the most challenged, when they dare to cast away labels, deserve a moment or two of grace.
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Most coming of age novels suggest this ‘coming of age’ is the defining moment in your life. The Rites of Passage takes a different view:
Jamie Goldberg faces the classical “who am I?” question. His search brings more questions than answers. Follow him on his bumpy journey of self-revelation as he learns the difference between the self we can remake and reinvent as opposed to the other self —our integrity or our soul— which we can betray only at our peril. It’s a story of compassion and the yearning for the coming of age that never quite happens in real life—or rather happens again and again and again.
Jamie Goldberg suspects his homosexuality at an early age and manages to hide it from his homophobic Seventies Detroit community, his Jewish political activist parents, and even from himself until his rape, at the hands of a male prostitute, at the age of 16. Profoundly ashamed, he hides in two worlds. One world is an intellectual cocoon spun from music, art, theater, and literature. The other is a darker world where sadomasochistic desires attempt to obliterate his sexuality. His elaborate fantasies are no match for real life or his true affections, which blossom in spite of his constant attempts to thwart them. When his carefully constructed imaginary world begins to crumble, Jamie must face his demons, both real and invented, then the emotional sparks fly.
What the critics are saying about this exciting book
Quotes and reviews
Jonathan A. Taylor’s The Rites of Passage ... follows Jamie Goldberg from elementary school to college, as he grows from an abused boy into a self-possessed young man. His life is a symphony of pain, humor, filth, and beauty as he struggles to come to terms with his identity in homophobic America. Foreward Reviews, read more: https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-rites-of-passage/
Jamie is thoughtful and highly sympathetic, and readers will be happy to follow him through the formative years of his youth. Taylor succeeds in capturing various moments (however painful or awkward) and revealing their importance. The author manages to illustrate the time and place of the novel with sharply selected details, contextualizing Jamie’s development in surprising ways. Kirkus Review, read more: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jonathan-taylor2/the-goldberg-variations/
“The Rites of Passage is like encountering a gay Portnoy’s Complaint in its distinctive blend of Jewish-ness, sex, moral panic, and maternal dominance." Seven time Emmy award winning writer Patrick Mulcahey.
“Once in a great while, I pause after I read a book. I pause to read it a second time. The Rites of Passage is one of the gems that inspired me to do so, and I was not disappointed. I did indeed discover the subtle tones and undertones that I had missed on my first read. The Rites of Passage can easily be relegated to the “Coming of Age Story” genre. But it will not do justice to this searing and honest account of a boy’s journey to adulthood that this novel deserves. The book has many layers and threads, each woven intricately with others and the authenticity of Jamie’s story touched and moved me and I never stopped turning the pages. While the young protagonist Jamie, struggles with the garden variety teenage rebellion that all of us go through, he also faces the fact that he is not like everyone else. …” Kunal Mukherjee, author of My Magical Palace
“Reading The Rites of Passage reminded me of the fragile time in one’s youth when one may or may not mistakenly believe that all information is somehow related to one’s self. So, rather irrationally and hilariously, I started to assume the book was about me …” Rene Capone, gay figure painter and author of many graphic novels including The Legend of Hedgehog Boy