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America's Boy: A Memoir Hardcover – April 6, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult (April 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525949348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525949343
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,240,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The tacky environs of the Missouri Ozarks in the 1970s set in relief a budding gay sensibility in this funny, affecting, overripe memoir. Wearing his mother's bikini and pearls to a mock beauty pageant at age five, winning office in his high school's Future Homemakers club, feigning romantic interest in a string of female beards, Rouse was hopelessly out of step with the redneck masculinity urged on him by taunting classmates and despairing relatives. Fortunately, he had a charmingly offbeat family, led by two warmhearted grandmothers, who accepted him as he was (without asking too many questions) and left him with a trove of glowing memories. The plight of a queer soul fighting for life in rural America is familiar literary terrain, and Rouse renders it as a duel between flamboyant camp and white-trash kitsch. He amplifies his inner turmoil with a weepy confessional tone, obsessing about his compulsive overeating, body issues, hair issues and gross bathroom issues, and sobbing endlessly over emotional travails. In the end, the narrative lapses into a clichéd coming-out melodrama. But when Rouse looks away from the mirror to the people around him, the book comes alive with tender portraits of kitsch and kin. Photos. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Growing up in 1970s Granby, Missouri, a tiny Ozarks town where "trailers outnumber homes and teeth," isn't easy when you're a boy like Wade, who dreams of being crowned "Miss Sugar Creek." As a result, his childhood is a search for places and things that make him feel safe: the smell of coffee, his grandparents' lofty feather bed, and--best of all--the family cabin on Sugar Creek, where he can relax and be himself. Rouse's affectionate, episodic evocation of his loving, extended, and slightly eccentric family is engaging but a bit predictable until the unthinkable happens: his older brother is killed in a motorcycle accident, and life for the survivors becomes darker, more dangerous, and--for readers--more interesting as Wade, who has always defined himself by his family, must find himself and come to terms with his homosexuality. "I have outed myself to myself," he writes, and "for once it's not about the past." Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Wade Rouse
Author Bio

Wade Rouse is the "laugh-out-loud-funny" (NBC's Today Show), "wise, witty, wicked" (USA Today), "engagingly funny memoirist" (Chicago Tribune) who is a "hybrid of "David Sedaris and Dave Barry" (Library Journal) and "Erma Bombeck's lovechild" (Advocate). Rouse "beautifully combines humor and pathos" (Out Magazine), and has quickly established himself as "an original writer and impressive new voice" (The Washington Post) whose "combination of honest emotion and evocative prose is destined to be a hit!" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). In short, Wade Rouse is "hilarious, riotously funny, catty, and an absolute delight!" (Christian Science Monitor)

Wade Rouse is the author of four, critically-acclaimed memoirs, including America's Boy (Dutton/2006), Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler (Harmony/2007), and the bestsellers, At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life (Harmony/2009), and It's All Relative: A Memoir of Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine (Crown/2011). He is also the creator and editor of the upcoming, humorous dog anthology, I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales about Man's Best Friends by America's Favorite Humorists (NAL/2011), which features a foreword by Chelsea Handler and her dog, Chunk.

The IndieBound bestselling It's All Relative: A Memoir of Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine asks and attempts to answer the question, "How come the only thing my family tree grows is nuts?", in blisteringly funny detail. The book deals with America's obsession with picture-perfect holidays and celebrates Rouse's imperfect family--a chatty yet loving mother, an eccentric engineer of a father, a marvelously Martha Stewart-esque partner, a garage-sale obsessed set of in-laws, and an oddball collection of relatives--through the yearly celebrations that bring out the very best in our nearest and dearest. Rouse paints a funny, sad, poignant, and outlandish portrait of an all too typical family that will have you appreciating or bemoaning your own. "It's rare to find a book that is both funny and mean, family-intensive and gay-friendly, gossipy and sweet. It's All Relative is all of the above!" Minneapolis Star-Tribune

At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream chronicles the misadventures of two neurotic urbanites who quit their jobs, and leave the city, cable, couture and consumerism behind in order to move to the Michigan woods and recreate a modern-day Walden. At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream was a national bestseller, 2009 Best Book of the Year by B&N, and named a Must-Read by NBC's Today Show, Detroit Free-Press, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Petersburg Times, Out, MetroSource Magazine, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Public Radio, Michigan Public Radio, St. Louis Magazine, Frontiers Magazine, among others.

Rouse's first memoir, America's Boy, which chronicles his life growing up gay in the Ozarks thanks to the unconditional love from an unconventional family, was named by Border's as a Best Book (Literary Memoir) of 2006, "A Best Book of 2006" by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. a 2006 BookSense selection by the nation's independent booksellers, an inaugural "Rainbow" pick for GLBT young readers by the American Library Association, and a PFLAG "Required Read". The American Library Association recently named it as one of the top 100 GLBT books.

His second memoir, Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler, about his tenure as PR director at an elite prep school where he quickly learns his "real job" is to cater to a Lilly Pulitzer-clad clique of "Mean Mommies," was selected by both Barnes & Noble and Target as a Breakout Bestseller, and hailed as "funny" by Entertainment Weekly. The memoir is about job discrimination and the incredible pressures facing faculty, students and parents today.

I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship features essays by some of America's favorite funny writers and comics, including Chelsea Handler, Jen Lancaster, Laurie Notaro, Bruce Cameron, Jane Green, Stephanie Klein, Beth Harbison, Alec Mapa, Jeff Marx (Tony winning creator of Avenue Q), Rita Mae Brown, Jill Conner Browne and many others. A portion of the book's proceeds will benefit The Humane Society of the United States.

Rouse was a contributor to the humorous anthology on working in retail, The Customer Is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles (Counterpoint-Soft Skull Press). Rouse's essay on working at Sears after years of wearing Husky's was selected to kick off the collection.

Rouse is a contributing humor columnist for Metrosource magazine, and, and a regular contributor to Michigan Public Radio. His essays and articles have appeared in numerous national magazines and online publications, including, which reaches nearly 10 million readers, as well as on CBC Radio One's popular "Definitely Not the Opera" in Canada and Chicago Public Radio. He has lectured and taught writing seminars around the country, from The Chicago Public Library to the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers Workshop. Rouse is represented by the Random House Speakers Bureau - alongside such luminaries as Ken Burns, Jay McInerney, Richard Russo, Jane Smiley, Gay Talese, Roy Blount Jr., and Lisa See - and is available for select readings and lectures. To inquire about a possible appearance, please visit or call 212-572-2013.

Rouse's personalized, intense and transformational writing retreats - which center on overcoming fears in one's life and one's writing - and provide insider advice on securing a literary agent and finding success as a fulltime author, have been credited by numerous writers for helping their manuscripts be published by mainstream publishers. For more, please visit

He earned his B.A. in communications (with honors) from Drury College (now University) and his master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Rouse lives on the coast of Michigan, where - in between beach weather and blizzards - he writes memoirs and battles for bed space with his partner, Gary, and their beloved mutt, Mabel. Wade is a volunteer and fundraiser for Wishbone-Paws For A Cause, an animal shelter in Michigan, a member of HRC, and supporter of Hospice. He is a marathon runner, avid reader and movie/theatre buff, and addicted to fashion, hair, lip shimmer, reality TV and non-fat, triple shot white chocolate lattes.
Wade is represented by literary agent Wendy Sherman of Wendy Sherman Associates in Manhattan, and the Random House Speakers' Bureau.
For more, please visit (writing retreats & classes)

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Customer Reviews

It is funny, and touching.
I truly loved this little book about a person I've never heard of and really have no desire to ever meet (although I've met hundreds exactly like him).
Steven James
The world is a better place and people find more and more confidence in themselves because Wade was brave enough to publish his story.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Reader on April 8, 2006
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.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Thilmany on May 25, 2006
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.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Salvatore Sapienza on June 4, 2006
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 15, 2006
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bob Lind on May 19, 2006
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.
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