This book is part memoir and part rumination. The memoir consists chiefly of the author's unsparing account of a childhood experience that can only be described as ghastly. Without flinching, Cook describes how he was physically and sexually abused by his father, and then suffered further sexual abuse from a trusted teacher. He and his brother were abandoned by their drug-addicted mother, and his parents later divorced. Cook recounts how his father was murdered and how he ended up as a suspect in the crime. But despite all this abuse, suffering, and trauma, Cook isn't here to play the victim. He tells his story with a remarkable lack of self-pity, and he is frank about his own failings -- his drug and alcohol use, as well as his foray into escorting. Cook's frankness sometimes makes the book hard to take. (If you're squeamish about child abuse, for example, you'll need to skip significant parts of his account.) But if you're looking for a no-holds-barred recitation of what it's really like growing up amidst the kind of social dysfunction that you normally only see in TV crime dramas, then this book is for you.
The rumination comes chiefly in the final chapters of the book, as the author reflects on the effects his childhood experiences have had on him and explains how he wrestles with trying to stay on the straight and narrow. Cook also takes some time to rant about subjects as varied as race relations, masculinity, religion, prostitution, suicide, and even dogs. He opens up about his insecurities, where he thinks he is, and where he hopes to go. He abandons traditional narrative form in favor of a kind of down-to-earth stream of consciousness style that sometimes left me wishing he'd elaborated more on certain points.Read more ›
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It is a VERY unique experience reviewing the work of a close friend. One would tend to think that simply by virtue of my relationship with the author, that my objectivity may be seriously compromised.
That could only mean one thing: you don't know T.J. Moreover, I can attest that the man practically DEMANDS you be real - a major reason we are/have remained friends.
Premonitions is a scathing, brutally honest, disturbing, yet inspirational account of growing up in the midst of the madness of child and drug abuse, domestic violence, divorce, and the struggle of having to approach manhood with some semblance of sanity despite the murder of his father, the incarceration of his brother for that murder, as well as the death of his troubled mother. Interestingly enough, this evokes memories of Claude Brown's "Manchild in the Promised Land" which recounts a very similar story of a black youth growing up in Brooklyn in the 50s/60s.
TJ writes in a stream of consciousness style making it appear as if he is simply having a heart-to-heart with a good friend. More discriminating readers may try to be distracted by a few typos, mixed metaphors, or some idiomatic idiosyncrasies. If you do allow yourself to do that, you do yourself, as well as the author a major disservice. The message here is entirely too powerful and I heartily agree with the previous reviewer that this is not a pity ploy at all. Moreover, many may tend to view many of his affirmations as egotistical, arrogant, or even unrealistic.Read more ›
Premonitions...of a Young Man, Unscathed is a memoir of a young man who has lived through some unfathomable life experiences. At the age of 30, Cook recounts the very dark details of his childhood. He expresses the pain he felt from the abandonment of his mother; the emotional, physical and sexual abuse he experienced by his father; the molestation by his history teacher; the exclusion from his biological family; the dysfunctional relationship between he, his father and his brother, and the deaths of both his parents. He talks in candid detail about how his brother murdered his father and how his brother then tried to implicate him in the crime. In a single lifetime, an individual would feel great pain by living through just one of these experiences, yet Cook experienced all of these tragedies before the age of 30. Cook's very descriptive account of his early life is gut wrenching, but it is his truth.
He wrote this memoir as though he was speaking to a friend, which at times made it difficult to put down; I wanted to know what was going to happen next. He details his bouts with loneliness as he contemplates suicide, and how he yearns for inner peace and love.
He talked about how these experiences have shaped him as an individual. The candid way he discusses his sexuality is so up close and personal, and as you ingest the events that shaped him in his formative years, you can understand the complexity of his sexuality.
Writing this very detailed, honest and personal book must have been very difficult. It took a lot of courage to make himself vulnerable to the world. Cook knows he has a gift, "a huge responsibility" as he puts it. His strength is inspiring. I look forward to seeing more books from him, as it would be nice to see where he is on his journey today. This is a good read, and I highly recommend this book as a testament to the strength of an individual.
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