Hall, James Allen. “I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well”, Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2017.
Essays about Growing Up Gay
James Allen Hall growing up in Florida in the 1980s and his life has taken him to places where few dare to go. His parents lost their once-thriving family business in the pre-crash 2000s and unstable moved into a two-bedroom student apartment that he had once shared with just his brother. His mother attempted and/or threatened suicide many times and his father was greatly depressed. In these essays, we see that Hall lived through, his family’s meth addiction mental illnesses, and incarcerations, Hall writes of “his own penchants for less than happy, equal sex with an agility, depth, and lightness making this a tragic, funny, graceful book.”
What we read is harrowing yet Hall shows us a sensibility driven to make something beautiful and worthy of his life and what he went through. He shares his vulnerability and he see him as a “witness, an unrelenting seeker, a survivor, someone who’s earned the right to judge but who withholds that too-easy gesture in favor of a clearer sight and the hard won belief that while we are bound together by so many complex tethers, including cruelty, we are especially linked by compassion, a force abundantly evident in this moving collection.”
Even though his youth was filled with violence and homophobia, he did not give up. manages to exist and persist. The pain he once felt have now became “testaments to perseverance shaped by the acceptance of a flawed self, love for a complicated family and an unflappable wit”. His essays are raw, honest and mournful but above all else they are beautiful.