“The One You Get: Portrait of a Family Organism” by Jason Tougaw— Growing Up Gay

Tougaw, Jason. “The One You Get: Portrait of a Family Organism”, Dzanc Books, 2017.

Growing Up Gay

Amos Lassen

In,“The One You Get: Portrait of a Family Organism”, Jason Tougaw tellshis story of growing up gay in 1970s Southern California in “The One You Get: Portrait of a Family Organism”. He had been raised by hippies who had “dropped out” in the late sixties and couldn’t seem to find their way back in. They used the expression, “There’s something wrong with our blood and it affects our brains” as a catchall answer for incidents such as Tougaw’s schizophrenic great-grandfather directing traffic in the nude on the Golden Gate Bridge, the author’s own dyslexia and hypochondria, and the near-death experience of his notorious jockey grandfather, Ralph Neves.

This is an honest and unexpected true story that seals with the big questions of “Where did I come from,” “How did I become me,” and “What happens when the family dog accidentally overdoses on acid?”

This is a wonderfully funny read but it is also sensitive and very moving in that we read about a family that is both particular and universal. It is also the story of a boy growing up in California during the years of a waning counter culture and it brings together reflections on the brain science of human memory and development and the mystery of why some of us survive a chaotic and brutal childhood while there are others that do not do so.

We read of the terrifying bonds that make a family and also see that these bonds are wonderful as well. By using social theory and neuroscience, Tougaw looks at what makes the “self” as he tries to determine how we become who we are.



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