“The Rites of Passage” by Jonathan A. Taylor— A Different View of Coming of Age

Taylor, Jonathan A. “The Rites of Passage”,  (The Goldberg Variations), Arnoland Press, 2018.

A Different View of Coming of Age

Amos Lassen

“Most Coming of Age novels suggest this ‘coming of age’ is a defining moment in your life. The Rites of Passage takes a different view.” 

Jamie Goldberg, like so many others, faces the classical question “Who am I?” His search brings more questions than answers. We go with him on his journey of self-revelation as where he learns that we can remake and reinvent ourselves as opposed to only being able to betray the integrity of our soul. This is a story of compassion and the desire for the coming of age that never quite happens in real life while in effect it happens over and over again

“The Rites of Passage” brings together Jewish-ness, sex, moral panic, and maternal dominance and shows how this become part of coming of age. We follow Jamie Goldberg from elementary school to college, as he grows from an abused boy into a self- possessed young man. His life is one of pain, humor, filth, and beauty and he struggles to come to terms with his identity and his sexuality in homophobic America.

Jamie Goldberg suspects that he is gay at an early age and is able hide it from his homophobic Seventies Detroit community, his Jewish political activist parents, and even from himself until he is raped by a male prostitute, at the age of 16. He is deeply ashamed and hides in two different worlds— the intellectual world of music, art, theater, and literature and a darker world where sadomasochistic desires try to obliterate his sexuality.” His fantasies are too big for real life or his true affections, eve n though he constantly tries to suppress them. “When his carefully constructed imaginary world begins to crumble, Jamie must face his demons, both real and invented, then the emotional sparks fly.” 

Jamie’s pain is very real and he becomes increasingly isolated from family, school and college. He must first face his transgressive fantasies and find his authentic self.  This is to be the first in a series of novels told from Jamie’s perspective. It is a sensitive and intelligent account of a young boy’s confusion and doubt in as he becomes an adult.

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