It’s also a complicated, messy time in life in which one grows from the end of childhood to the cusp of adulthood, so there’s a lot of feelings to unpack.
The result is that hundreds of books have been written about high school…but these are the 50 most essential, the ones who really get it right and have something to say.
And whenever I saw the brothers, together or individually — in a car, on a bike, on foot — the fear would spike through me so powerfully that I felt as though I was going to lose my mind.
In ‘‘Dune,’’ a novel I adored in those days, Frank Herbert observed that ‘‘Fear is the mind-killer,’’ and let me tell you, my man knows of what he speaks.
By my third month, that school had me feeling like the poorest, ugliest immigrant freak in the universe. My father abandoned the family the year before, plunging our household into poverty.
No sooner than that happened, my brother, who was one year older and my best friend and protector, was found to have leukemia, the kind that in those days had a real nasty habit of killing you.I said, ‘‘It happened in karate.’’My first real beat-down, and I was furious and ashamed, but above all else I was afraid. So I locked up the whole miserable affair deep inside.I thought that would help, but avoidance only seemed to give it more strength.The youngest was my age, and on the day in question we had a spat over something — I can’t remember what.I do remember pushing him down hard onto the sidewalk and laughing about it, and the kid running off in tears, swearing he was going to kill me. What I mean is that I was already deep in the vulnerability matrix.I had just entered seventh grade, was at peak adolescent craziness and, to make matters worse, was dealing with a new middle school whose dreary white middle-class bigotry was cutting the heart out of me.Took me until I was a sophomore in high school — yes, that long — before I finally found it in me to start facing my terror.By then, my older brother was in remission and wearing a wig to hide his baldness.After these encounters, I would be a mess for days: depressed, irritable, hypervigilant, ashamed.I hated these brothers from the bottom of my heart, but even more than them, I hated myself for my cowardice.. Given all the other crap I was facing, my adolescence was never going to win any awards.