Tag Archives: Memoir

Review & Tour: Searching for John Hughes

Searching for John Hughes

Searching for John Hughes
By Jason Diamond
William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062424839, November 29, 2016, 304 pp.

The Short of It:

Anyone growing up in the 80s is going to find this book to be a real treat but even if you didn’t grow up during the best decade ever, you’ll still find something to like.

The Rest of It:

When I was asked to do this tour and began to casually chat about the book, I was surprised by how many people I ran into who had absolutely no idea who John Hughes was. Really? My first reaction? What is wrong with you?

In 1984, the movie Sixteen Candles came out. I was a sophomore in high school. In my junior year, The Breakfast Club came out.  In my senior year, my most tumultuous year by far, Pretty in Pink debuted. ALL of these movies shaped me as a human being. So much so, that I introduced them to my kids as soon as they were old enough to understand all that teen angst. John Hughes wrote many movies and he directed some of them too but what he did best was really nail the teen experience.

Enter Jason Diamond. His infatuation with Hughes goes beyond my love of the man, in that he followed his work well into the 90s and filled notebook upon notebook with bits of knowledge about him. Searching for John Hughes IS about Diamond’s quest to write a book about Hughes but it’s about so much more.

Diamond’s childhood was troubled. Although he lived very close to some of the iconic Chicago movie locations seen in some of the films I mentioned, he dealt with physical abuse at his father’s hand, a mother who struggled to be the kind of mother she really wanted to be, and Diamond’s continued struggle to find himself.

As a teen, pretty much abandoned by his mother, he’s forced to move from couch to couch, living off the kindness of friends. School, often a challenge, provided some brief moments of clarity. Especially when one of his favorite teachers turns him on to good literature and gives him a place to stay.

This memoir has highs and lows, both good and bad. Diamond struggled with drugs and alcohol but his survival instinct always seemed to kick in when he needed it to. Moving from job to job, he began to think about writing as a career and that is when he decided to write a biography on the man himself, Hughes. A biography that never happened.

What struck me about this memoir is that Diamond is a really interesting guy on his own. His challenging childhood, his ability to always pull himself up by his bootstraps, was impressive and there was a lot that I could relate to. As much as I love Hughes, and as much as I enjoyed reading about Hughes, I almost wanted to read more about Diamond.

As some of you know, my mother passed away on November 15th. This was the first book I read after her passing and it gave me all the feels. It’s like I jumped into a time machine and went back to my senior year. Hughes knew so much about being young and wanting more. Like Andie in Pretty in Pink,  I came from the wrong side of the tracks and struggled through my high school years. I had a Duckie and a Blane and even a Steff. How could Hughes have known this? That was his appeal. Everyone viewing these movies can find someone to relate to. Rich, poor, popular or not. If you haven’t seen his movies, I implore you to do so.

Then? Read this book. It’s filled with lots of movie facts but Diamond also takes us to some of the iconic filming locations in and around the Chicago suburbs. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jason Diamond
Author: Jason Diamond
Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author Links: Website, Instagram, and Twitter

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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains purchase and author links.

Review: Waiting for Snow in Havana

Waiting for Snow in Havana

Waiting for Snow in Havana
By Carlos Eire
(Free Press, Paperback, 9780743246415, 2004, 390pp.)

The Short of It:

A young boy’s take on Cuba before and after Fidel Castro.

The Rest of It:

Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. For the Cuba of Carlos’s youth—with its lizards and turquoise seas and sun-drenched siestas—becomes an island of condemnation once a cigar-smoking guerrilla named Fidel Castro ousts President Batista on January 1, 1959. Suddenly the music in the streets sounds like gunfire. Christmas is made illegal, political dissent leads to imprisonment, and too many of Carlos’s friends are leaving Cuba for a place as far away and unthinkable as the United States. Carlos will end up there, too, and fulfill his mother’s dreams by becoming a modern American man—even if his soul remains in the country he left behind. –Simon & Schuster

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Given the subject matter, I expected it to be more factual but Eire chose to focus on his idyllic childhood. His childhood is fantastical in nature as Carlos was a very imaginative child. His mother, referred to as Marie Antoinette and his father Louis XVI, are rather mysterious figures. They are well-off but the father is preoccupied with his material wealth, more so than his family’s well-being.  So when the family is torn apart, it seems that the burden of responsibility falls on Carlos himself.

Written years later, Eire’s book is full of charm and wit but it’s apparent while reading just how painful his story is to tell. In fact, he’s often said that he wanted this to be a work of fiction, not a memoir and I must tell you, it does read like fiction so for those of you who shy away from memoirs, this might be a good one for you to grab.

My book club read this and we discussed it a couple of weeks ago.  I think we were all in agreement that the writing was lovely, but many felt nothing for Carlos. He was wealthy and spoiled and this prevented many from being able to relate to his story but I don’t know, there is something horrifying about living in a dream world and then being thrown into reality at such a young age. It’s almost more tragic.

Overall, a good discussion book, lovely writing and you’ll learn a little about pre-war Cuba.

Waiting for Snow in Havana won the National Book Award in 2003.

Source: Borrowed
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