The Hue and Cry at Our House by Benjamin Taylor

The Hue and Cry at Our House

Benjamin Taylor

A subtle and lyrical memoir of childhood in Fort Worth, Texas in 1963, exploring how the events, friendships, and losses of Benjamin Taylor's childhood while painting a portrait of America in the 1960s.

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A memoir of one tumultuous year of boyhood in Fort Worth, Texas, opening with a handshake with JFK, and recalling the changes and revelations of the months that followed.
 
“Taylor’s Hue and Cry is a vast offer of thanks and glowing triumph, his masterpiece to date.” —Richard Howard, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
 
After John F. Kennedy’s speech in front of the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth on November 22, 1963, he was greeted by, among others, an 11-year-old Benjamin Taylor and his mother waiting to shake his hand. Only a few hours later, Taylor’s teacher called the class in from recess and, through tears, told them of the president’s assassination. From there Taylor traces a path through the next twelve months, recalling the tumult as he saw everything he had once considered stable begin to grow more complex. Looking back on the love and tension within his family, the childhood friendships that lasted and those that didn’t, his memories of summer camp and family trips, he reflects upon the outsized impact our larger American story had on his own.
 
Benjamin Taylor is one of the most talented writers working today. In lyrical, translucent prose, he thoughtfully extends the story of twelve months into the years before and after, painting a portrait of the artist not simply as a young man, but across his whole life. As he writes, “[A]ny twelve months could stand for the whole. Our years are so implicated in one another that the least important is important enough . . . Any year I chose would show the same mettle, the same frailties stamping me at eleven and twelve.”


Advance Galley Reviews

Taylor shared his perspective of the 1950s and 1960s through the eyes of a gay, Jewish boy with Asperger's syndrome growing up in Texas. A good read that shows this time period in a different light.

I enjoyed the aspects of this book that described Taylor's childhood growing up in Texas. He slowly reveals himself as a liberal (in a conservative region of TX in the 60s), gay man with Asperger's syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He does not elaborate very much on the effect of the latter two on his life, unfortunately. Taylor is a strong writer but the book is not lyrical as described, nor does the memoir focus solely on one year of his childhood as the synopsis states. Most chapters open with a memory of Taylor's childhood but they often stray - he may begin by talking about a childhood trip to his local library but segue into a long summary of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and then move on to a short history of racism in America. Taylor is at his best when discussing himself and his family, it was unfortunate that he digressed on to so many other topics - racism, politics, etc. There are interesting snapshots here but the book lacks structure and focus.

It was a sweet read of a time long past, a boy now grown, a family long gone.

Engaging and unique approach to revisiting his life and that of his parents', the author uses the Kennedy assassination and a deadly family fire as both metaphor and defining moment. It mostly works as the author intended although his story would have been compelling enough without the added gimmickry. To wit, a second child, ten years younger than the first, is on the Autism Spectrum, gay, Jewish and unusual for his family, not just his Texas neighborhood in the late 1950's early 1960's when this book describes his childhood. He grows into himself and is a gifted writer but makes clear that he was an unusual child in almost every way. The slice of life, and history, that the author provides is fascinating and well-told.

 


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