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Hollywood Park An Instant New York Times Bestseller Hollywood Park Is A Remarkable Memoir Of A Tumultuous Life Mikel Jollett Was Born Into One Of The Country S Most Infamous Cults, And Subjected To A Childhood Filled With Poverty, Addiction, And Emotional Abuse Yet, Ultimately, His Is A Story Of Fierce Love And Family Loyalty Told In A Raw, Poetic Voice That Signals The Emergence Of A Uniquely Gifted Writer We Were Never Young We Were Just Too Afraid Of Ourselves No One Told Us Who We Were Or What We Were Or Where All Our Parents Went They Would Arrive Like Ghosts, Visiting Us For A Morning, An Afternoon They Would Sit With Us Or Walk Around The Grounds, To Laugh Or Cry Or Toss Us In The Air While We Screamed Then They D Disappear Again, For Weeks, For Months, For Years, Leaving Us Alone With Our Memories And Dreams, Our Questions And Confusion So Begins Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett S Remarkable Memoir His Story Opens In An Experimental Commune In California, Which Later Morphed Into The Church Of Synanon, One Of The Country S Most Infamous And Dangerous Cults Per The Leader S Mandate, All Children, Including Jollett And His Older Brother, Were Separated From Their Parents When They Were Six Months Old, And Handed Over To The Cult S School After Spending Years In What Was Essentially An Orphanage, Mikel Escaped The Cult One Morning With His Mother And Older Brother But In Many Ways, Life Outside Synanon Was Even Harder And ErraticIn His Raw, Poetic And Powerful Voice, Jollett Portrays A Childhood Filled With Abject Poverty, Trauma, Emotional Abuse, Delinquency And The Lure Of Drugs And Alcohol Raised By A Clinically Depressed Mother, Tormented By His Angry Older Brother, Subjected To The Unpredictability Of Troubled Step Fathers And Longing For Contact With His Father, A Former Heroin Addict And Ex Con, Jollett Slowly, Often Painfully, Builds A Life That Leads Him To Stanford University And, Eventually, To Finding His Voice As A Writer And Musician Hollywood Park Is Told At First Through The Limited Perspective Of A Child, And Then Broadens As Jollett Begins To Understand The World Around Him Although Mikel Jollett S Story Is Filled With Heartbreak, It Is Ultimately An Unforgettable Portrayal Of Love At Its Fiercest And Most Loyal Mikel is a child of the universe Born into the Synanon cult, he was given to The School at six months old to be raised by the community, rather than his biological parents The children were taught to fend for themselves, to self soothe, and to be independent Some parents, including Mikel s, visited the school occasionally He described them as ghosts, drifting in and out unexpectedly Mikel lived this way until five years old Mikel s mother escaped the cult and took her sons, Mikel age five Mikel is a child of the universe Born into the Synanon cult, he was given to The School at six months old to be raised by the community, rather than his biological parents The children were taught to fend for themselves, to self soothe, and to be independent Some parents, including Mikel s, visited the school occasionally He described them as ghosts, drifting in and out unexpectedly Mikel lived this way until five years old Mikel s mother escaped the cult and took her sons, Mikel age five and Tony age seven, with her They moved to Oregon with another former cult member, Phil, but were quickly discovered by some of the members Phil paid the price taking a brutal beating but refusing to give up the location of the boys or their mother Helplessly, Tony and Mikel watched as Phil nearly lost his life in exchange for their protection Self absorbed and stuck in her own cycle of depression and abuse, the boys mother offered no comfort and actually outright dismissed the traumatic event the boys witnessed confusing their perceptions of reality and trust in authority.Tony and Mikel s father, Jimmy, drifted in and out of their early lives He had also been part of Synanon and moved to California when he left the cult When he started dating Bonnie, a former cult member who had taken care of the boys in The School at Synanon, the boys started spendingtime with them Bonnie and their father provided love and a sense stability They respected the boys and were clearly proud and happy to have them as part of their lives though they feared, especially Jimmy, that the boys would follow in his troubled footsteps of jail, heroin, and a life on the edge.By age ten, Mikel was smoking cigarettes and experimenting with drugs and alcohol Tony was constantly getting in trouble and quickly showing signs of drug and alcohol addiction Unable to care for the boys properly, they each chose to live with Bonnie and their father at various points rather than their mother She suffered major bouts of depression and seemed to live in constant denial, focusing only on her needs To her, the boys owed her an enormous debt for their lives and it was their job to take care of their mother By putting her own emotional and physical needs first, she further debilitated their sense of self worth For as much love and stability that Bonnie and Jimmy were able to provide, they could seemingly never repair the damage that had been done to the boys during their first years of life This was an incredible story of survival and perseverance and Jollett s writing was emotional and transportative The honesty and self reflection, awareness, and analysis were refreshing and humbling I originally expected this memoir to beabout Jollett s time in the cult, however, because he left at five years old, it washis life story after the cult and the cult s impact on his entire being A life full of trauma, abuse, love, and confusion, Hollywood Park is a memoir I won t soon forget For anyone with any interest in psychology and the impacts of trauma, neglect, and abuse, this one is for you.Thank you to BookishFirst, NetGalley, and the publisher for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review We were never young No one told us who we were or where all our parents went They would arrive like ghosts, visiting us for a morning, an afternoon They would sit with us or walk around the grounds, to laugh or cry or toss us up in the air while we screamed Then they d disappear again, for weeks, for months, for years, leaving us alone with our memories and dreams, our questions and confusionWeeellll I hadn t planned to read Hollywood Park It was an unsolicited arc that turned u We were never young No one told us who we were or where all our parents went They would arrive like ghosts, visiting us for a morning, an afternoon They would sit with us or walk around the grounds, to laugh or cry or toss us up in the air while we screamed Then they d disappear again, for weeks, for months, for years, leaving us alone with our memories and dreams, our questions and confusionWeeellll I hadn t planned to read Hollywood Park It was an unsolicited arc that turned up with some others, but when I saw it was about a man who was born into a cult, I thought the premise was interesting enough to warrant a second glance I didn t take in the name of the author at first Then I opened the front page, stared at the author s picture, and I realized I recognized him Glancing through the description, I realized it was Mikel Jollett, lead singer of The Airborne Toxic Event, and writer of one of my favourite songs of all time.Actually, I need a moment for this I apologize in advance, but I could write an essay on this song Like books, I love songs that tell stories, and this is one that captures an encounter between a man and his ex with such amazing imagery the bar lights, the piano, her laugh shivers Not only that, but I think it is an incredible piece of music, and I m not even someone who usually notices that kind of thing But the opening blast of classical that gives way to the delicate opening notes that accompany the first words, then the drum beat that comes in like you can hear the guy s heart pounding, all of it building to a loud crescendo as this guy basically has a breakdown And it s kinda sad sexy Like I can feel the sexual chemistry between the two of them, but it s sad because they re not together Did I mention that I fucking love this song Okay, okay, moving on What I didn t know is that Jollett was born into Synanon, a cult that initially promised its members a drug rehabilitation program, but instead enforced strict rules, carried out mass beatings, and separated babies from their parents at six months old Mikel was one of these babies One day, a woman who was a virtual stranger to him came and told him they were leaving Apparently, this was his mother.Though they escaped, the effects of Synanon were deep and permanent For a long time, the family lived in poverty and Mikel s mother who was later diagnosed with a mental disorder offered no source of affection or comfort for Mikel and his older brother, Tony.It turns out that Jollett can write memoirs almost as well as he can write songs He has a very arresting and engaging style, a touch poetic but not overly so, and I especially liked how he wrote in present tense and in an age appropriate voice, which reminded me of The Glass Castle Because of this, we escape Synanon with a young scared boy who is confused by the world around him and his mother s mentions of Thatasshole Reagan then later we feel the angst and frustration of a teenager pushing back against his mother s demands and longing to be with his dad, his hero and, finally, the book and Jollett reach maturity, and it truly feels like we ve lived a lifetime with him Hollywood Park is, in many ways, a way for the author to handle his grief over the loss of his father His father is the shining star of this book and his love and personality come bounding off the page It just shows how even someone who has messed up a lot of their own life by being a convict and an addict can have such a huge inspiring impact on someone else through their kindness and support Mikel Jollett did not have an easy start in life, to say the least, but he made it through with the help of his beloved father and, of course, music The book is, admittedly, a little longer than is really necessary, but well worth reading for those looking for hope and inspiration mixed in with their tragedy Facebook Instagram What do you do when you re a scared shitless kid that s been faking it for so long You bury it You polish your smile and study until you can t even focus your eyes You buy yourself a big red sweater with an S across the chest, just like the superchild you once were You try to prove them all wrong You attempt to outrun it But then you get injured and your mom goes insane and a kind man in a blue shirt with a trim black beard uses the words Emotional abuse Crossing physical boundaries,What do you do when you re a scared shitless kid that s been faking it for so long You bury it You polish your smile and study until you can t even focus your eyes You buy yourself a big red sweater with an S across the chest, just like the superchild you once were You try to prove them all wrong You attempt to outrun it But then you get injured and your mom goes insane and a kind man in a blue shirt with a trim black beard uses the words Emotional abuse Crossing physical boundaries, Trauma Neglect I feel like a blank space covered in skin Who is that masked man If all of your life you ve worn a mask, what do you see in the mirror A reflection of someone you aren t How can you know who you really are, or who you might become, if you see your world through cut out holes And the world never gets to see you, never gets to relate to you, the real you, behind your facade Kinda tough to live your best life that way Kinda tough to live a real life that way And how did that mask get there in the first place And how did it impact the nuts and bolts of your life And is there any hope you can tear it off without losing the you beneath, pull it off slowly, maybe un sew it from your face, a stitch at a time Mikel Jollett image from his Twitter Who is that masked man, the kid from the cult, the pre teen looking for thrills, the teenager who nearly killed himself, the long distance runner, the Stanford student, the substance abuser, the serial spoiler of relationships, the music world journalist, the successful rock musician, the wonderful writer Or are they all just different masks Synenon leader Charles Dederich Image from San Diego State University The impetus to write the book was a recent one Jollett had been writing and performing music with his band, Airborne Toxic Event, since 2005, a step sideways from his intention to pursue a writing career, and a closely linked redirection from his work as a music journalist Then, in 2015, his father died, and Jollett says he was overwhelmed with grief and confusion I wondered why it hit me so hard, so I went back into my past that day my mom took us out of the cult I went in to lockdown and started to write He stayed with it for three years from the PW interviewThere was a lot to write about This coming of age story begins when he was five Jollett had the bad luck to be born into a bad situation His parents were members of Synenon, a place that came to public prominence in the 1960s in California, a goto drug rehab community for a while People charged with substance related crimes were often sent there by California courts It probably did some good in the beginning, but as the leader of Synenon, Chuck Dederich, becameandunhinged and power mad, his not totally crazy community became a totally crazy cult Not the best start for a new life One of the rules in Synenon was that children were to be raised communally So, even though mom and or dad might be around, they were not the ones providing care Have a nice life It was an orphanage Grandma screams That s what you call a place where strangers raise your kids Grandma says that mom doesn t even know who put us to bed or who woke us up or who taught us to read She says we were sitting ducks We did play Duck Duck Goose a lot You made them orphans, Gerry Grandma will point at us from her chair as we pretend not to listen We follow Mik s journey from his earliest memories of Synenon, raised by people other than his parents until Mom flees with him and his older brother in the dark of night Most orphanages do not send goons to track down people, including children, who leave Even out of the Synenon cult, Mik, his brother, Tony, and his mom, Gerry, were not safe Mik gets to see a fellow splittee get beaten nearly to death by Synenon enforcers outside his new home Facing your dark side image from Narcissism and emotional abuse.co.ukIf this decidedly unstable beginning was not enough of a challenge, his mother was not the best of all possible parents Is that a mom Someone who you can t ever remember not loving you I know Mom doesn t think that s what it is but I do She tells me I m her son and she wanted kids so she wouldn t be alone any and now she has us and it is a son s job to take care of his mother Gerry was just a weeeee bit narcissistic, to her children s decided disadvantage It would take Mik years to learn that the usual arrangement was that parents take care of children Image from collectiveevolution.comJollett takes us through many stages of his life, successfully modulating the narrative to fit the age he is portraying in each As he grows, his awareness increases and his interests broaden It makes him, appropriately, an unreliable narrator as young Mik does not yet have the tools to see past the misinformation he is being given It took my brother and I a long long time to piece together the reality that a functional adult might have about the situation, that we d escaped a cult that had once done good things for addicts including our father , that our mother was severely depressed, and that these experiences were very unique in some ways and quite common in others So I wrote the book from that perspective, at least at the beginning that of a child trying to piece together the reality of the changing world around him because that s how I experienced it There were mysteries What is a restaurant We d never been in one What is a car A city And, most devastatingly, what is a family Because we simply didn t know from the Celadon interviewBeing born into a cult and having a depressed, toxically narcissistic mother were two strikes already, but then pop, and other paternal family members had spent considerable time behind bars, and in both his paternal and his maternal trees there was a history of substance abuse, of one sort or many You d think Mik was destined to wind up an alcoholic and or a drug addict and in jail Is genetics destiny This is a core battle he faced in his life Another was to come to terms with how his strange upbringing affected how he related to other human beings, particularly to women He talks a lot about how he presented a fa ade to the world, while keeping his truest self well back, if he even knew his true self at all Robert Smith mask Image from funkyBunky.coJollett endured years of poverty, and emotional abuse He found outlets in criminal acts and substance abuse But he also found other ways to fill his needs and channel his creativity A close friend introduced him to the music that would push him in a new constructive direction I go to a place in my head where I can be alone Listening to Robert Smith sing his happy songs about how sad he feels is like he s there too, like he has his Secret Place in his head where he goes and since he wrote a song about it, he s right there in my headphones, so we re in this Secret Place together Me and Robert It s a place where we are allowed to be sad, instead of feeling like freaks of nature, us weirdos and orphans A major change in Mik s life is when he begins spending time with his father, Jimmy, and his father s significant other, in Los Angeles, first summers, then, at age 11, moving therepermanently, Gerry having moved to Oregon with the boys when they were fleeing Synenon It is a whole new world for him there, not just offering different ways to get into trouble, but the opportunity to get to know Jimmy and his father s family, something that was not really possible in his earliest years, particularly as his mother had portrayed Jimmy negatively I d been told so many terrible things about him at a very young age He was a heroin addict, an ex con who d done years in prison He left my mother for a tramp That was a common refrain But none of it turned out to matter He was clean by the time I was born and all I ever knew once I got to spend time with him, was this guy who would do anything for me He was affectionate He took us everywhere He cared so deeply about our basic happiness He had a great laugh and a quiet wisdom about him He never cared what I became in life He wanted me to be honest, to be interesting or simply funny , and to be around from the Celadon interviewThe emotional core of the book is connections Jollett has, for good or ill, with the people in his life, friends, and particularly family.Jimmy was fond of betting on the ponies He took Mik with him once he started visiting LA Hollywood Park is the track they attended It is where Mik has meaningful heart to hearts with his father It is a place that lives in his imagination as well, a place where he can connect with his family across time Will Mik grow up to be a Jollett Man, a bad ass tough guy who leans hard toward wildness, or something other There are certainly strains in him that offer other possibilities His athleticism, intellectual curiosity, academic licks, creativity, musical talent, and stick to itive ness offer hope for a future different from his father s.Image from The Smiths and Morrissey FB pagesAs an adult, Mik finds a career in music, and gains insights into the musical creative process from some household names He gains as well insights into his emotional state that help him understand the life he has been living But the real core is how he got to that place to begin with Image from Invaluabl.comJollett employs literary tools to great effect For example, as an eight year old in Oregon, his family raised and slaughtered rabbits for food In addition to this being a sign of the family s poverty, it is clear that young Mik senses that he, too, is being raised in an emotional cage to provide sustenance of another sort His writing is smooth and often moving There are sum up portions at the end of chapters that pull together what that chapter has been about These bits tend toward the self analytical, and are often poetic music makes me feel like I belong somewhere, that this person I don t know, the one who swims beneath his life in a dark, chaotic, unknowable place, this one has a voice too Mikel Jollett has written a remarkable memoir, offering not just a look at his dramatic and event filled personal journey, but a peek out from the masks he wore to the times he lived through While his actions and experiences covered a considerable swath, there is always, throughout his moving tale, a connection to family, to his mother, father, brother, various step parents, his extended family, and closest friends The power of these connections caused him considerable difficulty, but also made it possible for him to weather some major life storms The odds are you will be moved by Jollett s celebration of real human bonding, cringe at some of the challenges he had to endure, mumble an oh, no, or worse, as you see the missteps along his path, cheer for the triumphs when they come, and luxuriate in the beauty of his writing Whatever else you may get from the book, it is clear that Mikel Jollett is unmasked as an outstanding writer Hollywood Park is a sure winner of a read Bet on it One sentence in The Scarlet Letter stood out to me as I read on the edge of my bed I marked the page No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true It made me think of the Secret Place, the place I hide with Robert Smith I know this face I ve learned not to tell anyone at school about Synanon or Dad in prison or Mom in the bed staring up at the ceiling It s a mask, this face you create for others, one you hide behind as you laugh at jokes you don t understand and skip uncomfortable details, entire years of your life, as if they simply didn t happen Jollett l , with dad Jimmy and brother Tony image from Publishers WeeklyReview posted May 15, 2020Publication date May 5, 2020I received an ARE of this book from Celadon in return for an honest review But, do they really know who they gave this book to I could be anyone, pretending to be anyone.Thanks to MC, too In the summer of 2019 GR reduced the allowable review size by 25%, from 20,000 to 15,000 characters In order to accommodate the text beyond that I have moved it to the comments section directly below Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett is a 2020 Celadon Books publication An unconventional journey fraught with adversity, but ultimately an inspirational memoirTo be honest, I went into this memoir blind I think I added it mainly due to the mention of a cult, a topic I am often drawn to However, before starting the book, I Googled Jollett, and listened to his music, wondering why I had not stumbled across him earlier But, despite my unfamiliarity with the author, I found myself pulled into his Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett is a 2020 Celadon Books publication An unconventional journey fraught with adversity, but ultimately an inspirational memoirTo be honest, I went into this memoir blind I think I added it mainly due to the mention of a cult, a topic I am often drawn to However, before starting the book, I Googled Jollett, and listened to his music, wondering why I had not stumbled across him earlier But, despite my unfamiliarity with the author, I found myself pulled into his original approach, in which he uses the voice of his childhood,making it seem as though we are living these experiences right along with him It is instantaneously obvious that Mikel s upbringing is irregular, to say the least Although I have heard of many cults, I was not familiar with Synanon, the cult Jollett lived in until the age of five, when his mother finally escaped Again, I did a little Googling and learned that the cult was supposed to be a drug rehabilitation center but had turned violent While it is a relief to know the family made it out of that situation, Mikel s childhood is far from stable Addiction, narcissism, and a lack of traditional parenting, forces Mikel to become wizened beyond his years This is a powerful, compelling memoir Jollet s extraordinary writing technique gives one a poignant look at addiction and the emotional drain that reigns on all of those involved His words are tender and merciful, his memories affecting, and his courage inspiring Despite the painful scars, Mikel s hard work and personal growth have broken chains, providing him with the strength and insight to become a productive and successful adult Overall, a compelling memoir I am so glad I took a chance on

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