I finished this book about a month ago. I’ve been reluctant to write up my quick review, because that will mean there’s no excuse to have this book lying on the coffee table anymore. Because that will mean it’s time to put it on my shelf and my experience with this book will be over. It’s been a long time since I felt that sad loss of turning the last page, in the way I used to feel It with the classics of my childhood – A Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Terebithia, Island of the Blue Dolphins. Ziggy, stardust & me, is that kind of book.
Set in 1973, the world Brandon paints for us full of bell bottoms and headbands and horrible ‘70’s TV (Jonathan’s dad watches All in the Family). It’s also a world of bigotry and racism, not to say we’ve progressed past this five decades later, as obviously we have not, but values of hatred were more of the “norm” then. God forbid we don’t get the issues of our own decade into check or the world of hate that Jonathan Collins must survive will be our future. At sixteen, Jonathan has internalized those values, forcing himself fit within society’s (and his father’s) expectations, despite the costs to him mentally, emotionally and physically. But when he meets and falls in love with Web, a Lakota boy, his life takes a different direction.
This book delves into some tough topics. Matthew Shepard’s death is still over two decades ahead of when this book is set, so the violence and potential for danger is real and terrifying. However, Brandon manages to weave humor and light throughout so reader doesn’t feel lost and hopeless. Jonathan’s internal dialogue is sometimes painful, and often hysterical. As someone who writes about difficult issues, I appreciate Brandon’s ability to use humor while maintaining the gravity of the issues.
And of course, how Brandon uses music is fabulous. As you might expect from the title, music plays a large role in Jonathan’s life, and becomes the conduit through which Jonathan navigates his world. The music of my youth played a similar role for me, as I think music does for many of us.
I can’t recommend this incredible debut from James Brandon enough. Go buy it and read it now. https://bookshop.org/books/ziggy-stardust-and-me/9780525517641