For today’s #FridayReads, we’re diving into Mikel Jollett’s tumultuous, raw, and triumphant memoir, HOLLYWOOD PARK.
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.
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.” When Mikel was five, his mother escaped the cult with both of her children. But in many ways, life outside Synanon was even harder and more erratic.
In 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.
“Jollett engagingly narrates his story, which includes living, after leaving Synanon, in Oregon with his mother, a needy narcissist who brainwashed him into believing that kids take care of their moms, not the other way around; loving his father while hoping to never be like him; and dealing with his addict brother. Jollett also talks about turning pain into music, getting help for abandonment issues, and finding love and starting a family. All this results in a shocking but contemplative memoir about the aftermath of an unhealthy upbringing.“–Publishers Weekly, starred review