Sharing Painful Learning.

AuthorStockwell, Norman
PositionA Place for Us: A Memoir

A Place for Us: A Memoir

By Brandon J. Wolf

Little A

222 pages

Publication date: July 1, 2023

Norman Stockwell is publisher of The Progressive.

Part memoir, part self-processing, and part call to action, and written by a survivor of the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, A Place for Us tells the story of Brandon Wolf's journey as a young, queer, Black man in the United States.

Wolf begins his story as a child growing up in Portland, Oregon, and facing the early death of his mother due to cancer. "To her, I was perfect. With her, I was safe," he writes. "And in an instant that had gone."

School, he says, was never a safe place. "To be the queer, mixed kid meant living in perpetual fear of a flying fist or a hurled slur," he remembers. But then he and a fellow student discovered the Myspace page of a white supremacist group at their high school. The group had a "hit list" that "read like a who's who of the traditionally excluded." Wolf recalls, "I had known that my carefully constructed persona as a 'model minority' was tenuous (at best), but I earnestly believed that I had paid all the right dues to inoculate me from this kind of hatred." But in the face of racism and homophobia, no one was immune.

The first part of the book goes on to chronicle Wolf's youth until everything changes on what he calls "the last normal day."

"In many ways, Pulse embodied the sense of community I had discovered after moving to Orlando," he writes. "It was one of the first places where I held hands with someone I had a crush on without glancing over my shoulder first .... Pulse was a place where I could be all of myself." That night, he and a group of friends had gone to the club to hang out. "The world outside felt more contentious than at any time I could remember. Fueled by incendiary rhetoric, Donald Trump's inconceivable rise in the Republican Party felt like it was tugging at the seams of humanity."

Those seams were about to burst. At 2:00 a.m. on June 12, 2016, a twenty-nine-year-old gunman killed forty-nine people and wounded fifty-three others in what was at the time the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. "It was supposed to be a safe space for us," Wolf muses. Some of his closest friends were killed that day. It changed his life forever.

"I didn't set out to write a book out of some bloated sense of ego or as a vanity...

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