Roy­al Youngs debut mem­oir Fame Shark will be released June 2013 from Heliotrope Books. Young con­tributes to Inter­view Mag­a­zine, New York Post, BOMB Mag­a­zine and The Lo Down. He will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

I sound like a cheap, mean kyke,” my father raged. I sound like an idiot, a com­plete non-enti­ty,” my moth­er was furi­ous too. I had been ner­vous about them read­ing my first mem­oir, Fame Shark, but none of my jit­ters had pre­pared me for this bal­lis­tic reac­tion. We were sit­ting down to break­fast at Castil­lo, a Domini­can restau­rant in New York’s Low­er East Side where I had grown up eat­ing deli­cious home­fries col­ored orange from Sofrito. Now they stuck in my throat.

For me, the book was a mon­u­ment to the obvi­ous: I was in love with both my par­ents. But raised by two Jews who were bril­liant psy­cho­an­a­lysts, my love had a dark­ness, a depth, an intro­spec­tion I’d learned from them. Was­n’t that a good thing? Was­n’t that flattering?

So, it’s basi­cal­ly fic­tion,” Mom said,“a lot of this stuff nev­er hap­pened.” It was true that I had pur­pose­ful­ly pan­dered to a mod­ern Amer­i­can cul­ture that had the atten­tion span of meth addicts. I’d cut all the bor­ing” bits out of my life in this telling. But fic­tion? No way. It had been hard, ter­ri­fy­ing and hum­bling to write truths about myself: I had been bul­lied to the point of molesta­tion as a kid, I had lat­er exchanged sex for mon­ey and movie roles, cul­ti­vat­ed friend­ships with drug deal­ers, sunk to supreme unhap­pi­ness at the altar of celebri­ty wor­ship. I had begun writ­ing Fame Shark still half in the throes of an idi­ot­ic, uno­rig­i­nal fan­ta­sy that the book itself would lift me into celebri­ty. Only the ther­a­peu­tic writ­ing of it had helped take me out of my own nar­cis­sis­m/­self-hatred (a diag­no­sis my par­ents had once agreed with, in our dark­est conflicts).

It had been sev­en years since the last chap­ter of the book. Years I had spent doing hard work in real life. I had worked as a jour­nal­ist at The For­ward, Inter­view Mag­a­zine, New York Post and oth­ers. I had dras­ti­cal­ly cut back on drink­ing, stopped doing drugs, fall­en in love with beau­ti­ful women, got­ten my heart bro­ken, fought hard through much rejec­tion to see the pub­li­ca­tion of my debut mem­oir. But achieve­ment was not redemp­tion. Now, I feared my own cre­ation was drag­ging me and my par­ents back to a black place of con­tention we had brave­ly worked past in fam­i­ly ther­a­py sessions.

That first break­fast, my imme­di­ate reac­tion was to match their anger. Sud­den­ly like a petu­lant teenag­er again, I swung between fury and sad­ness. I was out­raged they did­n’t get” my art; I was crushed I did­n’t have their seal of approval. Even more dev­as­tat­ing, it seemed they felt the book was evi­dence of some deep mal­con­tent I held toward them. The day end­ed with me cry­ing on their couch.

Like any mod­ern moron, I post­ed about my par­en­t’s out­rage on Face­book. I thought they came across as very endear­ing. Feel free to pass that on :)” wrote one friend. If your par­ents aren’t angry, then the mem­oir is no good. So con­grat­u­la­tions!” typed anoth­er. It felt com­fort­ing to be sup­port­ed by cyber solidarity.

But that did­n’t seal up the hole in my heart. I had hurt Mom and Dad and was no longer the too skin­ny, shit­faced, stub­born and styl­ish­ly blasé ado­les­cent who did­n’t care a wit. I felt awful about it. Jew­ish guilt that got me angry all over again. Which I then felt awful about. It was a vicious Freudi­an cycle, a prob­lem only a Jew­ish boy raised on the Low­er East Side by two men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als in the ear­ly 90s could have.

There is anoth­er ver­sion of my life. My par­en­t’s lives. My father is a hand­some artist born in Detroit, who fled a con­ser­v­a­tive upbring­ing in the Mid­west to pur­sue big city suc­cess. And he found it. He’s been com­mis­sioned to do sev­er­al pub­lic art projects, many of which still adorn New York. My moth­er is a smart beau­ty who speaks sev­en lan­guages and helps count­less peo­ple reha­bil­i­tate their lives. They have always been inspir­ing, lov­ing, cre­ative par­ents who encour­aged me to real­ize my own dreams. And even when uncom­fort­able with their por­tray­al in my writ­ing, they have remained under­stand­ing, proud and unshak­ably lov­ing towards me. The truth is peo­ple are complicated.

My way of digest­ing and deal­ing with life is through writ­ing. My father’s through art. My moth­er’s through ther­a­py. We all have dif­fer­ent ways of explor­ing the pow­er­ful bonds of fam­i­ly. We all try to make sense of our clos­est rela­tion­ships in the best way we can. We hurt each oth­er, heal each oth­er, learn from each oth­er. The most impor­tant thing is that we do all this togeth­er, as a family.

There have been many and var­ied reac­tions to my book so far. The way I have tack­led the main sub­jects of fame and fam­i­ly. But the response that nev­er changes is that as a fam­i­ly you were all so involved. You cared about what hap­pened to each oth­er.” And this aspect of my fam­i­ly is what enabled me to write so per­son­al­ly in the first place. Like it or not, my par­en­t’s endur­ing love allowed me to explore our con­flicts in a way I could­n’t have if we were fractured.

As my par­ents come to terms with my book, I hope to show them how my cau­tion­ary con­fes­sion can help oth­er peo­ple. A com­pas­sion I learned from them. There will always be strug­gle with the peo­ple we love the most, but it’s this love that remains our defin­ing bond.

Besides, You know I’m going to write about all of this too,” I recent­ly told Mom and Dad. My par­ents both laughed. They had grown a sense of humor about hav­ing a scribe in the fam­i­ly. Though actu­al­ly, I think my next book will indeed be pure fiction.

Check back tomor­row to read more from Roy­al Young, author of the mem­oir Fame Shark.