Boys and Oil: Growing Up Gay in a Fractured Land

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From a young, gay environmentalist, a searing coming-of-age memoir set against the arid landscape of rural North Dakota, where homosexuality “seems akin to a ticking bomb.”

“I am a child of the American West, a landscape so rich and wide that my culture trembles with terror before its power.” So begins Taylor Brorby’s Boys and Oil, a haunting, bracingly honest memoir about growing up gay amidst the harshness of rural North Dakota, “a place where there is no safety in a ravaged landscape of mining and fracking.”

In visceral prose, Brorby recounts his upbringing in the coalfields; his adolescent infatuation with books; and how he felt intrinsically different from other boys. Now an environmentalist, Brorby uses the destruction of large swathes of the West as a metaphor for the terror he experienced as a youth. From an assault outside a bar in an oil boom town to a furtive romance, and from his awakening as an activist to his arrest at the Dakota Access Pipeline, Boys and Oil provides a startling portrait of an America that persists despite well-intentioned legal protections.

With 9 black-and-white images included

Author: Taylor Broby

Hardback  Published 7 June 2022  352 pages

"Environmental activist Taylor Brorby masterfully recounts his upbringing... Brorby’s memoir opens with superbly detailed insight into North Dakota’s geography, which becomes a powerful symbol throughout Boys and Oil. This jagged imagery grounds the narrative and the author’s journey, and Brorby’s attention to it throughout the book feels nearly ekphrastic, with sweeping, alluring descriptions of a land that is at once beautiful and damaged... Queer politics calls perceived norms to task, subverting the status quo and making it possible for new structures to emerge. In his unique and breathtaking memoir, Brorby does just this, creating wonderful new categories for rural communities and American masculinity, and for gay kids’ places within both."― Timothy Burger, Bookpage, starred review

"To put it simply, Boys and Oil is my most anticipated book of 2022. In this coming-of-age memoir, Brorby reflects on growing up gay in rural North Dakota, where mining and fracking has left indelible scars upon both the land and the people that call it home. Filled with some of the most beautiful language and deepest insights on activism, love, and belonging that I’ve read in years, Boys and Oil is essential reading for anyone interested in environmentalism and the American West."― Michael Welch, Chicago Review of Books

"A searing account of growing up in the harsh landscape of North Dakota, essayist and poet Taylor Brorby charts his path of often painful self-discovery with visceral clarity. As Brorby writes, 'There are no lived stories of gay people where I come from.' Now there is."― Chicago Review of Books, "12 Must-Read Books of June"

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