Soul Serenade: Rhythm Blues and Coming of Age Through Vinyl by Rashod Ollison

This is a solid four and a half star read. I loved this book! It is an autobiographical memoir of Rashod Ollison, writer and music critic. The story is set in Arkansas. Part in Malvern and Hot Springs where his parents are from, met, married and divorced and part set in Little Rock.

The story is relateable and contemporary. The voice the story is written in is so strong and the characters so well drawn that there were times I had to remind myself this was not an amazing fiction novel. The truth rings clear and the author doesn’t shy away from the tough times – when money is tight, times are lean and the lights get turned off.

It is also not populated by stereotypical characters. The people are real and they are portrayed in all of their fullness, richness and reality. His mom is a tough cookie and she comes from a family of tough cookies. His dad is a man driven my PTSD from Vietnam and being enabled by his family.

But it is the author’s personal journey that is so inspiring and moving. A gifted and talented person who from childhood is derided by friends and family as being a “faggot” and who comes to terms with his sexuality over the course of the novel.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I think it’s wonderful for anyone but I would love to see this book in high school libraries and on high school reading lists. I plan to share this book as widely as possible. I look forward to reading more from this author and would love to see him do some fiction writing in the future.

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