Cover Image: Sticker

Sticker

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I've read a bunch of the Object Lesson series. They are always about more than the purported subject, and they always have elements of gonzo journalism or experiential teaching included. this takes it up a notch and is more a madcap memoir of Henry Hoke than any provision of information about stickers. Henry himself advises the reader to look up Wikipedia if what you are after is a history of stickers. Each chapter focusses on an incident, metaphorically illustrated by a sticker. This book could have been made even better by each chapter starting with an illustration of the sticker - but I was reading a review e-copy (thanks netgalley) so maybe they will include this in the final edition.
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I didnt know what u was expecting but I loved it, it was so thought provoking and made me question a lot of things.  An enjoyable read
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One of my favourite pieces of writing’s Joe Brainard’s classic 'I Remember'. An autobiography constructed from sentences all starting with “I remember.” It’s deceptively simple yet surprisingly effective and evocative. Whenever I read it, it sets off a rush of memories. Writer and lecturer, Henry Hoke’s brief, unorthodox memoir in twenty stickers achieves something very similar. Stickers show up in Hoke’s earliest recollections: gold stars wielded by teachers: glowing constellations scattered across his bedroom ceiling; envying the girl in his class her sparkly, pink, unicorn stickers, not safe for a boy to be seen with; the stickers on ‘Fred’ his mother’s wheelchair; the CDs he snuck into school marked with alluring but risky parental advisory labels. Stickers are small, taken-for-granted objects yet rich in associations; Hoke’s adept at conjuring these to construct a pathway through his experiences of growing up queer, in Charlottesville - a place that’s come to symbolise the fractured, social and cultural landscape of contemporary America.

Like any memoir this has its inevitable nostalgic moments but it’s never misty-eyed or sentimental. It’s evident Hoke’s keenly aware of the complex networks of family, community and society that shape an individual, the myriad ways his personal history and the history of Charlottesville frequently intersect and sometimes collide. So, a bumper sticker on a truck’s a reminder of the now-infamous 2017 alt-right rallies, Charlottesville’s traumatic legacy of slavery and segregation, and the time Hoke barely managed to escape injury during an anti-racism protest. I really appreciated Hoke’s approach here, he writes well, adept at mingling lyrical prose or amusing anecdotes with reasoned but passionate political insights. Hoke also made me realise how frequently stickers feature in my own past, from the tangerine stickers I pasted all over my school pencil-case, smelling of holidays and snow to the intimidating, neo-Nazi ones you had to peel off with a coin in case there were razor blades hidden behind. 

'Sticker' is the latest entry in Bloomsbury Academic’s well-regarded Object Lessons series: compact, pleasingly produced, each one features an author selecting an object and discussing its significance in whatever way works for them.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Academic for the arc.
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Initial response: I don’t know what other ways to describe this except it was an interesting read.

Afterthought: I still found it interesting, yet informational at the same time.
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This was a very interesting read - a memoir with chapters based on different types of stickers.
There were a lot of issues discussed and personal anecdotes shared but for me it jumped around a bit too much and there wasn't always a particularly strong link between the type of sticker and stories shared.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC of this book, I  enjoyed it a lot. Sticker is a coming of age memoir told through twenty stickers. The stickers vary from the sticker you would find on a banana to glow in the dark star on a childhood ceiling. The way the author tells his life story through the images of these stickers is delightful and gave me all the nostalgic feels.  My only regret is that I read this one digitally because I think it would have been even more enjoyable on paper.
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A memoir as told by stickers… interesting idea, but this was honestly pretty boring/disjointed. I didn’t get a great sense of Hoke, nor was I impressed by the imagery or writing. I’m pretty sure I’ll remember almost none of this a month from now.

I voluntarily obtained a digital version of this book free from Netgalley and Bloomsbury Academic in exchange for an honest review.
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I enjoyed the clever way of telling memoir style snippets of the author's life as they relate to a sticker. But in some ways I also felt the connection was weak at best, but still made for an enjoyable read. Some of the essays were more enjoyable and I related to more, but others just missed the mark for me. Hearing the author's reflections on being a gay man in the south during the changing of social acceptance of Civil War statues, the KKK, and other such social events was interesting.
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Sticker by Henry Hoke, a volume in the Object Lessons series, is an interesting and compelling look at the life of stickers (many different kinds) as they parallel the life of the author.

As you probably know if you've read any books in this series (unless you're Theeasinine) the object serves as a springboard into something larger, in this case a person's life and a city's history. If you want to know what an object is, google it. If you want to know how an object lives alongside and within the world, this series offers many interesting excursions. Apparently for some anything that they can't understand is somehow Marxist, which is really just a reflection of their lack of intellect, Theepathetic.

While reading this you will likely remember your own experiences as they relate to stickers. Maybe the same stickers (gold stars in school, bumper stickers), maybe entirely different stickers. Hoke uses the stickers from his life to tell his story as well as, to a large extent, Charlottesville's story. I lived there for a few years and loved the town but, like any city, some of its past and even present can be troublesome.

I would recommend this to those who enjoy memoirs, especially those with unusual framing devices. Aside from the memoir aspect it will also appeal to those who like to read things that might make them reflect on their own lives, and stickers may well spark some reflections and memories.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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The key question here is whether this entrant to this most frustrating of series is about its subject, or about its author.  (There's also the issue of whether it contains an unhealthy amount of what a British comic you wouldn't like calls "mindless hysterical screeching wokery", because some volumes under this umbrella easily surpass that.)  Well, in a way it manages to be both – it takes until page 40 to wake up to the fact that it's "a memoir in 20 stickers, randomly arranged and full of contradictions" it goes on to say.  Before then we've seen something concerning the school gold stars that I shared with the author, when lucky, and what was thought of as gender-inappropriate sparkly unicorns and glowing stars for the bedroom ceiling that I certainly didn't.  Oh and we had a strong smirk of recognition at the reinforcer – those Polo sweet-sized stickers that came in boxes of 10,000 and just meant your ring binders could hold fewer sheets of paper, but at least none would fall out.

Oh, and we're also told that if we wanted to learn about stickers, there's the Internet.  Gee, thanks.

This isn't horrendously mis-sold to us, however, for there certainly are stickers here.  Mass-produced ones advertising 'anarchy', because nothing speaks of anarchy and individuality more than a plasticated piece of paper identical to a trillion others.  Stickers are price-gunned on to VHSs and DVDs with the author working his dream job in a video rental shop.  But the book doesn't discuss them per se, rather it looks at how they acted as touch-points when he looks back on his life thus far.    Finally, the book is about racist America, because of course the Marxist academia can talk of so little else.  No bandaids would cover those cracks, either.  But a few plasters shoring up the gulf between what the book is supposed to be about and what it actually was concerned with would certainly help.
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This book was just okay. Few anecdotes were memorable, but it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours. I would be interested in reading more of these types of books.
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Sticker is part of the Object Lessons collections from Bloomsbury Academic, a series of short books teaching about the hidden lives of ordinary objects.

Like many, I have vivid memories of growing up that include stickers - the ones annoyingly stuck to the fruit in my lunchbox, the ones over my school books, the ones that come with sweets, the ones I wasn't meant to stick to the wall but did anyway - and they still appear in my adult life. They somehow remain a constant and despite their age hold an important part in popular physical media. 

In stickers, Hoke creates a memoir using twenty different stickers to mark different phases in his life from infancy to adulthood - exploring growing up in a disabled family, racial segregation, queer childhood and living in a heavily facist and neo-nazi environment that fell victim to fatal terrorist attacks, extreme racism and homophobia - Charlottesville, USA. Rather than just a matter-of-fact history of his hometown, this explores deeply personal history and the emotions contained within, branching out into the wider social issues he's either experienced or observed coming from a place of being both priviledged and a minority at once. 

At the same time, this collection also had sections that simply filled me with childhood nostalgia - the iconic gold star to the warning stickers on a bottle of bleach - invoking emotions I haven't thought of in over a decade. 

In just under 150 pages, this was a very easy read despite some of it's more sensitive content. Hoke managed to curate a style that felt more like a personal, informal conversation with the reader that made the pages turn far too quickly and still remain fully engaging.
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Henry Hoke, Sticker, Bloomsbury Academic, January 2022
Thank you, NetGalley, for this uncorrected proof for review. 

Sticker is a publication under the aegis of Object Lessons, ‘about the hidden lives of ordinary people’. Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic (from the description with this book on the NetGalley site). 

I was initially intrigued by the title – Sticker? Those items that I collect for my grandson? Those things that adorned files in school? The political ones that smothered university files? My refrigerator? Bumper stickers? Yes, although Hoke’s stickers did not include slogans such as ‘How dare you assume I’d rather be young?’ or ‘Keep Uranium in the Ground’, two of my Australian stickers, what a wealth of social commentary is covered in this truly engaging book. 

My curiosity was rewarded with one of the most interesting reads I have encountered. The simple basis of the book, stickers, is a great concept. Hoke begins with a sticker that replaced the skull and crossbones depicting poison. The latter had become outdated by children’s fascination with pirates, and as a safety measure was replaced with Mr. Yuk, the outcome of research, which also coloured him green. A gentle beginning in some ways, to a book that moves into Hoke’s childhood, young adulthood and returning as an adult to Charlottesville, South Virginia. Charlottesville, the site of the August 12 demonstration and violence in relation to the removal of the statue of the Confederate hero, Robert E. Lee.

The section on this aspect of Charlottesville takes the gold stickers received during Hoke’s education to discussion of the outcome of thoughtless reliance on the idea of unity. School children in Charlottesville were given a Monday holiday in honour of Lee-Jackson-King Day. In amalgamating the purposes of the holiday Martin Luther King thus became enjoined with slave owners and the Confederacy, unity at the expense of historical truth, with its possible impact on school children’s memories. The nullification of King’s fight against the very people with whom he shared the day occurred in 1984 when Martin Luther King Day, only recently established, became part of the concept of ‘defender of causes’. Happily all students were not persuaded, gold stars or not, as a Charlottesville High School student began the move against the Confederate statues. 

Henry Hoke’s book also considers his personal issues associated with stickers, with these also widening out to encompass wider political agendas. Disability and gay rights are given personal and public status through Hoke’s experience. The Be Nice to Me I Gave Blood Today sticker draws upon Hoke’s commitment to his mother, the greater good, and personal objection to doing what he is told. The irony associated with his realisation about his blood type described in this section is delicious. 

But then, every sticker has its wonderful, sad, complex moment in this gathering of examples of a small object to tell stories. The writing is engaging, while the commitment to academic exactitude is apparent in the index and bibliography organised by example.
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“Stickers can be excuses. You’re experiencing my second chance. A memoir in 20 stickers, randomly arranged and full of contradictions. An attempt to make my identity a little more tangible.” -From Stickers

5 stars

This unique and brief memoir is filled with thoughtful prose that will stick with you. It was truly impressive how he used such an unassuming object to piece together parts of the authors life, examining many diverse issues along the way. From the repetition of describing what each sticker would smell like, to injecting the storyline with historical facts; I adored every moment except for the very end. It seemed to me to just stop abruptly, without really wrapping anything up. Or maybe I just didn’t want this book to end. 

Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Sticker is a a memoir told in 20 stickers, as Henry Hoke explores growing up in and being from Charlottesville, having a disabled parent, and sexuality all through the lens of particular stickers. From stickers never had to those more ubiquitous, each chapter using the sticker as a starting point, as Hoke explores childhood, violence, and legacy.

This is the first book from the Object Lessons series that I've read, and it was not what I might've expected, not a history or philosophical look at an object, but using the object in question to explore personal history and emotion. In particular, the book explores being from a place known for white supremacist violence, whose name became a byword for a fascist terrorist attack. Seeing as stickers are often used by neo-fascists to spread hate, this adds a layer of complexity to the idea of the object covered in the book: stickers are not just a site of childhood joy and sometimes pain, but also part of something larger. This is also true of other elements of the book, like not being able to have a sticker for giving blood if you're a man who has sex with men, and it's clever how Hoke manages to explore so many emotions and experiences organised around stickers.

The book's cover, with the unicorn and rainbow stickers, might not make it clear how much this book engages with what I don't want to call 'the darker side of stickers', but the elements of stickers that go beyond something cute to adorn notebooks with or give to a child. The concept of the book makes me wonder what objects you could view your life through and where objects have a lot more complexity than you might first think (so maybe I need to read more of the series). If you like reading short memoirs with overarching themes or structural conceits, Sticker is a book to give a go, particularly if you're interested in reading about experiences of being a white queer person in Charlottesville and consider how people are privileged or see things in certain ways.
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Henry Hoke has range, and the premise of "Sticker" is utterly unique. In each chapter, the author focuses on a sticker and the way it connects to various moments in his life. For example, In "Gold Star", Hoke writes about how the use of gold star stickers in the classroom affects young students' learning habits. In "Be Nice To Me I Gave Blood Today", he muses about the stickers that are usually given to blood donors. Hoke links the connotations of these stickers to his lifelong fear of blood donation and to his relationship with his mother in an artful, moving way. 

When it comes to stories about his childhood, Hoke has an addictive, dry sense of humour. His writing style, as well as his witty recollections of his experiences growing up gay in the U.S. South, are reminiscent of David Sedaris' work.

Despite the presence of humour throughout the book, Hoke proves he is capable of writing about and addressing serious social issues. Some of the chapters in "Sticker" are literary journalism pieces that delve into Charlottesville's history and examine the presence of racism, white supremacy, and fascism in the city. Hoke handles these subjects with intellect and tact; he writes from a place of privilege, but he is fully aware of this fact, and his words seek to amplify marginalized voices.
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I really enjoyed this memoir. I think it was a very creative format using the stickers to tell the authors story while also tackling big issues like systemic racism. I found myself going back to my childhood in the early parts of the book when the author was talking about stickers from his childhood like the gold stars from elementary school and the star constellations on the ceiling of  their childhood bedroom. The book was enjoyable, relatable, but also very thought provoking. Solid read!
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