This was a difficult book to get into. I found the characters not fully developed or discernible, making the reading experience not the best.
If you haven’t read the synopsis, I beg you to read it as there is plenty of trigger material within Jesse Leon’s story.
Leon is flinchingly honest. I flinched. I think sometimes something can be worse if you have gone through it yourself and can feel the person’s pain as if it is your own. Leon describes their first rape early in the book and it lingered with me. There is more than one rape and abusive act.
I’m Not Broken covers everything in Leon’s life. They leave nothing out. I will confess I had to make Mexican weenies to see if I would like them (chuckle). I bring up something light-hearted because this is a dark story. I grabbed onto the light moments as if parched.
The substance abuse begins early in their life. The homophobia is a breathing component alongside all of the other pressures Leon survives. I’m Not Broken is a very difficult read for the emotional toil it takes on a sensitive reader. I read this a chapter at a time during the hard stuff, which is a lot for at least half of the book.
I don’t know if I would recommend I’m Not Broken to someone who is easily triggered. I am a multiple rape survivor so for me there was a lot of deep breathing and I confess to crying a lot. I am extremely empathetic so reading about the verbal abuse, the pressures, and the drug use hurt my heart. For me, I couldn’t let go of the beginning to enjoy the end. This is me though and others may not be as impacted as I was.
The writing is excellent. It moves quickly. It’s raw emotional truth.
A very challenging and difficult story, but also well done. Thank you for allowing me to read this, I will recommend to friends.
This memoir was truly heartbreaking and powerful.
It was a really heavy and beautiful story of survival, hope and bravery. No one should have to live through that much…
I highly recommend this book but check the TWs first if you need them!
Thank you so much netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review and opinions.
Even if you read the description of this memoir, you will not be prepared for how heart wrenching and tragic Jesse Leon’s story is. The author does not hold back in his memoir. His writing is honest, straightforward, and thoughtful. At the very beginning of the memoir, you quickly realize how devastating and saddening the experiences the author went through as a young child are. At the end of the memoir and throughout, you also realize how brave and resilient the author is. I can’t even begin to imagine how traumatic the events of Leon’s life are.
Even though Leon’s story nearly made me cry and shook me to my core, I think it is so important for others to read about it. I challenge readers to pick up this book and read it from cover to cover. It is by no means an easy task. This is a difficult book to read emotionally. However, this is such a poignant and impactful memoir to read. The author’s story includes many important basic human rights issues. The story tactfully covers issues like sex trafficking, rape, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, homophobia, drug/alcohol abuse, racism, and, sadly, even more.
Jesse Leon is one of many children who have been completely failed by the system. I wish more could have been done on behalf of the author. Although this story took place decades ago, this country still struggles with these issues and continues to fail children like Jesse Leon.
This was a very challenging subject to read through, but the author handled their story with much gravitas and grounding,
In his incredible memoir “I’m not broken”, Jesse León talks about his experience as a survivor of CSA in the seventies, understanding his life experience as a second generation latin immigrant in the USA, a queer kid growing up in the seventies in a hyper masculine culture, and how his experience of CSA marked his development and exploration of sexuality in a world that was already really difficult for queer people, specially BIPOC.
I enjoyed this book and the way Jesse managed to tell a very difficult and personal story, show how far he’s come, and centered his narration in the people around him, acknowledging that his recovery was hard and was something he managed with great difficulty, and how important his family and friends were as a support system. I was afraid it was gonna be a “I’ve gone through worse and managed to achieve so many things, so everyone else isn’t trying hard enough” and it was the opposite.
The author managed to depict one of the worst things a person can go through, and the way he started that part of his story felt raw and sudden, and painful to read. I though it was really poetic the way is so unexpected as a reader, how he managed to communicate his experience like that. It was also very interesting the way he analyzed his feelings at the time, talking about how as a latine kid, being raised in a very sexist community, the CSA by a man really affected how he felt around his own masculinity.
There were some issues with the parts written in Spanish, from very imprecisa translations, to using conjugations that didn’t go together, which seems like mistakes in the editing process. An English reader probably wouldn’t notice, but as a Spanish speaker it was very noticeable to me.
Overall, this book was really hard to read because it was raw ad explicit in the way it depicted drug abuse, suicide ideation, sexual assault & exploitation, among others, and while I think it was really well written and had a really interesting and thorough sociological analysis of identity, trauma and intersectional ways of oppression, it’s definitely not for everybody and I certainly hope that the final version includes clear TW. I liked it, and I think it was well written so I do recommend it, but as a very hard topic, I’d say it should be read carefully. (*)
Wow, wow, wow! I just finished this memoir, and I'll be thinking of this for a long time.
I'm Not Broken is Jesse Leon's story of survival, overcoming challenges, and hope. This was such a powerful memoir, but it does cover some really traumatic topics. I am blown away by the author's strength in sharing his story (and not holding back any of the details).
Be sure to review the content warnings before starting this one, if needed, but I do highly recommend this memoir to others!
Thank you Vintage Books and Netgalley for the #gifted e-copy!
That was a hard heartbreaking story. Dang, several times I wanted to stop because it hurt too much.
But then I realized it was done to Jesse who is the survivor and took the time to write it down.
This story took my breath away, literally, here I was lying in my comfortable bed, reading about, physical and mental abuse, bullying, sexual molestation, pimped out, he was just a young intelligent teenager, child of Mexican immigrants, starting with a disadvantage. He was the unlucky one who had to buy water balloons at the age of eleven.
And this was just the beginning.
Struggling with school, his sexual identity, college, addiction, and sexual encounters. Meeting lots of people with the most diverse intentions.
Watching Jesse gliding down the miserable slope called life, was absolutely heartbreaking. The lines he sniffed are countless, the pills ditto, the much-needed sex work ditto.
As a bystander, you feel powerless. It’s up to one person!
The way up is hell, it seems almost impossible!
“Why? What did I do to deserve this?”
He was already a ghost, too thin, intoxicated, with several addictions, anxiety, and depression, and he barely survived.
Walking upon the right person at the right time can make a difference.
Still, you got to do it yourself, and oh my goodness, deep bow and respect, he came from far but he did it!
“They told me to chase my recovery like I chased my dope, and I did.”
What an amazing journey, a must-read. I got a look into a completely different world.
So many lines to highlight!
“people who judge don’t matter, and people who matter don’t judge.”
There are many many ugly persons in this world, incompetent therapists, failing teachers, harassing officers, people taking what they want, limitless people. Thank goodness there are also many good people in this world, who are dedicated, loving, and caring.
I cried for Jesse and my heart glowed for him.
He found his purpose in life.
Thank you Jesse for sharing, todo el amor es para ti!
I can’t do justice to this journey with my review, I did my best!
Jesse Leon is the son of Mexican immigrants, born in 1974 and raised in pre-gentrified San Diego. Always the quiet one, called “nerd” by his brother and friends because he wore glasses, young Jesse preferred to stick close to home, studying and helping his mother in the kitchen. As his academics improved he was transferred to a magnet school.
While he may have taken some bullying for being “the smart kid”, Leon’s young life was on a good track until the day, at age 11, when he was sexually molested in a harrowing encounter and his whole life changed. Threatened that his mother would be killed if he told anyone he had been molested, young Jesse fell under the power of his molester. The abuse continued and grew to include other abusers.
To hide his pain he turned to alcohol and drugs. His life began a slow spiral downwards into addiction and prostitution. Though he finally got free of his abuser, the downward spiral continued through his high school years and into his early adulthood at the local community college.
Leon’s memoir, I’m Not Broken, covers his young life and descent, and how he was able to climb back up and go on to graduate from Harvard. He details his journey to sobriety by way of Narcotics Anonymous, and his struggle to understand and accept his sexual orientation.
Today Jesse Leon is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School, with a masters in Public Policy. Since the events covered in his book he’s gone on to have a long and successful career.
This book is a frank and honest recounting that doesn’t shy away from the darkness and pain. It’s all relayed in a rather matter of fact tone, and I found that even when the subject matter was intense that the way it was told somewhat flattened out the impact. I can’t really put my finger on exactly why, but I got the feeling as I read the book that Leon, even as he revealed so much to us as readers, was still trying to hold back and not let us get in over our heads.
The end of the journey is positive and inspiring. Part of the lessons Jesse learned is that he could not climb back up by himself, but instead he needed to allow himself to be vulnerable, to ask for help, and to trust that there were others who would help him. And from that he learned to give help in return.
Given the subject matter there are numerous trigger warnings - sexual abuse, suicidal ideation, racism, rape, prostitution, and drug use at a minimum.
This is a relatively short book and was a quick read.
RATING: Three and a Half Stars ⭐⭐⭐🌠
NOTE: I received an advanced copy of this book from Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley, and am voluntarily providing this review. The book is due out on August 23rd, 2022.
TW: racism, sexual assault/ rape, trafficking, prostitution, substance abuse, suicide ideation (please check for other triggers before reading)
Wow. Having just finished this amazing memoir I have no idea what to write… I will say that it is definitely a novel worth reading if you are able to due to the content.
I’m Not Broken follows the life of Jesse Leon, a Mexican-American male who grew up in San Diego during the 1980s. At the beginning of the book we see a successful young man graduating from Harvard University, but as the novel progresses we see that life events which lead him to that point were unexpected and traumatic. One such event which occurred in his childhood lead him down a disastrous path involving substance abuse, prostitution and suicidal ideation. What keeps you going as a reader is knowing that he manages to turn his life around against all odds and becomes a graduate from one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
This memoir is truly amazing! It is beautifully written by Leon and captures such traumatic moments unflinchingly as well as the hurt suffered, not only by Jesse, but by his loved ones. As we followed Leon, we also saw him grapple with confusion surrounding his sexuality and racism in the USA. As a reader, I thought that whenever something traumatic occurred which was linked to his battle with addiction or prostitution, that it would be the moment he left that world. However, he provided a more realistic account that meant that although those events occured, it didn’t necessarily mean he was able to leave them behind and instead may have meant that he fell deeper into addiction and street life.
It is a memoir that will stay with me for a long time.
Read: for a moving memoir from a Mexican- American male, reminiscent of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies 🇲🇽
NB: Thank you to NetGalley and from Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for giving me an eARC of this book (pub. 23.08.22). I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I'm Not Broken is truly an inspiring and heart-wrenching memoir, and it's a book that is difficult to put down.
This is a boy who's fighting against his fate and eventually finds his way in the American society. Jesse Leon is real in his words about how the American society treats him as part of the colored LGBTQ+ community. At the same time, the book also reveals some ugly truth of drug addicts, abuse, rape and sex trafficking.
While not memoir is not everyone's cup of tea, I still want to recommend this book to all readers that care about the minorities and their rights. For me, it is difficult to swallow all the emotions in the book, but it is definitely an essential read for all.
“Stop fighting. You lost the war, not the battle. But the war.”
This was such a harrowing, inspiring, and unforgettable read. I started reading this memoir and, before I knew it, was a quarter of the way through without coming up for air. This is the story of a young Mexican boy in America, who came up against the odds.
His words possessed a raw honesty and realness, and his voice tells his story unflinchingly. He brings this story to life with such authenticity, and it really hits a nerve.
If, like myself, you loved From the Ashes or Breaking Night, I highly recommend this book. To say I couldn’t put it down would be an understatement.
Thanks Netgalley for the opportunity to review this arc.
I'm Not Broken is a memoir of the child of Mexican immigrants. It tells the story of a childhood devastated by sex trafficking, street life, and substance abuse.
This is the first memoir I've ever read and once I start reading it, I couldn't put my device down. It's bleak and realistic. It tells the journey of the author, Jesse Lion, and how his life and innocence was robbed and filled with mistakes, devastation, self-destructs, until one day he reached out to the people around him. This memoir tells the journey like how it is with no unnecessary censorship that shows us the rough road the author experienced. Jesse Lion did not shy away from describing the brutal reality of how the American society treats the coloured LGBTQ+ community in a lot of aspects. It also shows the ugly truth of drug addicts, substance abuse in general, and lost adolescence due to rape and sex trafficking.
I feel like everyone should read this book because there are a lot of things that could be dissected. If the author someday decide to attend a book club event to talk about this book or just get involved in an interview with someone from the reader community, I'd like to see and or hear directly of the author's life.
Disclosure : Thank you Netgalley and Knopf Doubleday for my ARC of this book. The following is my honest opinion
I'm at a loss of where even to begin with this review. I'm Not Broken is the battle cry of a man who had everything taken away from him, but refused to be defined by what was done to him. This book is one of the most heart-wrenching memoirs I've read. Jesse Leon spilled out his soul on the page to tell his tale of unimaginable cruelty and inspiring perseverance. The true story of a young man's journey from the barrio of San Diego to the hallowed halls of Harvard University, I'm Not Broken is a difficult but necessary read. This book is the harrowing true story of a young child with a promising future who was robbed of his childhood and almost lost it all in the aftermath to self-destruction.
TW : Sexual Assault, Rape, Sexual Exploitation, Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence
Pub Date Aug 23, 2022