Streetchild

I did a lot of research trying to find the right authors to review my book. I went through amazon.com book by book in genres that complimented mine: gay memoirs, entertainment memoirs, OCD memoirs, sex worker memoirs, and child molestation memoirs.  I even searched for “hair memoirs”.

I researched each and every book and it’s author and made a decision as to whether I felt the author’s point of view could work with mine. Some fit the bill and some did not.

I just finished a new video book trailer for youtube that I will release in a few weeks. I needed some help and crossed paths with someone who admitted that he was a Seattle street punk in the early 1980’s–the era of the Oscar-nominated Martin Bell documentary Streetwise. He knew a few of the people in the movie.

I was shocked. This was a ordinary and adjusted guy in his 40’s. One assumes that most street characters didn’t have a long life span or healthy lifestyle. I was very wrong about my helper.

I had not shared much about my book with this particular friend. I handed him the advance copy and he quickly knew all the references to the dark underbelly of Seattle I wrote about. I was only ten years behind him on the streets of Seattle. He asked me if I had heard of the memoir Streetchild: An Unpaved Passage by Justin Reed Early. I had not. I quickly spun around in my chair and found the book on amazon.com and bought it immediately. How had I missed this book?

When the book arrived in the mail, I read it in almost one sitting. His book was the yin to my yang. Justin was sadly the child version of many of the older guys I met. He was tossed out of his parent’s house and was living on the streets by the age of ten (yes…ten years old). He was a drug addict and used prostitution to support himself for many years. He had the distinction of being the youngest person to ever be arrested for prostitution in Seattle’s history. His story is shocking and heart-wrenching. He is briefly featured in the documentary Streetwise.

Justin Reed Early was off the streets of Seattle just as I was getting getting started, so we never met. However, his older brother (also a drug addict who later died of AIDS) was living on the streets downtown in the early 1990’s at the same time as I was preying on hustler’s hair. Perhaps I shaved his brother’s head?

The thing that struck me was how similar Mr. Early’s and my stories were emotionally, despite him being a prostitute and me being the street’s “Haircut John”. Both of us had poor relationships with our fathers and we both struggled with our homosexuality. We both craved love and we self-medicated, spiraling out of control. Even the styles of storytelling in each of our books were similar.

I feel like every man on earth who wants to be a father or who is already a father of a young boy should read both Shorn and Streetchild as lesson on What-not-to-do-to-your-son. If a father-to-be doesn’t see the damage he can do by being violent (as in Justin’s dad) or uninvolved and ashamed (as in my dad), then they should rethink becoming a father. The homophobia of both of our fathers was too hurtful for words. The memoirs should be a cautionary lesson for all.

Luckily, both Justin Reed Early and I were able to forgive our fathers and move on with our lives. There are scars to show, but hopefully one can see the hope through the darkness lived in the shadows of our fathers.

About Dennis

Dennis Milam Bensie’s poem “Eight Ball” was published in Greater National Society of Poets, Inc in 1980 when he was a freshman in high school. It was featured thirty years later in his memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men. His short stories, poetry and essays have been featured all over the web and in print. His second book, One Gay American, was chosen as a finalist in both the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Book Awards. His latest book Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature has been featured in Kolaj Magazine and was a part of Tribe Magazine’s “Anti-Shame Week”. The author has been a presenter at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans and at Montana’s very first gay pride festival.
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