We all recall one momentous event in our lives that dramatically altered our direction and violently shook our sense of self, shaping us in myriad ways. In his absorbing and lovely The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered, Benjamin Taylor recalls such an event, using it as the tantalizing entry point to his memories of growing up gay and Jewish in Texas.
Early on the morning of November 22, 1963, 11-year-old Taylor gets to shake President John F. Kennedy’s hand in Fort Worth, Texas. Later that day, he hears the news that Kennedy has been assassinated. In achingly gorgeous prose, Taylor reflects on the incongruity of these two moments, which leads to childhood remembrances of making and losing friends, his discovery of a love of politics and playwriting, and his halting lessons in the ways that families sometimes fall apart. He writes about his family with a clear-eyed vision: “The hue and cry at our house was against disorder, bedevilment, despair.”
In this memoir, Taylor pulls his family and his young life from the shores of forgetting, and he tells us he’s heaped up this “monument because my family—Annette, Sol, Tommy, Robby too—have vanished and I cannot allow oblivion to own them altogether.” Although his memoir sometimes moves confusingly between 1963 and 1964 and the present, Taylor nevertheless captivates with his vibrant recollections of immense moments and the life that grew out of them.