When Joshua Safran was four years old, his mother--determined to protect him from the threats of nuclear war and Ronald Reagan--took to the open road with her young son, leaving the San Francisco countercultural scene behind. Read more...
When Joshua Safran was four years old, his mother--determined to protect him from the threats of nuclear war and Ronald Reagan--took to the open road with her young son, leaving the San Francisco countercultural scene behind. Together they embarked on a journey to find a utopia they could call home. In "Free Spirit," Safran tells the harrowing, yet wryly funny story of his childhood chasing this perfect life off the grid--and how they survived the imperfect one they found instead.
Encountering a cast of strange and humorous characters along the way, Joshua spends his early years living in a series of makeshift homes, including shacks, teepees, buses, and a lean-to on a stump. His colorful youth darkens, however, when his mother marries an alcoholic and abusive guerrilla/poet.
Throughout it all, Joshua yearns for a "normal" life, but when he finally reenters society through school, he finds "America" a difficult and confusing place. Years spent living in the wilderness and discussing Marxism have not prepared him for the Darwinian world of teenagers, and he finds himself bullied and beaten by classmates who don't share his mother's belief about reveling in one's differences.
Eventually, Joshua finds the strength to fight back against his tormentors, both in school and at home, and helps his mother find peace. But "Free Spirit" is more than just a coming-of-age story. It is also a journey of the spirit, as he reconnects with his Jewish roots; a tale of overcoming adversity; and a captivating read about a childhood unlike any other.
- ISBN-13: 9781401324605
- ISBN-10: 1401324606
- Publisher: Hachette Books
- Publish Date: September 2013
- Page Count: 288
- Reading Level: Ages 18-UP
- Dimensions: 9.56 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.14 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-07-08
- Reviewer: Staff
Raised by a woman (Claudia, never mom, whose quest to flee modern society survived long after hippie idealism became passé), Safran spent the 1970s and 1980s in communes, cabins, and the occasional bus. The author didn’t regularly attend school until he was 11, when his bucolic upbringing made him a target for bullies. Adding to the misery was Claudia’s big heart and idealism, which allowed for a series of bad relationships, culminating in a tumultuous marriage to an alcoholic ex-Salvadoran revolutionary named Leopoldo. The young Safran can only sit helplessly as this sporadically employed thug regularly beats Claudia, apologizes, and starts the cycle anew. As he gets older, Safran recognizes that education is his way out—and that he can confront Leopoldo. Safran, an attorney, has written a beautiful, powerful memoir that shows how a son and his mother both grew up and survived amid chaos. Even better, he recalls events without condemnation or condescension. This assured debut is reminiscent of David Sedaris’s and Augusten Burroughs’s best work: introspective, hilarious, and heartbreaking. . B&w photos throughout. (Sept.)