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Sink: A Memoir by Joseph Earl Thomas

A book review

By Alexis M. CollazoPublished 3 months ago 3 min read

I've always liked things that were just a little bit different and outside of the usual norms. In terms of reading, the last couple of years I've really been enjoying work that doesn't follow traditional narrative structures. One genre where I've really seen some fun experimental narratives has been in memoirs. It's not just because they stand out, but because the playfulness with the form enhances the story being told.

Sink by Joseph Earl Thomas is a one of these uniquely written memoirs. Told mostly in third person vignettes, Thomas writes about his childhood self, Joey. The book covers a handful of years, between the ages of about nine to thirteen as he struggles to fit in at school, in his neighborhood, and his own family. He's bullied and abused for not being tough enough, manly enough or black enough. His interest in so called white boy stuff--video games, rock music and anime--along with his sensitivity make him a target for name calling, violent attacks and repeated humiliations.

Instead of hardening or responding with violence, he retreats into the fantasy worlds of anime and video games. We see this actually play out in the writing as Thomas interweaves reality with fictional characters and events in the narration of Joey's stories. There are moments where everything blends together, creating surreal scenes where it's hard to differentiate between what is real and imagined. It gets a little confusing at moments, however, I was able to follow what was happening without completely understanding it. In this way it mimics how children, and more specifically Joey, see the world. He grew up quickly due to his experiences with violence, sex and addiction at a young age. Yet he still has a very immature and naive understanding of these and other adult aspects of the world.

Some of Joey's experiences will likely feel familiar to anybody who grew up interested in comics, video games or other aspects of geek culture. For many these interests provided an escape from the real world while also isolating them further and making them targets for ridicule. Thankfully, due to the rise in popularity it's no longer automatic social suicide. (Although it does sting that it's not just okay but even kind of cool when there was a time you hid your "weird" interests or faced the consequences.)

But no matter what your interests are, or were, you'll be able to identify with Joey's struggle to find his place. Much of the story is simply about him figuring out who he is and where he belongs. Not only does he struggle to fit in with peers but is often treated like a burden and neglected by his own family. What's most heartbreaking is his constant search for affection and love.

This book is incredibly engaging and beautifully written. The third person narration was perfect for giving the author the distance necessary to convey the childlike perspective in an authentic voice. It allows the reader to accept the stories without looking for introspection or reflection on the events from the adult author. I'd love to recommend it to everybody but should warn that it's a difficult read. There's are some disturbing scenes along with just really sad moments. There were points where I didn't want to keep reading but I was so absorbed in it that I couldn't stop. It's totally worth the emotional fallout.

You can preorder a copy of Sink today, it will be released February 21, 2023.

Above is an affiliate link. All opinions are my own and I do not get paid for them. However, as an affiliate I do make a commission off purchases using included links.

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About the Creator

Alexis M. Collazo

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. An avid reader, writer and multimedia creator. Relocated to Pennsylvania where she is currently focused on writing, crafting and leading workshops online. Visit for more info.

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