It has been some time since I read a book that I could not put down, Requiem- A Memoir of Sex, Madness, and Self Destruction by author, Fredy Espinoza is that book. It is a true story. It is his story. A lot of it rooted here in the bay area.
It is deeply layered centering on the story of a young gay, Latino boy with a mother suffering from severe paranoid schizophrenia. The writing is raw and so vivid, it brings you into the emotional turmoil quickly. The entrapment that is felt by the author and the destruction that happens to the family is palpable as they grapple with a mother with destructive mental illness. They love her but she has made their house a living hell. Mixed into this are some of the religious mores, superstitions and ignorance that only makes the problem worse. The reference that the Devil is in their house runs through the book.
You watch , through Fredy’s words, all his efforts trying to maintain a perfect family outside picture, while dealing with a a very closeted identity and also trying to maintain the sanity of an insane household situation. The heaviness of that emotional and psychological burden shatters on him in so many ways and it reflects on his decisions and actions throughout his life.
I have never seen the dysfunctionality of the American Dream portrayed so well in the personal life of a minority person who is drowning in self hatred as he perceives his identity as naught. Fueled by the issues at home and the image of his family, while perceiving the predominantly white American family has something better. The images become supernatural and are carried throughout the book. One of his coping mechanisms is another persona that is confident and strong, and also white with an anglo name.
This dis-attachment to his true self was how Fredy coped with such a traumatic home life. When he did come out and made first steps to accept his sexuality , his father threw him out of the house. His mother was institutionalized. A brother jailed for a very horrendous act. Fredy was homeless.
The stories are almost unbelievable as I read them. I literally wept.
Another survival tool he used was sex and was able to sometimes simply get off the streets for the night by simply having one night stands. He temporarily felt sexual power over men and some control using his natural beauty. It was only temporary and again he always was left wanting and self-absorbed. It also led to other self-destructive behaviors.
However, Fredy’s journey was also about desperately needed acceptance. He was always worried about what people thought and that he was in the “in” crowd. It permeates throughout the story. With some men , he quickly fell in love with them and found out later , in such a devastating way, that they did not really care for him the same way. Such rejection both set him back but also helped propel him to get out of this pattern.
The sex scenes in the book are pretty graphic but are not exploitative. You really get a sense of the role sex played in Fredy’s journey to self-actualization.
Fredy does learn to love himself. It is comes after such a horrendous and hellish path, I have simply given a very broad stroke of the rich story this book entails. Requiem is a testament to the strength and courage of the human spirit , that we can choose to not be controlled by how we grew up or what happened to us, but we can use those experiences and embrace them to become the best person we can be in all we do. It is also shows that we can truly love who we are as we are and that we deserve love.
Fredy Espinosa is a great voice for his generation and great writer.
Please read this book. You will be thinking about it , long after you have read the last chapter.
Note: Fredy Espinosa is an aspiring screenwriter living in Los Angeles and is working to making this book a film.
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