Shame: An Unconventional Memoir – Josh Roggie

Shame Josh Roggie
Shame: An Unconventional Memoir by Josh Roggie
Published by Quoir on February 11, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
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four-stars

Shame is a sickness that festers in the soul. When left in isolation, it runs rampant--attacking our spirit, reshaping our identity, and dismantling us to our very core. We've been pressured by society to present only our best attributes, but weaknesses, guilt, and pain simply don't go away when ignored.

In Shame: An Unconventional Memoir, Josh Roggie doesn't just reveal the guilt, disappointment, and embarrassment that has been present in his life--he seeks to overcome it through wit and abundant oversharing.

From being born into a puritanical household, to dealing with bullying throughout school and heavy doses of anxiety, he reveals the foundation that would define his longest-lasting pains. By including stories on infertility, ever-evolving theology, and even masturbation, he makes it clear that no topic is off-limits.

Shame is for anyone who has wondered what it would feel like to be known, despite all the things that they've done or that have been done to them. It's time to realize true freedom by bringing shame to the light, where it will wither and die.

Memoirs are generally written by famous people, something Josh Roggie is decidedly not. (Sorry, Josh. Maybe someday?) But that lends a unique—or perhaps a better word is unconventional—aspect to his story.

Shame: An Unconventional Memoir is not some celebrity’s struggle with fame and success or failure or shame. It’s not an expose on the life of the rich and famous. It exposes Josh Roggie: everyday 90s kid who grew up in the conservative evangelical environment and who has moved away from aspects of that upbringing while embracing other aspects. For those of us (myself included) who grew up similarly, you’re kind of left thinking “Wow, I wasn’t alone after all” and it makes you reflect on how many of your childhood friends were going through the same thing.

Shame is written like a series of one-sided conversations. Pause long enough at the appropriate times and you’ll find yourself mentally asking the question that Roggie goes on to cover next. The tone is honest, blunt, and even jarring at times. Roggie doesn’t write like he’s writing to strangers. He writes as one does to a friend, with all the casualness and anecdotal humor that goes alongside. The result could be polarizing.

If this a conversation you want to engage in, Roggie keeps you drawn in. But if the subject matter is too uncomfortable or awkward, it could be easy to check out. There’s no barrier, no filter, between Roggie and his reader. It’s intentional and it works for audience Roggie wants—but don’t go into this expecting a light and easy read.

Shame covers an abundance of topics from swearing to sex, body image to bullying, always keeping the focus on how shame can drive us away from others and from God rather than drawing us closer. Shame was meant to be a motivator, but it often had the opposite effect—driving sin into secret places and entrenching individuals in addiction because it was too taboo to talk about. Roggie doesn’t hold back in talking about his own experiences and how that has shaped and molded him and his faith.

I’m not sure what I think about this book as a published venture. It’s got a limited audience—Who is going to pick up a memoir of someone they’ve never heard of? Traditional rules would suggest that an author build a brand, maybe blog on the topic, then parlay that writing and audience into a book. But the title is compelling and the partnership with Quoir to publish may just put the awareness of this book into the eyes of the right audience.

Roggie’s writing isn’t polished, but it is precise. The subject material doesn’t always meld seamlessly into the thematic concept and not every anecdote hits. You feel like you’re at a bar with a buddy and he’s just opening up to you. It doesn’t have to be perfect for you to just sit and listen and understand and commiserate. It’s Roggie working out his life through story and seeking to find meaning through some of his most difficult and memorable circumstances.

Shame is real-life. It’s not the bland, carefully-coiffed memoir of a celebrity. It’s not the incoherent ramblings of a series of late-night Facebook posts from that friend of a friend you barely know. It’s an honest and sincere presentation of Josh’s life that he invites the reader into—to listen, to learn, and to just simply share. And there’s power in that kind of story, I think.

four-stars

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