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ARC Review: I'm Not Broken: A Memoir


I’m Not Broken: A Memoir by Jesse Leon

Jesse Leon is the son of Mexican immigrants, born in 1974 and raised in pre-gentrified San Diego. Always the quiet one, called “nerd” by his brother and friends because he wore glasses, young Jesse preferred to stick close to home, studying and helping his mother in the kitchen. As his academics improved he was transferred to a magnet school.

While he may have taken some bullying for being “the smart kid”, Leon’s young life was on a good track until the day, at age 11, when he was sexually molested in a harrowing encounter and his whole life changed. Threatened that his mother would be killed if he told anyone he had been molested, young Jesse fell under the power of his molester. The abuse continued and grew to include other abusers.

To hide his pain he turned to alcohol and drugs. His life began a slow spiral downwards into addiction and prostitution. Though he finally got free of his abuser, the downward spiral continued through his high school years and into his early adulthood at the local community college.

Leon’s memoir, I’m Not Broken, covers his young life and descent, and how he was able to climb back up and go on to graduate from Harvard. He details his journey to sobriety by way of Narcotics Anonymous, and his struggle to understand and accept his sexual orientation. 

Today Jesse Leon is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School, with a masters in Public Policy. Since the events covered in his book he’s gone on to have a long and successful career. 

This book is a frank and honest recounting that doesn’t shy away from the darkness and pain. It’s all relayed in a rather matter of fact tone, and I found that even when the subject matter was intense that the way it was told somewhat flattened out the impact. I can’t really put my finger on exactly why, but I got the feeling as I read the book that Leon, even as he revealed so much to us as readers, was still trying to hold back and not let us get in over our heads.

The end of the journey is positive and inspiring. Part of the lessons Jesse learned is that he could not climb back up by himself, but instead he needed to allow himself to be vulnerable, to ask for help, and to trust that there were others who would help him. And from that he learned to give help in return.

Given the subject matter there are numerous trigger warnings - sexual abuse, suicidal ideation, racism, rape, prostitution, and drug use at a minimum. 

This is a relatively short book and was a quick read. 

RATING: Three and a Half Stars ⭐⭐⭐šŸŒ 

NOTE: I received an advanced copy of this book from Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley, and am voluntarily providing this review. The book is due out on August 23rd, 2022.

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Title: I’m Not Broken: A Memoir

Author: Jesse Leone

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday

Publish Date: August 23, 2022

ISBN-13: 9780593466513

Publisher’s List Price: $17.00 Paperback (as of 08/2022)