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Mama's Boy

A Story from Our Americas
Narrated by: Dustin Lance Black
Length: 14 hrs and 12 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (110 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This heartfelt, deeply personal memoir explores how one a celebrated filmmaker and activist and his conservative Mormon mother built bridges across today’s great divides - and how our stories hold the power to heal.

Dustin Lance Black wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Milk and helped overturn California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, but as an LGBTQ activist he has unlikely origins - a conservative Mormon household outside San Antonio, Texas. His mother, Anne, was raised in rural Louisiana and contracted polio when she was two years old. She endured brutal surgeries, as well as braces and crutches for life, and was told that she would never have children or a family. Willfully defying expectations, she found salvation in an unlikely faith, raised three rough-and-rowdy boys, and escaped the abuse and violence of two questionably devised Mormon marriages before finding love and an improbable career in the US civil service. 

By the time Lance came out to his mother at age 21, he was a blue-state young man studying the arts instead of going on his Mormon mission. She derided his sexuality as a sinful choice and was terrified for his future. It may seem like theirs was a house destined to be divided, and at times it was. This story shines light on what it took to remain a family despite such division - a journey that stretched from the steps of the US Supreme Court to the woodsheds of East Texas. In the end, the rifts that have split a nation couldn’t end this relationship that defined and inspired their remarkable lives. 

Mama’s Boy is their story. It’s a story of the noble quest for a plane higher than politics - a story of family, foundations, turmoil, tragedy, elation, and love. It is a story needed now more than ever.

©2019 Dustin Lance Black (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Black grew up in the South, surrounded by stories - the telling sometimes fueled by Jack Daniels - that made people stronger. As a result, he fell in love with the magic of storytelling and has himself become a consummate storyteller, as he demonstrates in this beautifully written, vastly entertaining, and moving memoir. The most powerful stories are the most personal, Black believes, and, in that context, the most important figure in his story is his indomitable mother, who, a victim of childhood polio, had no use of her legs but refused to let that stop her. From her tough, stubborn heart, he inherited his own strong will and optimism.... Black seems incapable of writing a dull word as he evokes his stirring life and times, ultimately inspiring comity by word and example. His book belongs in every library.” (Booklist, starred review)

“A magnificent achievement. I cannot remember a book where I cried so often. Brave, insightful, unflinching, funny, sad, triumphant...everything. And both a warning and a hope for the times to come.” (Stephen Fry, author of Heroes and More Fool Me)

Mama’s Boy is a beautifully written, utterly compelling account of growing up poor and gay with a thrice married, physically disabled, deeply religious Mormon mother, and the imprint this irrepressible woman made on the character of Dustin Lance Black. Their extraordinary bond left me exhilarated - it actually gave me hope for the future of the republic, which is no mean feat, given the dark mood of our current moment.” (Jon Krakauer, author of Missoula and Under the Banner of Heaven)

“At the center of this thought-provoking memoir, Black, who won an Academy Award for the screenplay for Milk, offers a heartfelt tribute to Anne, his courageously inspiring yet deeply religious and politically conservative mother.... Black provides a wholly engrossing account of how a mother and son evolved beyond their potentially divisive religious and political beliefs to uncover a source of strength and unity through their enduring bond. A terrifically moving memoir of the myriad complexities of family dynamics." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

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Consider reading instead of listening to this book

I wonder if I would have enjoyed this story more if I had read his words instead of listening to the audio version. I actually feel guilty writing this because of his obvious sincerity, but it felt uncomfortably overwrought. (Perhaps I am more emotionally repressed than I realized because the vast majority of the other reviews so far have really appreciated his tremulous narration.) But perhaps it goes beyond the melodramatic tone. The writing itself often felt like I was listening to fiction.

I suppose it is a matter of style and personal taste but I like my non-fiction to have a more authentic feel than this provided. It felt embellished to an annoying degree. I don't doubt the facts necessarily, but I found myself involuntarily rolling my eyes many times at the wording or style of his storytelling. It kind of reminded me of the Nancy Drew stories I read as a youngster: "Her titian hair glowing in the luminous rays of the sun . . . "

But the bottom line is that this is his story to tell in his own way, and he accomplishes that completely. No doubt about that.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Loved this!

Beautiful story, made even more so by the authentic emotional narration by the author. Thank you Mr. Black for sharing your mom with the rest of the world!!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Not just a Mama’s boy...

While this book is certainly a love letter to the author’s mother; there is so much more here. It chronicles and personalizes pivotal moments in the fight for marriage equality. By far the most important journey this book takes you on is the one traveled by those of us raised Mormon (or any other conservative Christian religion). We grew up with the positive values and work ethic instilled by a Christian community, only to find ourselves cast out for our sexual orientation. This book shows the next generation that you don’t have to choose between a life of Christian values and being an LGBTQ human being. DLB’s story is just one example of someone finding their way through and coming out on the other end with the marriage, family, and hope they at times thought they might not deserve.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful

This book was emotional and brilliant. I love hearing the story through Lance's voice, it really brought the story to life.

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Rose

I have read this wonderful book twice. Lance hosted a livestream on IG the other day where I learned he had made an audio version. I think it’s clear to everyone that I recommend this book; after all, I have read it 3 times.

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A Must Read!

A very well written story about a loving intelligent man who’s personal experiences are shared. This includes family, religion, and many struggles and triumphs. His fight for equality and perseverance is told with courage and passion. I throughly enjoyed this American story of the bond between a son and his mother that was unbreakable. Hope to meet him one day because his story is very similar to mine, but my struggles still continue. His story gives me hope though. Keep on fighting Lance! I will too!

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Truly Beautiful

Two memoirs intricately and beautifully woven into one. A story as loving and uplifting as it is heartbreaking. I loved both the author's story of growing up and his mother's of overcoming a debilitating childhood illness. So much strength and love. So well written. Thank you, DLB. Keep up the good fight!

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Jack

A beautiful story of strength and survival—-emotionally read by it’s author. I can’t to recommend it more highly—

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Just when you think you have plugged your tear ducts ...

Lance’s story is a validation ... that my generation’s efforts to build a better America where GLBT people have a right to live legitimate & valuable lives with our heads held high ... has succeeded ... so that the next generation ... Lance’s ... can advance to the next level of evolution.

You are a masterful storyteller. Your mother would be proud of how graciously told her story. It helped me tap into complex grief following the recent death of my own mother and for that assistance, I am deeply grateful.

Lance builds bridges ... masterfully !!

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Beautiful Story

Inspiring and beautiful - and layered with so many real socio-economic realities that remain poignant in today’s complicated world. Dustin’s reading of his memoir makes it especially engaging and personal. Highly recommend!