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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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What listeners say about Mama's Boy

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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!!

3 people found this 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.

3 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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As an older gay former Mormon this book had me in tears.

The message of reconnecting with family even if there are profound differences really hit home. I am inspired to do more to connect with biological family that is quite different from me. I still hold and cherish my Logical Family (See Armistead Maupin).

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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.

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Fantastic!!

I love memoirs and this now jumps to my list of top favorites, if not my #1. It is inspiring and intriguing and emotional and powerful and beautiful all in one. I loved the added emotion of the author reading it. I found it to just be a very wonderful and inspiring listen. I highly recommend it.

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Heartfelt Through and Through!!

If you’re not moved by this book, you do not have a soul... And that’s a promise!

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At times compelling. At time pretentious

This is both a biography of the author’s mom and a memoir of his own life. The story of his mom is compelling, heroic, and tragic. It is the best part of the book. In regards to his own story, Lance at times makes it seem like he, and he alone, is why there is marriage equality in America.

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simply amazing

loved it. my mom caught the last chapter while I was driving her to the doctor. she was so into it she called it her book. I even watched the play he wrote 8. and just finished the movie MILK

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What a gift.

Justin Lance Black needs none of my praise. But I do owe him honor and the deepest respect. Every parent of any child, be it a gay parent, or straight or bi or any combination imaginable should read Mama’s Boy and learn what parenthood means. Any parent would be proud of the man that is Justin Lance Black.