Finalist for a Lambda Literary Award
Chris Rush was born into a prosperous, fiercely Roman Catholic, New Jersey family. But underneath the gleaming mid-century house, the flawless hostess mom, and the thriving businessman dad ran an unspoken tension that, amid the upheaval of the late 1960s, was destined to fracture their precarious facade.
His older sister Donna introduces him to the charismatic Valentine, who places a tab of acid on twelve-year-old Rush’s tongue, proclaiming: “This is sacrament. You are one of us now.”
After an unceremonious ejection from an experimental art school, Rush heads to Tuscon to make a major drug purchase and, still barely a teenager, disappears into the nascent American counterculture. Stitching together a ragged assemblage of lowlifes, prophets, and fellow wanderers, he seeks kinship in the communes of the west. His adolescence is spent looking for knowledge, for the divine, for home. Given what Rush confronts on his travels—from ordinary heartbreak to unimaginable violence—it is a miracle he is still alive.
The Light Years is a prayer for vanished friends, an odyssey signposted with broken and extraordinary people. It transcends one boy’s story to perfectly illustrate the slow slide from the optimism of the 1960s into the darker and more sinister 1970s. This is a riveting, heart-stopping journey of discovery and reconciliation, as Rush faces his lost childhood and, finally, himself.
"[A] lucid miracle of [a] literary masterpiece . . . I wanted to talk to him about how he managed to come through the tsunami of the wildest memoir I’ve read, not only alive, but seemingly improved. How did he write a first book in such dazzling, sparkling prose—so incredibly deft in execution, so precise and artistic in naturalistic descriptions—and so loving in human portraiture? How did he get brought from the desert, to share with us this light?"—Luke Goebel, Vice
"The Light Years Is More Than a Queer Coming-of-Age Story. It’s a Quest for the Divine . . . filled with sentences lit from the inside like [Rush's] paintings"—Alexander Chee, Time
"In this vibrant memoir, artist Rush recounts his strange and colorful childhood and adolescence . . . Rush’s storytelling shines as he travels across the country and back again, searching for truth, love, UFOs in New Mexico, peace, something that feels like God, and a place to call home. This is a mesmerizing record of his journey through adolescence." —Publisher's Weekly (starred)
Reviews from Goodreads
We’re in the basement, hiding from the heat. I’m in a sweaty heap with my little brothers, Mike and Steve, and two neighbor kids, Becky and Jimmy. We lie on the floor, silent,...