This is a memoir that exemplifies the phrase coined by the feminist Carol Hanisch in an essay she wrote in 1969, “The Personal is Political.” The essay was in response to criticism of consciousness raising groups.
Moore spent a good deal of his early life thinking that the his personal circumstances and the personal circumstances of his underprivileged Black community, residents of Camden, NJ, were due to personal failure. He believed he could escape those circumstances by personal fortitude. Lack of success was internalized as personal failure. As Moore reflects on his life through his memoir, he describes a paradigm shift. He comes to see feeling shame because he was born Black, gay, and economically disadvantaged was undeserved; self-hate was the product of legal and social systems that were designed to hold him back and render him “less than” both in the world and in his own imagination. As his life unfolds, he sees that his personal problems are political problems. He comes to understand that the oppressions he has experienced are what many currently label intersectionality. Consciousness raising sessions were very controversial among feminists in the 1960’s. Even many ardent feminists saw them as “therapy sessions.” Well meaning social justice activists continue to downplay some people’s personal stories (eg. trans stories are often marginalized), or worse, use personal stories to blame and shame. Those who oppress often use the stories of the oppressed against the oppressed. When personal stories grounded in oppression are detached from deeper more insidious social justice issues and used against the oppressed, they threaten democracy. Moore makes himself very vulnerable as he tells his readers his own moving story of transformation. His reflections help us understand how he transformed shame and self-blame into self-understanding and a passion for social justice. This is more than a memoir. It is an inspiring tale for our tumultuous times, a roadmap toward hope grounded in reality.