HOLLYWOOD PARK is a remarkable memoir of a tumultuous life. Mikel Jollett was born into one of the country’s most infamous cults, and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse. Yet, ultimately, his is a story of fierce love and family loyalty told in a raw, poetic voice that signals the emergence of a uniquely gifted writer.
We were never young. We were just too afraid of ourselves. No one told us who we were or what we were or where all our parents went. They would arrive like ghosts, visiting us for a morning, an afternoon. They would sit with us or walk around the grounds, to laugh or cry or toss us in the air while we screamed. Then they’d disappear again, for weeks, for months, for years, leaving us alone with our memories and dreams, our questions and confusion. …
So begins Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett’s remarkable memoir. His story opens in an experimental commune in California, which later morphed into the Church of Synanon, one of the country’s most infamous and dangerous cults. Per the leader’s mandate, all children, including Jollett and his older brother, were separated from their parents when they were six months old, and handed over to the cult’s “School.” After spending years in what was essentially an orphanage, Mikel escaped the cult one morning with his mother and older brother. But in many ways, life outside Synanon was even harder and more erratic.
In his raw, poetic and powerful voice, Jollett portrays a childhood filled with abject poverty, trauma, emotional abuse, delinquency and the lure of drugs and alcohol. Raised by a clinically depressed mother, tormented by his angry older brother, subjected to the unpredictability of troubled step-fathers and longing for contact with his father, a former heroin addict and ex-con, Jollett slowly, often painfully, builds a life that leads him to Stanford University and, eventually, to finding his voice as a writer and musician.
Hollywood Park is told at first through the limited perspective of a child, and then broadens as Jollett begins to understand the world around him. Although Mikel Jollett’s story is filled with heartbreak, it is ultimately an unforgettable portrayal of love at its fiercest and most loyal.
About the Author
Mikel Jollett is the frontman of the indie band The Airborne Toxic Event. Prior to forming the band, Jollett graduated with honors from Stanford University. He was an on-air columnist for NPR's All Things Considered, an editor-at-large for Men's Health and an editor at Filter magazine. His fiction has been published in McSweeney's.
“Hollywood Park is amazing. Mikel Jollett takes the shards of a broken childhood – imagine a life where escaping from a violent cult is somehow not a path to safety – and makes it a universal story of the struggle to find connection in a brutally beautiful world. His story zigs where you think it’s going to zag, and even the most irredeemable characters somehow surprise us with their tenacity. It’s a complicated story with a simple payoff: this is how the light gets in, this is how an artist gets made.”
— GLEN DAVID GOLD, author of Carter Beats the Devil
“Hollywood Park is the often heartbreaking, always honest story of a confused boy struggling to make sense of a crazy world. It’s filled with pain, poverty, and violence but also with surprising love, rock and roll, and unexpected triumphs.”
— DARIN STRAUSS, NBCC-winning author of Half a Life
“This is a memoir, but it’s also a song—a lyrical labyrinth that weaves and mesmerizes, all the while proving there’s nothing more dangerous or powerful than a parent’s love. Hollywood Park is a magical debut. Loved it.”
— BRAD MELTZER, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Escape Artist
“Hollywood Park is full of moving portraits of Jollett’s brother, his father, and his band of contemporaries. To read these pages is to love them right along with him.”
— SEAN WILSEY, author of Oh the Glory of It All