“A Gen-X This Boy’s Life. … [Jollett’s] visceral urge to leave his background behind propels him to excel. … In the end, Jollett shakes off the past to become the captain of his own soul. Hollywood Park is a triumph.”
―O, The Oprah Magazine

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“A painstaking emotional accounting of a tortured youth ultimately redeemed through music, therapy, and love.”
―Kirkus, Starred Review

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“… Engaging and heartbreaking. A good choice for fans of memoirs about overcoming dysfunctional childhoods like Educated and The Glass Castle.”
Booklist

You won’t want to put down the honest, revealing and incredible memoir Hollywood Park (Celadon Books) as it follows Mikel Jollett from a commune turned cult in the 1970s to the present day. Mikel and his older brother, Tony, were born into Synanon, a cult that initially helped addicts like their father, but was ultimately shut down decades later due to violent criminal activities and legal problems. All the children living there were abandoned by parents, fending for themselves and having nothing of their own. Mikel’s mother escaped with Mikel and Tony, ready to make a fresh start, but it was not easy.

They went to live with their grandparents, and Mikel, young and hopeful, tried to have an open mind and understand his world. He was an old soul and was caring toward the woman who called herself Mom. In Synanon, Mikel was a baby and had a caregiver he adored, but his older brother had been left without a mother for seven years and did not form an attachment with anybody. He was not well adjusted, exhibited bad behavior and had impulse control issues. Their mother had erratic behavior, showing signs of depression and mental illness. When she and her kids moved on from her parents’ home and were on their own, she shacked up with multiple men — some abusive and poor role models — yet Mikel looked to each of them as a new father figure.

Mikel’s real father was a drug addict, an ex-con and a philanderer, and his mother reminded him of this as she brought these different men in and out of their lives throughout his childhood. Mikel spent the summers with his real father, and they developed a wonderful and loving father-son relationship. Amidst all the upheaval, poverty and abuse he experienced during the times with his mother and brother, this connection to his biological father helped him make sense of his world and grounded him.

About Jollett’s father, Mikel says, “…this flawed, angry, funny, wise, and affectionate man is on my side no matter where I go or what I do. It’s the greatest gift anyone has ever given me.”

The family relationships were very difficult to navigate, and more often than not, there was disaster, destruction and emotional overload. From living on government assistance, being forced to kill rabbits for food, and witnessing people getting beaten up for leaving the cult, Jollett and his brother suffered greatly without any emotional support or therapy.

Once an adult, Mikel spent a precious afternoon with his idol, David Bowie, while he was working for a magazine focused on music, and Bowie gave him some advice about writing. He told him to write about the contradiction. I believe Mikel did this beautifully and from the heart in Hollywood Park.

Today, Mikel is a writer and a musician, fronting the Indie band Airborne Toxic Event, and his brother a successful businessman and a father. It is amazing to me that he and his brother survived all the poverty, addiction and neglect. Not only did Mikel persevere, but he also learned the power of love and family.

Reading Hollywood Park brought so many tears. I was crying for all Mikel lost, the great hope for his future, his honesty and his kind heart. This is a powerful story – a must-read!

Read Celadon’s interview with Mikel Jollett on the Celadon Books website.

Buy this book!

Photo Credit: Dove Shore

About Mikel Jollett:

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.