my razzle dazzle book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

My Razzle Dazzle is the fictionalized autobiography of Todd Peterson that follows his life through small town Wisconsin, the roller derby rink and the streets of San Francisco. Todd’s life is colorful and never dull. This coming of age story is not only about a boy growing into a man and finding his place within the world, but also about Todd realizing he is gay and finding his place within his family, society and the professional world. The book also focuses on how Todd grows into himself, his confidence and ultimately thrives and comes into his own, all while gaining his own self-acceptance and pride.

Growing up in rural and suburban Wisconsin in a house full of brothers, a stay at home mom and a hard-working, laborer father, Todd was always a little uncertain of his exact place in the world, but that didn’t stop him from exploring, learning and developing a keen sense of self-awareness that begins to grow and flourish throughout the book. The reader is side by side with Todd as he runs through fields, struggles with self-acceptance, is bullied at school for being a “sissy” and as he falls in love with the roller derby. Peterson’s tale is peppered with important events throughout the 60’s, 70’s and beyond and how these social, political and even musical events all shaped him into becoming the man he is today.

When Todd leaves Wisconsin for San Francisco, a new man begins to break free. Coming to terms with his sexuality is not an easy process for Todd and the book exposes the reader to the ups and downs, the personal struggles and questions and so much more, that he endures as he tries to find his place in the world and the community. The story is not cheesy but is instead rather intimate, and while Todd does find himself in some strange places or situations, the heart of the story is really his personal development and is very uplifting, even though what Todd goes through is not always positive. As Todd finds his place in his family, the gay scene, a committed relationship, an HIV discovery and a prosperous career, he soon finds that roller derby is a release for him, a chance for him to just be free.

Todd Peterson shares raw, very real, sometimes painful, fun and loving memories all in one. In approaching the book from a fictionalized and autobiographical format, the book moves quickly and the reader wastes no time wondering if certain events really happened. The fun is in the story and the pages turn quickly to sort through the action and emotions instead. The events throughout the story read with poignancy and truth and the book grows alongside with Todd. Peterson also fills My Razzle Dazzle with interjections from his current, older self that adds a certain level of more personal introspection and insight to each chapter.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.wordpress.com.

Review copy was provided by Todd Peterson.