Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional (Paperback)
“The best of what memoir can accomplish... pulling no punches on the path to truth, but it always finds the capacity for grace and joy.” –Esquire, "Best Memoirs of the Year"
Isaac Fitzgerald has lived many lives. He's been an altar boy, a bartender, a fat kid, a smuggler, a biker, a prince of New England. But before all that, he was a bomb that exploded his parents' lives-or so he was told. In Dirtbag, Massachusetts, Fitzgerald, with warmth and humor, recounts his ongoing search for forgiveness, a more far-reaching vision of masculinity, and a more expansive definition of family and self.
Fitzgerald's memoir-in-essays begins with a childhood that moves at breakneck speed from safety to violence, recounting an extraordinary pilgrimage through trauma to self-understanding and, ultimately, acceptance. From growing up in a Boston homeless shelter to bartending in San Francisco, from smuggling medical supplies into Burma to his lifelong struggle to make peace with his body, Fitzgerald strives to take control of his own story: one that aims to put aside anger, isolation, and entitlement to embrace the idea that one can be generous to oneself by being generous to others.
Gritty and clear-eyed, loud-hearted and beautiful, Dirtbag, Massachusetts is a rollicking book that might also be a lifeline.
About the Author
Isaac Fitzgerald appears frequently on The Today Show and is the author of the bestselling children's book How to Be a Pirate as well as the co-author of Pen & Ink and Knives & Ink (winner of an IACP Award). His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, the Best American Nonrequired Reading, and numerous other publications. He lives in Brooklyn.
“Isaac Fitzgerald's memoir-in-essays is a bighearted read infused with candor, sharp humor, and the hope that comes from discovering saints can be found in all sorts of places.” —Rolling Stone, "Top Culture Picks of the Month"
“Dirtbag, Massachusetts is the best of what memoir can accomplish. It's blisteringly honest and vulnerable, pulling no punches on the path to truth, but it always finds the capacity for grace and joy.” —Esquire, "Best Memoirs of the Year"
“Fitzgerald reflects on his origins-and coming to terms with self-consciousness, anger, and strained family relationships. His writing is gritty yet vulnerable.” —TIME, "27 New Books You Need to Read This Summer"
“Told without piety or violin strains of uplift, but rather, an embrace of the chaos of just getting by.” —Chicago Tribune, "Books for Summer 2022: Our Picks"
“Vulnerable, revealing, and tender, Fitzgerald's Dirtbag, Massachusetts has it all-faith, sex, fear, resilience, and love. His is a story of a real American family and a beautiful and creative American son.” —Min Jin Lee, author of the National Book Award Finalist PACHINKO
“Any fool can confess. It's the rare writer who reveals, and Dirtbag, Massachusetts is a heart on the sleeve, demons in check, eyes unblinking, unbearably sad, laugh-out-loud funny revelation.” —Marlon James, Booker Prize-winning author of MOON WITCH, SPIDER KING
“Isaac Fitzgerald lays himself bare in this stunning memoir, stripping off all the things that no long serve him. Raw, vulnerable, and powerful, this book will be a key in the lock of many hearts and minds.” —Emma Straub
“Dirtbag, Massachusetts is a wondrously crafted confessional in every sense of the word, one of the finest, and really sneakiest narrative boasts I've read in decades. Isaac Fitzgerald will remind you of the wobbly majesty possible when fears of tomorrow and yesterday are innovatively confronted and masculinity is shredded. Goodness gracious.” —Kiese Laymon, author of HEAVY
“This book, this beautiful, sprawling, chaotic memoir in essays, is indeed a confessional. It is a man peeling back the layers of himself, revealing the white of his bones, the depth of his soul, the truth of his flaws, and the power of the best parts of him, of which there are so many. Isaac Fitzgerald will make you feel absolutely everything as he recounts a childhood no one should have to endure, and how he has tried to rebuild the parts of himself that other people broke. He is charming and vulnerable, curious and candid, full of dirtbag swagger. I loved this book. When I turned the last page, I wanted more but was so grateful to have spent this time with a man who is on the complicated but joyful journey of becoming and being himself.” —Roxane Gay
“Ebullient, irreverent, tender, Dirtbag, Massachusetts is a record of a love for the world in all its messy fullness that you just can't fake, and how that came to be. I felt more alive after reading these essays, and whatever I thought I knew, Isaac Fitzgerald taught me something new. He's a ringleader for the Circus in the House of Love.” —Alexander Chee, author of HOW TO WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL
“Dirtbag, Massachusetts is a diamond of a memoir. Fitzgerald's sentences are so clean and true that you'll never realize you're cut until you're bleeding. Or you know, crying.” —Mira Jacob, author of THE SLEEPWALKER'S GUIDE TO DANCING
“Dirtbag, Massachusetts isn't just a book; it's life-work.” —Saeed Jones, author of HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES
“Dirtbag, Massachusetts is glimmering, dirty, and humble. A masterful blend of humor, intelligence, and craft. This book is the antidote to toxic masculinity.” —Chloe Caldwell, author of The Red Zone: A Love Story
“Equal parts illuminating and poignant, Fitzgerald's essays attempt to untangle what it means to be a man in this world and in his own body.” —Buzzfeed, "Summer Books You Won't Be Able To Put Down"
“This book is a rock anthem you're so busy dancing to you almost don't notice when the lyrics slip in and break your heart. What a gorgeous, sensitive, rambunctious, and funny book about the ways we survive our own lives and choices. I loved going on adventures with Fitzgerald in these essays, hunting alongside him for the kinds of chosen family and love and purpose and storytelling that have the power to carry us through even the darkest of days.” —CJ Hauser, author of THE CRANE WIFE
“Fitzgerald weaves a raucous mosaic of a rough-and-ready New England rarely seen with a transfixing story of his path to finding himself. . . The result is a marvelous coming-of-age story that's as wily and raunchy as it is heartfelt.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“There will be tough stops along this journey-including discussions of violence, homelessness and trauma-but we suspect Fitzgerald's signature tenderness, humor and generosity will carry readers gently the whole way.” —BookPage, "13 Writers to Watch in 2022"
“Isaac Fitzgerald has written about tattoos for grown-ups and pirates for kids, which is actually a good indicator of the range of themes offered up in his new memoir. Dirtbag, Massachusetts explores trauma and violence along with self-forgiveness and grace. Oh, and smuggling medical supplies into Burma.” —Goodreads, "Readers' Most Anticipated Books of Summer"
“As an essayist and editor, Fitzgerald had long served as a kind of genial barkeep of the literary internet - an avuncular, boozy presence with killer taste in books.” —Robert Moor, New York Magazine
“Tenderhearted . . . Fitzgerald's stories are introspective and exude self-awareness. Readers will leave with a true soft spot for him.” —Library Journal