Review – Sticker

Posted April 19, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Review – Sticker


by Henry Hoke

Genres: Memoir, Non-fiction
Pages: 152
Series: Object Lessons
Rating: one-star

Stickers adorn our first memories, dot our notebooks and our walls, are stuck annoyingly on fruit, and accompany us into adulthood to shout our perspectives from car bumpers. They hold surprising power in their ability to define and provoke, and hold a strange steadfast presence in our age of fading physical media. Henry Hoke employs a constellation of stickers to explore queer boyhood, parental disability, and ancestral violence. A memoir in 20 stickers, Sticker is set against the backdrop of the encroaching neo-fascist presence in Hoke's hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, which results in the fatal terrorist attack of August 12th and its national aftermath.

Unfortunately, I seem to be having bad luck with my Object Lessons choices lately. I enjoy the ones which pick into the history of an everyday object and try to understand it, like Personal Stereo and Blue Jeans. I’m less a fan of the memoir type, and Henry Hoke’s Sticker falls into that category. It’s a life told through tenuous connections with stickers, from the stickers his mother put on bottles of dangerous household cleaning products to the parental advisory stickers on CDs and onward.

There’s absolutely a place in this world for this kind of memoir, and the story of a gay kid growing up in Charlottesville is a story worth telling. I want to be clear that it’s not that I don’t think the story should be told at all. I’m just not a fan of it in this series, and nor is it something I particularly seek out to read (nor memoir in general). Just not for me.

So, if you’re looking for something that discusses the history or wider cultural relevance of stickers, this ain’t remotely it. Which is a pity, because that book would be fascinating. This book is about Henry Hoke.

Rating: 1/5

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2 responses to “Review – Sticker

  1. Yeah, that’s a complete failure to meet the promise of the series. “Object Lessons is a series of […] books about the hidden lives of ordinary things. Each book starts from a specific inspiration: an historical event, a literary passage, a personal narrative, a technological innovation—and from that starting point explores the object of the title, gleaning a singular lesson or multiple lessons along the way.”

    I personally can’t stand memoirs about people I have no particular interest in, especially MFA graduate memoirs. The exceptions tend to be things like “Singing Away the Hunger”, someone whom one would never expect to get to write a memoir. If I’m reading a book about stickers from a series that’s meant to go in depth about material culture, I expect it to… be about stickers. It’s material culture, so people are a part of that, but not one specific person!

    • Yeah. It didn’t really tell me anything about stickers, it used stickers to tell me about the author (and sometimes with very tenuous connections at that). I want to learn about, I dunno, the history of sticker albums or something, even if it has a personal side.

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