My Razzle Dazzle

An Outsider's True Story

Fiction - Historical - Personage
344 Pages
Reviewed on 09/08/2015
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

My Razzle Dazzle: An Outsider's True Story is a historical fictionalized autobiography written by Todd Peterson. Todd felt like an outsider all through his years growing up in Illinois and Wisconsin. As a child, he was stung by the jeers and rejection of his peers, but in high school, the taunts morphed into the physical, shoves and beatings that made him fear for his safety. It was only when he joined a travelling circus route with an elderly neighbor for the summer before college that he found himself in an environment where he belonged. Everyone in the carny life was different to some extent, and everyone respected each other. This was an exhilarating time for the young man who still had not come to terms with his sexuality and had been horrified to read in a medical manual that preferring one's own gender was a mental illness. When Todd moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a pro roller derby skater, he found his world expanded beyond his wildest fantasies. What follows is his story.

Todd Peterson's fictionalized autobiography, My Razzle Dazzle: An Outsider's True Story is a book I instantly realized I wanted to savor slowly. There was just too much to this engaging and honest account of coming of age under most trying circumstances to do anything else with it. I mourned with Todd when he lost his pal, Princess, the being who taught him love, and marveled as he escaped to join the circus and finally found a place where he felt like he belonged. Then there were his accounts of his early, heady days on the west coast and finding Kevin who changed his life. I found myself pausing in my reading and Googling San Francisco history and the people and places Peterson mentions in this exceptionally fine first-hand account. So My Razzle Dazzle became in a way an interactive experience for me, and a truly joyful one at that. Peterson is a marvelous writer; his style is wry and conversational and filled with images, sounds and feelings. His transitions from memories to present day are smooth and assured, and I began to look forward to hearing the mature Todd's voice even as I was reveling in the younger man's adventures. This self-acknowledged outsider has written a superb and moving coming of age memoir, and it's most highly recommended.

Carol Coetzee

My Razzle Dazzle by Todd Peterson deals with Todd Peterson's life from childhood to adulthood. Starting in the 1960s, we meet Todd, the second child in a family of six. Danny, his older brother, is his hero. He spends his early years growing up in rural Wisconsin before his family moves to Monroe, near Illinois, a few years later. His early childhood memories are of fun filled days with friends, getting into mischief and having fun. During his adolescent years, Todd struggles with his sexuality and begins to feel very different from his peers. He is ostracized and bullied at school because of his differences. He feels like an outsider, even in his own home. He retreats somewhat from the world until he discovers Roller Derby, which appeals to the rebel in him, and he dreams of joining a team. After finishing college, he decides to travel, and so begins his journey of self discovery and a desire for acceptance.

My Razzle Dazzle by Todd Peterson is a sad and heart wrenching tale of a young man who is eager to understand and discover himself. He feels different from others and, during his journey, he realizes he is gay. Todd displays incredible strength and humor in the face of severe prejudice and adversity. The story shows how difficult it is to be different, especially during the turbulent years in the 1960s and 1970s. An inspirational story of love, heartbreak, and overcoming obstacles to become the person you are. The subject matter is dealt with in a touching, sensitive and thoughtful way, and pulls at your heart strings. It is easy to relate to Todd as you experience his pain, joy, confusion, excitement, enthusiasm and fear. Your inner being yearns to change the world to make life easier for anyone who is different, not just gay men. A most thought provoking read.

Heather Osborne

My Razzle Dazzle: An Outsider’s True Story by Todd Peterson is an amazing autobiographical memoir of Mr. Peterson’s time growing up in a world where homosexuality was frowned upon. Raised in the Midwest, Todd had always felt he was different from other boys. He was constantly tormented by bullies calling him derogatory names. The only solace Todd found was in his love of Roller Derby. Determined to fulfill his dreams, Todd hitched rides west, to California. There, he hoped, he would find acceptance and love for who he was, not what he should be. Thrown into a completely different culture, Todd learns and grows, discovering all sorts of new ways of life. How will he fit in with this new world?

A beautifully written and poignant memoir, My Razzle Dazzle: An Outsider’s True Story by Todd Peterson had me captivated from the start. Mr. Peterson uses a third person narrative to tell his story, using himself as the main character. Interspersed with the narrative are first person commentaries as Peterson reflects on his memories. It was so heartbreaking to read about his struggles growing up, but inspiring to see Todd continue to reach for his dreams. I grew up near San Francisco as well, so it was nice to be able to recognize landmarks. I feel that any person struggling to fit in with their sexuality should read this memoir. Even with setbacks, Todd continued to overcome and move forward, finally accepting himself for who he is. I definitely admire Todd/Mr. Peterson for all he has had to overcome in a time when the world was in complete turmoil. This was truly a worth-while read.