The One You Get: Portrait of a Family Organism


Product Details

$16.95  $15.59
Dzanc Books
Publish Date
5.4 X 8.4 X 0.8 inches | 0.8 pounds
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About the Author

Jason Tougaw is a professor of literature at City University of New York. He is the author of two nonfiction books, Strange Cases: The Medical Case History and the British Novel and Touching Brains: Literary Experiments in 21st-Century Neuromania. Excerpts from The One You Get have appeared in Boys to Men: Gay Men Write about Growing Up and Electra Street: A Journal of the Arts and Humanities. He blogs about the relationship between art and science at


"Chaotic, colourful family lore."
--The Guardian

"Tougaw is great at capturing the somewhat hallucinatory existence of childhood of adolescence, where children are constantly learning, meeting new people, going new places and learning new 'rules' about their world ... A mix of research, lore and memory. It's something great made from what he got."
--Lambda Literary

"The story Tougaw tells is extremely well written and will hold its readers' interest to its affecting end."

Tougaw's brilliant and beautiful memoir, and winner of the Dzanc 2017 Nonfiction Prize, takes two convergent paths: the first is that of his own personal story growing up in the sun-soaked Seventies and new wave Eighties of Southern California in a family of outsiders; the second is one of scientific interpolation. The book is alive.
--Scott Cheshire, The LA Times

"This is an intelligent memoir that is very funny at times as it tells the story of a very peculiar and unconventional family...The self here is a mysterious and strange accident that yearns to be understood by its possessor."
--Amos Lassen, author of My Jewish Learning and founder of Literary Pride

"Tougaw's intelligent, funny, and deeply moving memoir is that rare thing: the story of a family that is at once particular and universal. The variously wild, tender, deluded, suffering, incorrigible, and resilient people who are so vividly portrayed in this book are nothing if not idiosyncratic. At the same time, this story of a boy growing up in California during the years of a waning counter culture deftly incorporates sophisticated reflections on the brain science of human memory and development and the ongoing mystery of why some of us survive a chaotic and brutal childhood and others don't."
--Siri Hustvedt, author of A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women

"Tougaw has written a profound meditation on the mysteries of that strange accident, the self. A captivating mix of neuroscience and wild, often heartbreaking, family lore, the book is a wondrous mashup of the delight and curiosity of Oliver Sacks, the expansiveness of William James, the shape-shifting glamour of David Sylvian, and a fierce and generous heart all Tougaw's own."
--Maud Casey, author of The Man Who Walked Away

"What Tougaw does in The One You Get is a feat of the imagination. Writing with striking intelligence and deep empathy, he reveals the wondrous and terrifying bonds that make a family. Tougaw has found that perfect balance between insightful scientific analysis and sensitive reflection, all of it held together with razor-sharp humor. A spellbinding read, one that will linger long after the last page."
--Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion's Gaze
"In this utterly unique memoir, we get a portrait, not only of the boy, but also of the the man who is using a set of tools, including social theory and neuroscience, to disentangle the strands that make the self. Whether we are shocked by the conditions of his young life--addiction, abuse, mental illness, mosh-pit erections--is up to us. Tougaw's just trying to get to the bottom of it all."
--Vestal McIntyre, author of Lake Overturn and You Are Not the One