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Hollywood Park

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  12,277 ratings  ·  2,004 reviews
HOLLYWOOD PARK is a remarkable memoir of a tumultuous life. Mikel Jollett was born into one of the country’s most infamous cults, and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse. Yet, ultimately, his is a story of fierce love and family loyalty told in a raw, poetic voice that signals the emergence of a uniquely gifted writer.

We were never
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 26th 2020 by Celadon Books (first published May 5th 2020)
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Average rating 4.27  · 
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 ·  12,277 ratings  ·  2,004 reviews

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Emily May
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
We were never young. No one told us who we were or where all our parents went. They would arrive like ghosts, visiting us for a morning, an afternoon. They would sit with us or walk around the grounds, to laugh or cry or toss us up in the air while we screamed. Then they'd disappear again, for weeks, for months, for years, leaving us alone with our memories and dreams, our questions and confusion[...]

Weeellll... I hadn't planned to read Hollywood Park. It was an unsolicited arc that turned u
Will Byrnes
What do you do when you’re a scared-shitless kid that’s been faking it for so long? You bury it. You polish your smile and study until you can’t even focus your eyes. You buy yourself a big red sweater with an S across the chest, just like the superchild you once were. You try to prove them all wrong. You attempt to outrun it. But then you get injured and your mom goes insane and a kind man in a blue shirt with a trim black beard uses the words. Emotional abuse. Crossing physical boundaries,
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett is a 2020 Celadon Books publication.

An unconventional journey fraught with adversity, but ultimately an inspirational memoir

To be honest, I went into this memoir blind. I think I added it mainly due to the mention of a cult, a topic I am often drawn to. However, before starting the book, I Googled Jollett, and listened to his music, wondering why I had not stumbled across him earlier.

But, despite my unfamiliarity with the author, I found myself pulled into his
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Memoirs are so hard to review, because, it’s someone’s real life, their memories, their experiences. Who am I to judge how someone has lived? 🤷🏼‍♀️ I found Mikel’s story, raw, real, sad, poetic, brave, heartbreaking, inspiring and entertaining. ❤️ It’s impressive that he was able to accept the cards he was dealt and make such a conscious effort to understand the illness around him.
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it

Author Mikel Jollett

Mikel Jollett, frontman for the indie rock band Airborne Toxic Event, had a tumultuous childhood.

Airborne Toxic Event

Mikel Jollett performing

Jollett's parents were members of Synanon, a California cult that began as a drug rehab organization. Synanon was founded in 1958, and aspired to be a place "where people lived, all together, being honest and free and not taking drugs."


Synanon started as a rehab facility for drug addicts

Synanon's mission was to change the world
Elyse  Walters
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Terrific, engaging, intimate....
Audiobook Memoir...
read by the author!

Meet Mikel Jollett.....
He’s a pretty likable guy.... with a story to share!!
He intimately shares his traumatic childhood.

I felt like I was eavesdropping on Mikel’s personal private mutterings during some of the most wretched years of his life.
He doesn’t shy away from sharing about the overpowering mentally ill adults who raised him in the cult-environment, without his own parents.....
that he eventually escaped.

A grim memoi
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This knocked the breath out of me. Raw.

C-U-L-T. Born into it then escaping it 5 years later with his older brother and mother.
For years, Mikel struggles to find his identity. His mother, constantly battling depression and falling in with the wrong men. The children - collateral damage.
How messed up he felt- taking on different personas to fit in. Running, academically, musically. All escape tactics. Each the final Hail Mary? Or saving grace. It saved him from the drugs and the alcohol;from the s
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo

4.5/5 stars

A heartbreaking and beautifully written memoir.

Hollywood Park was never on my radar until Goodreads sent me this book. I didn’t even know who Mikel Jollett, the author and the singer in a band called The Airborne Toxic Event, was until I actually opened this book. As some of you probably know, I don’t read memoir/non-fiction often; at most it’s once or twice a year, and I’m incredibly picky about the books
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.8, rounded up (nearly pogo-stick material)

Oh, the language!

I’m a sucker for a good memoir but at the same time I’m picky. Your life better be fascinating, or I’ll leave you where I found you, alone in my pile of inanimate books. If you come alive, I’ll dance with you. Well, this one roped me in and swung me around. BUT, I forgot to say—if your life isn’t completely captivating (his life is medium captivating), for the love of god be a wordsmith, woo me with your prose!

And man did I get wooed!
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m the first to admit I can be critical of memoirs, understanding they are often deeply personal. That said, I really enjoyed reading Mikel Jollett’s Hollywood Park, detailing his childhood, which first began in a cult and then beyond, moving back and forth between Oregon, living with his mother, and California, living with his dad.

There was a lot going on including addiction issues and substantial emotional abuse. I had a difficult time feeling any sympathy toward his mother as she was delusi
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hall-tbr-1
One of my favorite ways to “consume” a memoir is through an audiobook narrated by the author, and that was the case with Hollywood Park. Also something I want to mention is there is music included at transitions, and Mikel Jollett is a musician, so this was another addition that added to the character of this book.

Mikel and his brother were born into a famous cult where they were separated from their parents at only six months of age. One day, Mikel’s mother picks them up, and they leave the cul
Katie B
This was a well-written memoir and once again proves my point you don't necessarily have to be familiar with the person ahead of time in order to appreciate their story. Mikel spent the first few years of his life in the Church of Synanon which was a cult. Thankfully he and his family escaped but obviously the experience is something that stays with you and the long-term effects is just one of the subjects Mikel explores in his memoir.

The main reason I chose to read this one is because I have t
Some people's lives have all the interesting.

I think that's really all I have to say about this.

Bottom line: What a life! And a pretty good memoir.

3.5 stars


nothing says "fluffy get-out-of-your-slump cheer-up read" like a memoir about a traumatic childhood

thanks to the publisher for the arc!
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review-requests
Candid, revealing, and remarkable!

HOLLYWOOD PARK is a fascinating, raw, interesting, engaging, heartfelt, and well-written memoir that has us following Mikel Jollett through his childhood where he was raised in a commune which turned into the cult Synanon in the 1970’s to present day.

Now the thing is I rarely ever read memoirs but there was something about this one that totally intrigued me and caught my eye. The title grabbed my attention as well as “notorious cult” from the synopsis. My eyes
4.5 Stars

So many times while I was reading this story, or even when I was listening to it on audio somewhere after the halfway point in the book, the words to Philip Larkin’s This Be the Verse (‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad’… etc.) would creep into my thoughts. It seems particularly appropriate to Jollet’s story, beginning with his life as a young child growing up inside Synanon, a cult that began as a drug rehabilitation program, funded by the government in the 1960’s. At some point durin
Feb 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is hands down one of the best memoirs I have read. Mikel Jollett bares his soul in this book with his honesty as he takes us on the journey that is his life how he survived his struggles from when he can remember. He escaped the cult Synanon with his mother and brother to go into hiding before ending up in Oregon living with an emotionally abusive mother and his brother who is filled with anger. When he meets his dad and moves to him in California, his life becomes more stable as his father ...more
Chelsey (a_novel_idea11)
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways-arcs
Mikel is a child of the universe. Born into the Synanon cult, he was given to The School at six months old to be raised by the community, rather than his biological parents. The children were taught to fend for themselves, to self-soothe, and to be independent. Some parents, including Mikel's, visited the school occasionally. He described them as ghosts, drifting in and out unexpectedly. Mikel lived this way until five years old.

Mikel's mother escaped the cult and took her sons, Mikel age five
Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤
As I often say, memoirs are hit or miss with me. Hollywood Park, despite being beautifully written, is a miss. 

Mikel Jollett is an incredible writer but unfortunately I found his story..... boring. Too similar to so many other accounts. I thought it would be more about his time spent in Synanon, a cult in California. However, his mother left when he was four, so his memories of it are scant.

The book is mainly about his time after that, growing up with a mother who required her son to parent her,
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Most memoirs are the story of someone overcoming adversity of some sort. This memoir is not an exception. What is exceptional is the writing. It’s visceral and affecting. Jollett begins his story writing much like a child but not annoyingly so. He seamlessly moves into his teen-aged, young adult and adult years without missing a beat. For the first five years of his life, Jollett was raised within the confines of the Synanon cult taken away from his parents at eighteen months old. His mother fle ...more
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brave coming-of-age story.

What I loved most about this book was the fullness of the boy’s struggles, and how we see these struggles go from unconscious to conscious. His ambivalence towards his mother - the desire to be both loved and loving, yet free and separate enough to self-actualize - was particularly difficult under her specific mental health issues.

If you want to know more, I suggest checking out this fantastic review:
I’m not sure that I have the words to describe my feelings after reading Mikel Jollett’s truly remarkable memoir Hollywood Park . The very first thing that caught my attention with this book was the title, as it shared a name with a place that I used to be very familiar with and it made me curious, whether it was merely a coincidence or actually a reference to what I thought it was. Even after reading the summary, I still wasn’t sure, as there was no mention of the inspiration for the title – ...more
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
[4.5] Hollywood Park is a song of a book - sad, sweet and filled with yearning. Jollet writes about his childhood and growing up with an immediacy that is breathtaking. The adults surrounding him are often broken but Jollett has the gift of seeing them as whole people. Like many memoirs, he tells a story of neglect and abuse but there is nothing ordinary about the way Jollet writes. I was frequently struck by the beauty of his words and didn't realize until near the end of the book that he is an ...more
Cathrine ☯️
5 🐎 🐎 🐎 🐎 🐎
This just might be the most courageous and impressive memoir on my Read shelf.
The audio version read by the author was superlative. At it's heart and soul, this is the story of how to reclaim one's life and then run your own race with incredible grace. It took my breath away.

Mikel, if you are reading this, thank you for sharing your story. I began my life in Westchester and later grew up in Inglewood. I spent time at Hollywood park with my dad. It took him until age 60 to get clean a
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley
What an incredibly beautiful flowing poetic memoir by the creator of the band Airborne Toxic Event. His story which begins telling what it's like being raised in a C-U-L-T ,where you don't have a parent ,or normal human touch, or emotions, in one of the nations most dangeous cults. After his mother rescues him (or does she?), she subjects him to numerous forms of abuse which leads to abuse of his own. The writing wraps around you and draws you in like a warm blanket. Very highly recommended. ...more
Jennifer Blankfein
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Author Q & A on Book Nation by Jen

You won’t want to put down this honest, revealing, and incredible memoir, Hollywood Park as it follows Mikel Jollett from a commune turned cult in the 1970s to current day. Mikel and his older brother, Tony were born into Synanon, a cult that initially helped addicts like their father, but was ultimately shut down decades later due to violent criminal activities and legal problems. All the children living there were aband
Karen R
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This fascinating memoir documenting a broken family’s path back to normal while peeking behind the curtain of the Church of Syanon packs a powerful punch.

Mikel was born into the cult and was 4 years old when his mother snuck him and older brother Tony out of the compound under dark of night. Syanon was originally envisioned as a drug rehab facility and in time turned violent. Kudos to the boys’ mother who though psychologically impaired, found the courage to leave, saving the boys’ lives.

The na
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: musical, memoir, poignant
In the past few years, I’ve developed a deep love for any memoir in which someone details their crazy childhood and how they managed to rise above it. While they are radically different, Hollywood Park is joining Educated as one of my favorites in this random subgenre for which I’ve developed such a fondness. Hearing about Mikel Jollett’s earliest years was incredibly illuminating, and was yet another true story that made me so incredibly thankful for the wonderful, easy childhood I had, and how ...more
Kate Vocke (bookapotamus)
Have you ever read a memoir of someone who you’d never heard of?⁣

That was me, going into Hollywood Park.⁣

I didn’t know who Mikel Jollett was. I had never heard of his band The Airborne Toxic Event. I had no idea what I was getting into.⁣

Let me tell you what I got into.⁣

After escaping from a violent religious cult very young, Mikel’s subsequent tumultuous upbringing is anything but healthy. A physically absent father, an emotionally absent mother, and stream of emotionally abusive stepdads ro
Valerity (Val)
This was a very well written memoir, just wonderful and kept my interest from beginning to end. It’s yet another one that I read at one go! It tells the story of a family’s spending their early years in the unusual environment of the cultish group Church of Synanon, affected their later years. The group started out as a drug rehab and the family went there so the father could get off heroin. Both author Mikel Jollett and his brother were put into what was called The School, but it was basically ...more
Canadian Reader
I wasn’t keen on this misery memoir from the start. The first eight chapters, written in the present-tense and in the forced, affectedly naive first-person voice of a young child, were a real slog. Then I got to Chapter 9, in which that child is made to confront “the cycle of life” by learning how to slaughter young rabbits raised for food. It completely horrified me. I couldn’t bear it. That was enough.
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Mikel Jollett is the frontman of the indie band The Airborne Toxic Event. Prior to forming the band, Jollett graduated with honors from Stanford University. He was an on-air columnist for NPR's All Things Considered, an editor-at-large for Men's Health and an editor at Filter magazine. His fiction has been published in McSweeney's. ...more

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“How long can you live with ghosts before deciding to become one? How long until the walls become clouds and the floor opens up like clear blue sky and there’s nowhere to go but your stone tower where you are the one who chooses who to haunt and how to haunt and when to haunt. You learn how to act, to pretend, to inhabit different forms in your mind, different faces to the world, some of them terrifying, some charming, some cunning, some innocent, some a hundred feet tall, godlike, and invincible, others tiny and frail, beseeching and ironic. Five, ten, ten thousand different ghosts of your creation, one for every person you meet, one for every occasion, so many that they crowd the hallways of your castle in the sky.

But somewhere within those imaginary walls, sitting alone in the dark above the clouds, you are aware that you are none of those things. Only sad.”
“That’s the whole magic trick of an essence brought to life by a song, to become an artist when you feel broken and you’ve decided to turn it into beauty. To make the pain useful. The longing, the fear, the heartache and dread, the ability to see these broken pieces of yourself like cracks in an armor through which you are better able to see the world: too broken to be normal, just broken enough to see beauty.” 4 likes
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