Boy Wander

A Coming of Age Memoir

Non-Fiction - LGBTQ
216 Pages
Reviewed on 04/30/2023
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Author Biography

Jobert E. Abueva is winner of the Lambda Literary J. Michael Samuel Prize and Writer's Advice Flash Memoir contest. He is also recipient of the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Literary Award for historical LGBTQ short fiction as well as two National Arts Club literary scholarships. His writings have been featured in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Beyond Queer Words, Harrington Gay Men's Fiction Quarterly and Poetry Nippon. Jobert holds degrees from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (BA) and Columbia Business School (MBA). Born in Manila, Philippines, he is a global marketer by day, and resides in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Jobert is happy to connect with book clubs and individual readers to discuss Boy Wander.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Boy Wander: A Coming of Age Memoir is a work in the autobiography, LGBTQ+, and coming of age subgenres. It is best suited to mature readers owing to the mention of explicit sexual situations and the use of explicit language throughout. Penned by Jobert E Abueva, this incredible journey of growth and personal development explores the duality of Jobert as a young Filipino man in an all-boys Catholic school in Tokyo. An all-star athlete, and a popular and successful academic, Jobert made his fortune in the clandestine world of sex work by night at Tokyo's world-renowned Imperial Hotel. This duality and secret-keeping in his youth put him on a path moving forward that would make the two halves of himself harder to bring together but all the more essential to do so.

Jobert E Abueva pulls no punches in this emotionally raw and interesting work. There are so many different layers and levels to it that I adored, from the exploration of life as a teen exploring sexuality despite the strict shadows of religion and culture looming over his world to Jobert’s views on the sex industry and the cultural differences between East and West. Jobert’s narrative style really lends itself to this kind of intricate exploration, as it feels like a wise and experienced friend is exploring the well-considered points rather than a cold, clinical academic. His journey to acceptance in the outside world and within himself is emotionally stirring to read. Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Boy Wander to memoir fans everywhere.

Grant Leishman

Boy Wander: A Coming of Age Memoir by Jobert E Abueva is a frank and sensitive telling of a young boy’s discovery of his sexuality and the realization that it did not fit into his family’s or society’s expectations. Jobert was the eldest son of a prominent Filipino professor, with strong political views and a history of public service. Sexually abused by one of his father’s colleagues at just six years of age, Jobert realized early on that he was different. Due to his father’s academic position and political activism, when Ferdinand Marcos seized control of the Philippines and declared martial law, the family fled the country. Jobert grew up attending international schools in Nepal, Thailand, and eventually Japan. In Tokyo, he excelled academically, culturally, and even in track and field. Elected to chair the student council, he was a popular and respected young man, but Jobert had a deep, dark secret. At night he would troll the shopping arcade beneath a famous international hotel, looking for foreign visitors interested in a brief sexual encounter, especially ones prepared to pay for the privilege. Managing to keep his private life and his sexual preferences a secret, Jobert finally found the freedom he sought when he traveled to attend college in America.

I was initially attracted to Boy Wander because of its setting in Manila, where I live, and I did appreciate the references to Filipino culture, food, and locations. This story is much more than a travelogue. Jobert E Abueva has bravely and candidly opened up about his early life as he describes the two very different worlds he existed in, especially in Tokyo. That he was only sixteen whilst inhabiting this potentially treacherous world of gay pickups speaks volumes about his maturity and ability to compartmentalize his emotions. I particularly appreciated that he never allowed himself to become too emotionally involved with any of these brief encounters. I loved the sections relating to his prepubescent years when he describes his feelings and emotions regarding the young classmates that he was crushing on. There was an innocence and sweetness in the writing that was instantly appealing. I realize that this book covers only a small part of this author’s life leading up to his attending college in the United States and I am sure he has much more to tell us about his college adventures and later years. This story has truly whetted my appetite to read more of his life. This is a slightly different version of the conventional coming-of-age story and one that I enjoyed immensely. I can highly recommend this read.

Essien Asian

With his parents more interested in surviving the notorious Marcos administration in the Philippines, Jobert E. Abueva's odd behavior was viewed as nothing more than childish misdemeanors at the time. He grew up to become a top member of his class, graduating as Class President and even acquiring childhood celebrity status with his face and family name being connected to a popular children's television program. Despite all these stellar achievements, there was a side to him that neither his parents nor the world ever came to realize. He was an abused child crying out for attention and who, in a bid to discover his true self, would go on to engage in scandalous trysts with strangers in hotels. Boy Wander is his tell-all memoir about this double life that nearly cost him everything he held dear.

A child's innocence is stolen from him and leads him down a dangerous path to discovery in Jobert E. Abueva's memoir. He speaks honestly and bluntly about his experiences, sometimes a little too bluntly for the faint of heart. He can recreate the aura of childlike innocence of his youth impressively and translates that effectively into the book. Even the darker aspects are presented with a sense of naivety that may have made the book easier to digest but emotionally troubling. If there is one thing that is comforting it is the increased maturity that our young hero displays as he grows into accepting his sexual preferences, albeit clandestinely. I cannot imagine what it took for Abueva to bring Boy Wander to life. A thought-provoking book indeed.

Emma Megan

Boy Wander: A Coming of Age Memoir by Jobert E Abueva is a unique and poignant true story. It follows Jobert Abueva as he discovers who he really is. Jobert is a golden boy and the son of an academic and diplomat. Because of his father's career, Jobert and his siblings move from place to place to be together as a family. Thus, he goes through many places, radical changes, and adventures that are both amazing and distressing. But, besides excelling in academics and being an overachiever in many areas, Jobert has a big, dark secret to hide. No one knows the real him, and he intends to keep it that way. He decides to parade as a fraud in front of the whole world, until, hopefully, he will find a place where he has the freedom to be who he truly is.

Boy Wander by Jobert E Abueva is a challenging, excruciatingly honest, and quirky memoir. It captures the complexity of accepting your own sexuality while struggling to meet societal expectations. Abueva's powerful story will resonate with many. He invites the reader to meet his true self, and by revealing his inner turmoil, he asks them to be more empathetic and compassionate toward other people's sexual orientation. Abueva's writing style is contemplative, mesmerizing, and almost poetic. Boy Wander is an absolute must-read contribution to conversations on sexual abuse, sexual orientation, desire, and relationships. The poem "Boat Girl" moved me deeply. I would recommend this searingly intimate memoir to fans of coming-of-age and LGBTQ novels.

Helen Huini

What would you do if it turned out your son was gay? Is society ready to embrace children who have already identified their sexual orientations before becoming teenagers? Boy Wander by Jobert E. Abueva is an autobiography that details Jobert’s (Job’s) life as the gay son of Mr. and Mrs. Tatay. An office staffer of Tatay’s locked himself in a bathroom with Job and made sexual advances toward him. The intensity of these advances increased with each subsequent encounter, to the extent that Job fantasized about the experiences. Although Job felt this was wrong, he feared sharing it with his mother because he thought he would be blamed. Job then decided to explore his body, an incident that changes his life’s trajectory.

Jobert E. Abueva is brutally honest in his memoir; he vividly describes his experiences and captures all the initially confusing emotions. The chapters of Boy Wander are all titled, which foregrounds the subsequent topics along the storyline. Capturing each event’s setting also gave a clear picture of society’s perception of members of the LGBTQIA community in the Philippines in the twentieth century. I also got a clear impression of the Marcos regime, which was quelling democratic revolts against his authority. I recommend this book to parents and caregivers of children demonstrating queer tendencies. Teachers and school heads will also benefit from the memoir, as they will appreciate the diverse backgrounds that each student comes from and learn to embrace them.