Sticker by Henry Hoke

March 12th, 2022

Sticker is a “memoir in 20 stickers”: twenty short essays that range in timespan and topic from the Mr. Yuk stickers of Henry Hoke’s early childhood (adorning bottles of cleaning supplies under the sink) to a “Hilton Head” HH bumper sticker that also makes Hoke think of his own initials, and of “Heil Hitler”, and of Heather Heyer, who was killed while peacefully protesting the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where Hoke also grew up. Several of the pieces involve a consideration of/reckoning with the racism of the South (and of America more generally): Hoke, who is white, talks about the very different architecture of one school built in Charlottesville in the 1920s for Black students and another built, at the same time, for white students; he talks about his own great-great-grandfather in Alabama who “drafted election laws” that were “designed specifically to disenfranchise newly eligible Black voters”; he talks about Jefferson and Monticello and UVA and the buildings that were constructed and the grounds that were cleared by enslaved people. Other pieces are more directly about Hoke’s experiences and memories, whether that’s about growing up with a mom who uses a wheelchair, or having “I AM GAY” painted on his car with shoe polish when he was a teenager, or kissing a boy at summer camp. Sometimes the stickers are central to the pieces; other times they’re more tangential. Hoke and I are close in age, and I liked reading Hoke’s memories of cultural reference points that resonate with me, too: the “Mr. Men” books, Lisa Frank stickers, Airheads candy and “the great white shark in the aquatic fruit snacks”, the song “Both Hands” by Ani DiFranco.

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