The Light Years: A Memoir (Hardcover)

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“Rush’s memoir depicts the wild, drug-filled days of his youth with such luminous prose it feels as though we’re with him, careening from one adventure to another. That this book exists is proof that Rush makes it through every situation he encounters, and he brings such generosity to those who were alongside him that it’s impossible not to care about him or his family and loved ones. The Light Years offers a perfect glimpse into the counterculture of the ’60s and ’70s, and that time came alive for me through his writing. A perfect pick for those who lived through that time and those who wish they could.”
— Katie Orphan, The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, CA


The Light Years is a joyous and defiant coming-of-age memoir set during one of the most turbulent times in American history

Chris Rush was born into a prosperous, fiercely Roman Catholic, New Jersey family. But underneath the gleaming mid-century house, the flawless hostess mom, and the thriving businessman dad ran an unspoken tension that, amid the upheaval of the late 1960s, was destined to fracture their precarious facade.

His older sister Donna introduces him to the charismatic Valentine, who places a tab of acid on twelve-year-old Rush’s tongue, proclaiming: “This is sacrament. You are one of us now.”

After an unceremonious ejection from an experimental art school, Rush heads to Tucson to make a major drug purchase and, still barely a teenager, disappears into the nascent American counterculture. Stitching together a ragged assemblage of lowlifes, prophets, and fellow wanderers, he seeks kinship in the communes of the west. His adolescence is spent looking for knowledge, for the divine, for home. Given what Rush confronts on his travels—from ordinary heartbreak to unimaginable violence—it is a miracle he is still alive.

The Light Years is a prayer for vanished friends, an odyssey signposted with broken and extraordinary people. It transcends one boy’s story to perfectly illustrate the slow slide from the optimism of the 1960s into the darker and more sinister 1970s. This is a riveting, heart-stopping journey of discovery and reconciliation, as Rush faces his lost childhood and, finally, himself.

About the Author

Chris Rush is an award-winning artist and designer, whose work is held in various museum collections. The Light Years is his first book.

Praise For…

"In this vibrant memoir, artist Rush recounts his strange and colorful childhood and adolescence . . . Rush’s storytelling shines as he travels across the country and back again, searching for truth, love, UFOs in New Mexico, peace, something that feels like God, and a place to call home. This is a mesmerizing record of his journey through adolescence." —Publisher's Weekly (starred)

“As mythic and wild with love, possibility, and danger as the decades it spans, you’ll read The Light Years with your breath held. Brutal, buoyant and wise to the tender terror of growing up, Chris Rush has written a timeless memoir of boyhood in the American wilderness.” —Emma Cline, author of The Girls

"[A] lucid miracle of [a] literary masterpiece . . . I wanted to talk to him about how he managed to come through the tsunami of the wildest memoir I’ve read, not only alive, but seemingly improved. How did he write a first book in such dazzling, sparkling prose—so incredibly deft in execution, so precise and artistic in naturalistic descriptions—and so loving in human portraiture? How did he get brought from the desert, to share with us this light?"Luke Goebel, Vice

"The Light Years Is More Than a Queer Coming-of-Age Story. It’s a Quest for the Divine . . . filled with sentences lit from the inside like [Rush's] paintings" —Alexander Chee, Time

"Chris Rush . . . not only has one hell of a story, he also has the talent to bring it to life. You can open his gorgeous new memoir, The Light Years, to any page and the prose will leap out. It’s funny, charming and effortlessly descriptive . . . [there is] a clarity and generosity that makes the experience of reading it feel beneficent and redemptive. The characters that populate the pages feel fresh and true in ways that creep under your skin, and stay there." Aaron Hicklin, Observer

"What’s most surprising, though, is the grace that can emerge from brutality. It’s a relief to read someone who’s waited long enough to not only document his rather extraordinary experience, but most importantly to have the wisdom to understand it . . . It’s hard to fathom how he got out alive. But thank goodness he did." —Minju Pak, T Magazine

"Rush is a fantastically vivid writer, whether he’s remembering a New Jersey of 'meatballs and Windex and hairspray' or the dappled, dangerous beauty of Northern California, where 'rock stars lurked like lemurs in the trees.' Read if you loved… Just Kids by Patti Smith." Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

“Brace yourself: To enter The Light Years you must be willing to be changed. It is, in the end, about the one question we all must ask ourselves—How does one live? In the end the answer is, always, love. You could wait until you are ready to read this radiant book, though how will you know when that moment arrives?” —Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

“Darkly comic and told with fire and wisdom, The Light Years is an iconic American story, the mad love child of Jack Kerouac, Timothy Leary, and Augustin Burroughs.” —Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body

“Chris Rush is a gorgeous, evocative writer—able to capture the stifling conventionality of suburbia but also the world of flower children drawn together by spiritual experimentation that all too easily gives way to heartbreak and violence. This moving book becomes a gripping story of resilience and, yes, hope.” —George Hodgman, author of Bettyville

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374294410
ISBN-10: 0374294410
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2019
Pages: 384
Language: English