To paraphrase a U.S. president he doesn’t like, this book shows us a kinder, gentler Michael Moore. The filmmaker and activist uses a flashback structure: the first chapter tells how his 2003 Oscar acceptance speech and movie Fahrenheit 9/11 made him into “a target of the right,” but after that, he takes us back to the beginning, with his birth in Flint, Mich. Most of what follows is a series of anecdotal chapters about his childhood, his Catholic upbringing, and his political experiences; it ends just after Moore finished making his first film, Roger & Me, but before the film made him famous.
Most of the chapters have a political dimension to them. Some are serious, like the story of a friend who got a back-alley abortion. Others are in Moore’s familiar comic style, like his failed attempt to escape to Canada during the Vietnam War: it proved to be unnecessary because he was ineligible for the draft, but it left him “fond of Canada for a very long time.” They are stories about typical experiences for a child of the ’60s and ’70s—an attempt to show Moore as an ordinary person of his generation. The book sometimes seems like a way for him to get back the regular-guy image that made Roger & Me so effective.
There aren’t a lot of surprises, certainly not political ones: like many baby boomers, he reveres Kennedy, thinks Americans “lost our moral compass” by electing Nixon, and had a new world opened up for him by Motown music. But his reminiscences do shed light on a theme that Moore, and other liberals of his era, are becoming interested in: “the death of the middle class,” the differences between the modern era and what Moore sees as his own era of strong unions and strong families. An underlying theme is that his youth was a time when hope and change were not “out of reach to the average person.”