It’s October! Let’s read and discuss “The Key,” by Brian Broome

Please sign up for our discussion on Sunday, Oct. 24

Welcome to October! I’m excited to announce that this month, we’ll be reading and discussing “The Key,” by Brian Broome. The piece is an excerpt from Mr. Broome’s engrossing memoir, Punch Me Up to the Gods, which was published in May. A finalist for the Kirkus Prize, the book explores masculinity, sexuality, and Blackness.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

The only thing I learned in phys ed was that my body would never do the things that it was supposed to do. My body was the worst bully that I’d ever had. It swished. My hips and wrists were too loose. My hands found their way to my face far too frequently, wrists glued together under the chin with fingers fanned out across the cheeks. My shoulders were never more than an inch from my earlobes, tense like they wanted to force the body to be as small as possible. I flounced and lumbered effeminately. Any attempts to appear more skilled were met with uproarious laughter. I tried to make my body be forceful and tried to get it to compete. But it disobeyed. It was a marionette with tangled and impossibly knotted strings. So me and my body followed behind the boys, close enough so that it might look to a passerby that I was part of the game but far enough away to ensure that the ball would never come to me. I straggled for the duration of the games, steeling myself for the very worst part of the class, the moment when my body would betray me the most. And when the gym teacher blew his whistle to signal that class was over, I knew that the worst was yet to come.

A poet and screenwriter, Mr. Broome is a K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and instructor in the Writing program at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been a finalist in The Moth storytelling competition and won the grand prize in Carnegie Mellon University’s Martin Luther King Writing Awards. He also won a VANN Award from the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation for journalism in 2019. He lives in Pittsburgh.

I’ve had the honor to interview Mr. Broome before – about three years ago, after his outstanding article, “79,” was featured in The Highlighter as one of the best articles of 2018. In our conversation (linked below), Mr. Broome answered my questions directly, honestly, and thoughtfully, as if we’d been friends for years. I’m pleased he has said yes again, this time to joining us at Article Club.

Article Club
#41: Author Brian Broome, “79”
Listen now (33 min) | When I featured “79” as one of last year’s best three articles (see Issue #173), naturally I wanted to speak to author Brian Broome. He graciously accepted the invitation, and I’m honored to present our conversation to you, loyal Highlighter Podcast listeners…
Read more

A note on language: The online version of the chapter was published in The Cut, and a variant of the n-word is hyphenated rather than spelled out in full. The original text includes the word spelled out. At our discussion, we will set agreements on language so that all participants feel safe and comfortable.

I hope you’ll join me and fellow Article Clubbers in discussing this article on Sunday, October 24, 2:00 - 3:30 pm PT! This event will be on Zoom, open to the public, and limited to 24 participants. Mr. Broome will be joining our conversation!

Are you IN? I hope so. If so, here’s what to do:

  1. Sign up for the discussion.

  2. Leave a comment here. Click the button below, say hi, and share what drew you in.

  3. Start reading! Highly encouraged: Let’s annotate this copy of the piece together.

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Coming up this month at Article Club
  • This week: We’ll sign up for the discussion and start reading the article.

  • Next week: We’ll annotate the article with fellow Article Clubbers.

  • The week of October 18: We’ll listen to an interview with Mr. Broome.

  • Sunday, October 24: We’ll discuss the article with fellow Article Clubbers.

Are you new to Article Club? If so, welcome! We look forward to meeting you and having your voice in the conversation. Feel free to reach out with questions: mark@highlighter.cc.


Article Club is a community of thoughtful people who read, annotate, and discuss one great article every month on race, education, or culture. Everyone is welcome. The author participates, too. Article Club is part of The Highlighter, a weekly newsletter featuring the best articles on race, education, and culture.