Thursday, January 21, 2016


Bullies represents itself to potential readers as an "account of one writer's unlikely friendship with his childhood bully," a premise likely to appeal to readers who as children experienced either side of the bullying equation.  And for a rather brief few pages that is what it is - but all too quickly, the book changes into a social history of the city of Oakland, California, combined with the history of motorcycle clubs in that part of the state.  Interesting as those topics may be, I suspect that many readers will be disappointed that so little time is devoted to the psychology of bullies and their victims.

Alex Abramovich and Trevor Latham first met in the mid-eighties inside a fourth grade classroom in Long Island, New York, but Alex was a year younger than Trevor, the boy who would become his "mortal enemy."  The boys had a lot in common, mainly that formerly athletic fathers who had once raced motorcycles were raising both of them in single-parent households.  Despite their similarities, the boys spent much of the next three years fighting, kicking, and clawing at each other.  Trevor's impact on Alex's life was so great that by the end of the fourth grade Alex was playing hooky, and by the end of the fifth grade he was failing most of his classes.  At the end of the sixth grade, Alex's father moved him from the area, but it was too late. The damage was already done, and five years after the relocation, Alex would drop out of high school.

Despite the miserable three years they shared, Alex did not think about Trevor again until the day he stumbled upon an Internet reference to him indicating that Trevor had moved to the West Coast where he "started a motorcycle club."  Alex, intrigued by the possibility of contacting his childhood bully, sensed from the start that their story was one that he wanted to tell.  Surprisingly, when Alex and Trevor would finally sit down together in California, Trevor's memory for details from their childhood easily surpasses Alex's recall of those days. Trevor even remarks that he had considered himself the one who was being bullied, not that he was doing the bullying.

Author Alex Abramovich 
What began as a catch-up visit between Alex and Trevor would turn out to be much more than that when, in 2010, Alex moved to California to immerse himself into Trevor's violent lifestyle of excessive and constant boozing, street fighting, scheduled fight club events, and so much petty crime that the Oakland Police Department was largely forced to ignore it.  As an honorary member of Trevor’s motorcycle club, Alex experienced all the ups and downs of that violent lifestyle right alongside his old nemesis (including firsthand experience with the Occupy Oakland movement that plagued that city) but the two of them never took the time to figure out what had happened to them as children.

And that is a shame because it is what I wanted most to learn about from reading Bullies.  That said, those seeking an inside look into the rogue motorcycle club lifestyle are sure to enjoy and appreciate the book. 

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