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American Junkie

American Junkie

4.3 8
by Tom Hansen

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In American Junkie, Tom Hansen takes us on a non-stop into a land of desperate addicts, failed punk bands, and brushes with sad fame selling drugs during the Seattle grunge years. It’s a story that takes us from the promise of a young life to the prison of a mattress, from budding musician to broken down junkie, drowning in syringes and cigarette butts,


In American Junkie, Tom Hansen takes us on a non-stop into a land of desperate addicts, failed punk bands, and brushes with sad fame selling drugs during the Seattle grunge years. It’s a story that takes us from the promise of a young life to the prison of a mattress, from budding musician to broken down junkie, drowning in syringes and cigarette butts, shooting heroin into wounds the size of softballs, and ultimately, a ride to a hospital for a six-month stay and a painful self-discovery that cuts down to the bone. Through it all he never really loses his step, never lets go of his smarts, and always projects quintessential American reason, humor, and hope to make a story not only about drugs, but a compelling study of vulnerability and toughness.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Heavy like the dark stuff itself” – Mark Lanegan

“ . . infused in equal measures with brutality and beauty.” —Gina Frangello, author of My Sister’s Continent

American Junkie takes you to the gristle-chewing tracks of the gnarly Emerald City before the first wave of Sub Pop loving kids arrived, back when our dreams here had more to do with New York City and Los Angeles than being known locally…It’s the period of post-punk fear and desperation that drives Hansen through most of the book that rings true for anyone who lived in the wastelands where the city’s clubs would spring up. . . . The opiated alternative doesn't seem like such a bad choice in a port city with little respect for its young people; not until your IV wounds are oozing liquid the color and consistency of olive oil and you've long ago forgotten about playing out.”
—Chris Estey, KEXP Radio, Seattle, April 14, 2010

"A lot of writers can be harrowing on the page and others can be tender. But to be both tender and harrowing at the same time is a true literary feat. This book has heart. Granted, it's covered in track marks, but the heart beats beautifully long after you close the cover.”
—Joshua Mohr, author of Some Things that Meant the World to Me, Termite Parade, Damascus, Fight Song: A Novel and All This Life: A Novel

"When Tom Hansen first sent me a galley of American Junkie prior to its publication, the book reeked so bad of stale cigarette smoke that my wife made me read it outside. To put it another way, the book oozes atmosphere. Hansen defies the well-worn tropes of the rehab memoir with a gritty and unapologetic vigor. AJ is less about the irrepressible human spirit, and more about the dirty, unglamorous, nuts-and-bolts machinations of addiction and denial. Tommy has more to show for a youth spent chasing the dragon than just a harrowing memoir about survival--he's got a chip on his shoulder, a filthy, one bedroom apartment, and a great, big hole in his ass. If you're looking for authentic reportage from the squalid trenches of addiction, look no further than the book in your hands."
—Jonathan Evison, author of All About Lulu, West of Here, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, and This is Your Life, Harriet Chance

"American Junkie is a brutally honest look at a fascinating life. The prose is beautiful, urgent, and sharp. The story gripping throughout. But perhaps the book's greatest achievement is that, in a world filled with books that exist to reassure, Hansen has given us a story with none of its rough edges sanded down to make it safe or easy to digest. This is a raw, uncompromising, and unflinchingly true portrayal of a man who has been through a lot. And who made it out the other side to write a stunning book. It's a book that will haunt readers, one you don't read so much as experience --and you will be transformed by the experience." —Rob Roberge, author of Liar

“This is a rare via dolorosa that highlights what so many others fail to include: the absolute fact that even the smartest man in the world can't talk himself out of feeling pain where it truly exists. Hansen offers heartbreaking clarity of the kind of pain deep enough to inspire self-destruction, and he does so, miraculously, without self-pity or blame. A humbling and a powerful reminder that within an aching heart lies evidence of valuable humanity.”
—Lenore Zion, Psy.D. sex/love addiction specialist and author of the books Stupid Children and My Dead Pets are Interesting

Product Details

Emergency Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Tom Hansen was born in Seattle and raised by adoptive parents in nearby Edmonds, WA. A failed skateboarder, dishwasher and punk rock guitarist, he turned to shooting and dealing smack. He was very good at it. Following the incidents depicted here, Hansen kicked his habit returned to school and eventually earned an MFA in writing from the University of British Columbia. Tom lives and writes in Seattle. In addition to American Junkie his other work includes the highly praised retro noir thriller, This is What We Do.

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American Junkie 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
OldSeattlePunk More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down. Lucky enough to get an early copy. Wonderful.
RebelMissAlex More than 1 year ago
As a nurse who has never even taken a puff on a cigarette, let alone tried drugs, (I'm not bragging, just stating a fact) I found this memoir fascinating. It isn't a polished story, written by some scholarly ghostwriter, but an honest, tragic, blunt account of one man's downward spiral into heroin addiction. You can tell every word came from Tom himself. It was shocking to read how much damage his body sustained from the drug. I mean, I know it doesn't do the body good, but a lot of the things mentioned in this book were downright horrifying, far beyond what I have seen in my nursing practice or read in textbooks. To know that Tom sort of had this nonchalant attitude about it is sad, too. It was interesting to get into his mindset during this time and read his rationale for why he did what he did, including his views on society and his upbringing. He makes no excuses for his behavior nor does he displace blame on others. He fully owns up to his choices in life that got him to this point - and even goes as far as to say he doesn't deserve the second, third and fourth, etc, chances he was given. However, by the end it seems he doesn't take them for granted, either. The short section on Layne Staley from Alice in Chains was difficult to read, especially knowing how he suffered with a heroin addiction for over a decade, unable to pull himself out of it, even with help from his family, friends, and fans; how he became a recluse in the last five years of his life and how he died; how his body rotted in his apartment for two weeks before anyone found him. I imagine Layne going through the same things Tom Hansen did and wonder if he had the same accepting attitude of his demise or if he felt sad and lonely and desperately wanted help but was just too far gone - too physically and emotionally damaged - to know how to get it or think it could do him any good. Tom has given a face to this disease and to the countless men and women who, right now, are going through the same thing. As a nurse, I make an extra effort not to judge people and I don't give up on people just because they have given up on themselves. Still, I know that drug addicts often get a bad rap from healthcare professionals and society in general and are seen as deserving of the consequences of their behavior. It's tragic. We are all human beings and we are all dealt difficult cards in life. Some handle difficult stuff well, others don't. Heck, even people who seem to have it all aren't immune to mental health issues or making poor life choices. Whether it is genetic or circumstantial is a lifelong debate. Ultimately, we are all worthy and deserving of help, and reading about the caregivers in Tom's hospice in this book (Bailey-Boushay House in Seattle) and the effort they put into his recovery, even when he wasn't sure he wanted saving, is an inspiration to me and a great lesson in humanity for us all. This book offered an inside perspective on drug addiction, which I feel I can apply to my medical practice. Not that every addict's story is the same, but still, it gives me additional understanding, and for that, I am grateful to Mr. Hansen. I gave this book four and a half stars because I would have liked a bit more at the end, like what happened to Tom after he left the hospice. I don't need an account of the last thirteen years, but perhaps the year or two after he left, which I can imagine must have been very difficult for him. Sure, I could Google it, (I did find information on him being clean now and a writer) but I would've liked to hear about it from Tom himself. Perhaps if another edition is released, he will include an epilogue or something, just to give us an update. He was in such rough shape in this book that I am curious to know how he changed his life around so drastically. Bottom line: The book is worth the read and I enjoyed it immensely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bottom line: if you're interested enough to read reviews, just get it; you won't regret it. Hansen's writing is gritty, raw and real... just like his story. Awesome read.
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