Punching Bag (Hardcover)
In his follow up to Free Lunch, Rex Ogle sparingly and clearly details his high school years facing both poverty and domestic abuse. He candidly and heartbreakingly describes his relationship with his mother, when he frequently serves as the responsible party. Through his memories, we learn more about the family's history and begin to understand the root of his stepfather's drinking and anger. We can tell that Rex is walking beside us as we get glimpses of love and of hope. And at the end, we know Rex survived and has thrived. It's an extraordinary memoir that's a hard but vitally important read.— Cathy
A New York Public Library Best Book of 2021
The companion to Rex Ogle’s award-winning Free Lunch is a searing account of adolescence in a household torn by domestic violence.
Punching Bag is the compelling true story of a high school career defined by poverty and punctuated by outbreaks of domestic abuse. Rex Ogle, who brilliantly mapped his experience of hunger in Free Lunch, here describes his struggle to survive; reflects on his complex, often paradoxical relationship with his passionate, fierce mother; and charts the trajectory of his stepdad’s anger. Hovering over Rex’s story is the talismanic presence of his unborn baby sister.
Through it all, Rex threads moments of grace and humor that act as beacons of light in the darkness. Compulsively readable, beautifully crafted, and authentically told, Punching Bag is a remarkable memoir about one teenager’s cycle of violence, blame, and attempts to forgive his parents—and himself.
About the Author
Rex Ogle was born and raised mostly in Texas. He received the 2020 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award for his memoir Free Lunch. A former children’s book editor in New York City, Rex now lives in Los Angeles with his partner.
Readers will see themselves in Rex and appreciate the hope he offers: life can get better.... This should be widely available to anyone who needs it.
— Booklist (starred review)
Though the subject matter is harrowing...Ogle's message throughout is focused on survival and hope. Highly recommended for all middle and high school collections.
— School Library Journal (starred review)
[A] vivid, emphatic memoir.... A beacon of hope to readers trying to survive their own childhoods.
— Publishers Weekly