A Multi-Faceted, Multicultural Memoir

I have always loved memoirs, ever since I read Marley & Me in fifth grade, which has remained my favorite book ever since. In particular, I love celebrity memoirs, having completed Jennette McCurdy’s and Britney Spears’ memoirs this past year. When I saw an ad for Subculture Vulture: A Memoir in Six Scenes, a new memoir from comedian Moshe Kasher, I instantly wanted to check it out.

While I had heard of Kasher, I only knew of him on a name-only basis. I had never watched any of his material, interviews, or read his previous memoir Kasher in the Rye. Therefore, I wanted to use this book as an opportunity to learn more about him.

The book focuses on the six subcultures Kasher has been a part of throughout his life: Alcoholics Anonymous, raves, life as the hearing child of deaf parents, Burning Man festivals, Judaism, and stand-up comedy.

The first thing I noticed about this book is that in addition to describing his own experiences, Kasher weaves in a detailed and expansive history of each subculture.

For the most part, the research-oriented nature of this book works out well. I really felt Kasher’s passion for each subculture. I learned so much about an array of topics including Alcoholics Anonymous (the history of AA and its pros and cons), deaf history (the development of sign language, oralism, deaf activism), Burning Man (the festival’s precursors in the Cacophony Society and Larry Harvey), and much more.

Occasionally, there are a few parts of the book where this research aspect can be a little difficult to follow (in my opinion, an example of this is the history of stand-up comedy from the 1980s to 2000s), but these moments are few and far between.

Not only is the book well-researched, but Kasher’s experiences provide a rich emotional core. I gained some new perspectives reading about Kasher’s struggles with alcoholism as a teenager, sign language interpreting for his mother as a child, and what it’s like attending Burning Man. I also related to this book too, such as Kasher’s description of Jewish Americans’ ancestors fleeing persecution (“some pinball bounce that sent the trajectory of that person’s family into safety, rather than destruction”). Overall, I got to walk in Kasher’s shoes, through his life’s triumphs and struggles.

In addition to its emotional resonance, the book is incredibly funny, of course. Some of my favorite parts include Kasher discussing his mother’s openness around sex, his comparison of Burning Man to Rosh Hashanah, and Kasher insulting a cop while working as a sign language interpreter. I recommend listening to the audiobook, because Kasher’s narration really brings the story and its humor alive.

Overall, Subculture Vulture is a heartfelt and hilarious memoir and a solid introduction to Kasher as a comedian. I look forward to watching and reading more of his work.