While lifting weights in the Seldon Jackson College gymnasium, Jaed Coffin heard the distinctive whacking sound of sparring boxers down the hall. A year out of college, he had been biding his time as a tutor at a local high school in Sitka, Alaska. That evening, Coffin joined a ragtag boxing club. For the first time, he felt like he fit in.
This is a very introspective memoir in which Coffin, who now teaches writing at the University of New Hampshire, dissects his family issues, especially those regarding his relationship with his father ... this isn’t a 'boxing' book. Instead, it describes a fascinating personal journey that takes place within the boundaries of makeshift, ragtag boxing rings. Beautifully written throughout, with a heartfelt, realistic conclusion.
At first glance, this lewd combination of testosterone and sleaze sounds like any other banal boxing story, but this is merely a glittery distraction to the memoir’s deeper preoccupation — Coffin’s compelling confrontation with his father, his mixed identity, and his ingrained sense of masculinity. At its heart, Roughhouse Friday details Coffin’s hunger for a language he can call his own ... The book’s most powerful moments occur at the arrival of...realizations: Coffin reveals how he began to see how his father created the terms of his mother’s existence...While Coffin unravels these knots with an impressive emotional dexterity, some are perhaps too tightly woven to see ... Though he has gone some way to shed the skin his father has wrapped around him, its flakey residue remains ... Roughhouse Fridayis therefore the search for a new language that never quite manifests. But it was by no means in vain. Coffin’s triumph lies in ridding the language of his father, a language that compelled him to dwell in a house he did not recognize as his own.
There is something almost mysterious about Coffin’s memoir. His remembrances of his bouts in the ring are a mixture of mystery and mayhem as he describes his fights in a manner that exalts the battle, while at the same time recognizing that the contests are often nothing more than glorified bar fights ... A quick glance at the dust jacket of Roughhouse Friday informs readers that whatever demons Coffin may have battled have been conquered. He is now a published author and a professor of creative writing at the University of New Hampshire. His memoir is a hopeful and endearing account of part of that journey.