Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead
Goldmill Group (2015)
Reviewed By Ben Green for Reader Views (07/15)
“Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead” is the memoir of Christian Picciolini's life as a skinhead and his journey back. The story begins with Picciolini in junior high and follows his dark journey of hate, violence, and redemption, as he becomes fascinated with a charismatic skinhead leader, gets recruited by white supremacist groups and becomes immersed in violence and radicalized racism. He even becomes a successful leader of skinhead cells across the country. Eventually Picciolini realizes that he is on the wrong path and is miraculously able to turn over a new leaf, start a new life, and even help start the nonprofit organization Life After Hate, with the purpose of helping those lost within hate-based organizations. “Romantic Violence” shows how easy it is for a misguided youth to become indoctrinated into a hate-based violent organization such as the skinheads and radicalized into, technically speaking, what we would call a terrorist today. Even in a country with as much diversity and opportunity as America.
Most readers will praise this book as a journey of redemption, and I view it as a road map to radicalization, a road map similar to that used by other terrorist organizations. The book is a first-hand account of the author's indoctrination, recruitment, and radicalization, and an interesting look into the heart of homegrown terrorism. Picciolini's unique experience and insight into both the process, and his personal experience as a member of these organizations makes this book well worth the read. Personally, I found the latter half about the author's journey back to humanity less interesting. While stories of redemption are nice, and I am happy for the author's successful recovery, I feel that the real value of the book is in seeing how organizations of hate can target, corrupt, and recruit youths to their causes. After all, if you understand how these youths are recruited then perhaps you can prevent it in the first place.
“Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead” is not for everyone. First, you need to enjoy memoirs. Secondly, you need to be okay with violent scenes as the title suggests. Third, you need to be okay with strong language, as is to be expected when reading a book about skinheads. The n-word is thrown around quite a bit and there are plenty of F-bombs being dropped. “Romantic Violence” does not pull any punches. The book is about as dark as you could get and the fact that the author lived it and came out on the other side is amazing.
Anyone who wants a good redemption story or wants a first-hand account of how terrorists operate should read “Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead” by Christian Picciolini. While not for everyone, if you like this sort of thing, and can handle the language, it's definitely worth checking out.