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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

The One You Get by Jason Tougaw

Dzanc Ebooks

The One You Get by Jason Tougaw

Tougaw - The One You Get - Final   Cover.jpg
Tougaw - The One You Get - Final   Cover.jpg

The One You Get by Jason Tougaw

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In The One You Get: Portrait of a Family Organism, Jason Tougaw marries neuroscience and family lore to tell his story of growing up gay in 1970s Southern California, raised by hippies who had “dropped out” in the late sixties and couldn’t seem to find their way back in. “There’s something wrong with our blood,” the family mantra ran, “and it affects our brains”—a catchall answer for incidents such as Tougaw’s schizophrenic great-grandfather directing traffic in the nude on the Golden Gate Bridge, the author’s own dyslexia and hypochondria, and the near-death experience of his notorious jockey grandfather, Ralph Neves.

With shades of Oliver Sacks and Susannah Cahalan, this honest and unexpected true story recasts the memoir to answer some of life’s big questions: “Where did I come from,” “How did I become me,” and “What happens when the family dog accidentally overdoses on acid?”


“Jason Tougaw's intelligent, funny, and deeply moving memoir is that rare thing: the story of a family that is at once particular and universal. The variously wild, tender, deluded, suffering, incorrigible, and resilient people who are so vividly portrayed in this book are nothing if not idiosyncratic. At the same time, this story of a boy growing up in California during the years of a waning counter culture deftly incorporates sophisticated reflections on the brain science of human memory and development and the ongoing mystery of why some of us survive a chaotic and brutal childhood and others don't.”
—Siri Hustvedt, author of A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women

“Tougaw has written a profound meditation on the mysteries of that strange accident, the self. A captivating mix of neuroscience and wild, often heartbreaking, family lore, the book is a wondrous mashup of the delight and curiosity of Oliver Sacks, the expansiveness of William James, the shape-shifting glamour of David Sylvian, and a fierce and generous heart all Tougaw’s own.”
Maud Casey, author of The Man Who Walked Away

“What Tougaw does in The One You Get is a feat of the imagination. Writing with striking intelligence and deep empathy, he reveals the wondrous and terrifying bonds that make a family. Tougaw has found that perfect balance between insightful scientific analysis and sensitive reflection, all of it held together with razor-sharp humor.  A spellbinding read, one that will linger long after the last page.”
Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion's Gaze

“In this utterly unique memoir, we get a portrait, not only of the boy, but also of the the man who is using a set of tools, including social theory and neuroscience, to disentangle the strands that make the self. Whether we are shocked by the conditions of his young lifeaddiction, abuse, mental illness, mosh-pit erectionsis up to us. Tougaw's just trying to get to the bottom of it all.”
— Vestal McIntyre, Author of Lake Overturn and You Are Not the One


Jason Tougaw is a professor of literature at City University of New York. He is the author of two nonfiction books, Strange Cases: The Medical Case History and the British Novel and Touching Brains: Literary Experiments in 21st-Century Neuromania. Excerpts from this book have appeared in Boys to Men: Gay Men Write about Growing Up and Electra Street: A Journal of the Arts and Humanities. He blogs about the relationship between art and science at