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In Loving Memory of Dan "Sam" Kincaid (1974 - 2008)

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(SPOILER ALERT: I will be discussing the novels "It Started with Brian," by Dan Kincaid, and "Crosscurrents," by Adam Phillips.)


Ten years ago today, Dan Kincaid (whose real name was Samuel), author of the autobiographical novel "It Started with Brian," died of colon cancer after struggling with the disease for several months. He was thirty-four years old. I want to take this moment to acknowledge this milestone, celebrate his life, and honor his memory.

I did not have the privilege to know Sam personally or electronically, but he has had such a great impact in my life: He has helped me be a better human being.


I was going through a very difficult time in my life when I discovered Sam’s novel on May 27th, 2015. At the time, I was reading Adam Phillips’s autobiographical novel “Crosscurrents,” but I was not really “feeling” the story. I had read outstanding reviews about that novel for a couple of years, so I finally decided to give it a shot and succumbed to begin reading it. The novel was indeed good, but it was disappointing me: It was not what I needed at that particular moment. For starters, I could not relate to Andy, the main character, or Matt, Andy’s best friend and one of his subsequent love interests (the other one being Angie, a female). I usually do not mind if I cannot connect to, identify with, or feel empathy for a character of a novel that I am reading since I like to be exposed to different ways of thinking and personalities, but somehow I needed to read about a character who I could sympathize with, respond to, and have a rapport with. Needless to say, that was not Andy.


While reading “Crosscurrents,” I was feeling miserable because I was dealing with both physical and psychological health issues. I was bedridden for two years struggling with severe pain on both my right leg and foot after having several unsuccessful surgeries to try to correct the problem. I was, too, suffering from intense Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which was out of control, making me unable to have peace of mind due to unbearable anxiety and stress. I was crippled and mentally disabled. The corporal pain and emotional hurt were incredibly distressing and became too much for me to handle. The agony, discomfort, and torment were tearing me apart. I felt that I hated myself. I thought that I did not have a future to anticipate to. As might be expected, I was overwhelmingly depressed. I realized that I was running on empty. I was suicidal. I needed to “escape.”


I loathed Andy Sharp (“Crosscurrents” main character) because I considered that he had it all and still was a terrible person. I thought of him as arrogant, conceited, immature, self-absorbed, selfish, smug, and unpleasant. He was handsome, healthy, fit, intelligent, brilliant, dexterous, and gregarious. He was also a popular athlete who played baseball, football, and soccer. And he was bisexual, so he led a practically “normal” life due to the fact that he also felt attraction to females. He had lots of friends, and did not have any problems getting girls to date or sleep with. So he possessed an infinite amount of qualities which I believed that I lacked. I disliked him greatly almost from the very beginning since he made me feel like a failure and incredibly inadequate; I was both envious and jealous of him. I did not need to feel that way at that tortuous moment. I want to point out that I know that he behaved appallingly because of insecurity struggling with his sexuality, but the way he chose to act on it was childish and condescending, even hurting others, like Matt, on his way. He was smart enough to know that what he was doing was wrong, but still kept upon doing it.

(I want to clarify that I have personally nothing against Adam Phillips, the author of the novel “Crosscurrents,” I was just feeling emotionally shattered and demolished at the time, and I could not help but compare myself unfavorably to him (Andy Sharp). Last year, when I was in a better place, both physically and psychologically, I read the novel from beginning to end and I could enjoy it. Not one of my favorites, but I recognize that it is a great story. Adam is a very gifted writer. You should read his work if you have not: You will not be disappointed.)

In spite of my not enjoying myself reading “Crosscurrents,” it did not blind me to recognize the talent of its author: I was impressed and in awe of Adam Phillips’s more than obvious story-telling gift, so I figured that I would look up if he had written other novels… With a more “likable” main character this time. That was when I came across “It Started with Brian,” and was introduced to fourteen-year-old Sam Passerello.


I did a little research on the novel before I began reading it. It was not a secret to me that this story was autobiographical, and that the author had passed away seven years before I found his work. I also, of course, was aware of the fact that Adam Phillips had graciously agreed to help Sam finish his novel when Sam was too sick to do it himself and decided to spend his last moments with his family members and friends. Adam could do so with the help of notes that Sam had previously written down and a few telephone calls between them. When Sam perished, Adam got some assistance from Sam’s husband, John (Brian, in the novel). This definitely called my attention. I proceeded to read the novel, and I was hooked from the very beginning. It was the first time, in a long time, that I responded to a story in such an amazing and magnificent way. I have read many books in my lifetime, and this particular novel hit me harder than “El plan infinito,” by Isabel Allende (which is my favorite published book, written by my preferred author), had done.


I could empathize with Sam from the start; I felt a connection to him. To me, he was so pure, innocent, brave, sincere, compassionate, honest, affectionate, caring, friendly, selfless, giving, approachable, understanding, and considerate. He was, above everything else, someone with whom I could relate. There were plenty of similarities between him and me. He was flawed, but that made him more likable in my eyes. He did not have a perfect life with loving parents and a stable home. He was so different from Andy Sharp who I thought, had it all.

Sam did not have it easy. The more I read, the more I loved him. I must admit, though, that there were times when I was angry with him for making the same mistakes over and over, but I had to remind myself that I, personally, would have done some of the same things that he did. He was human. He trusted his instincts. It was his kind-hearted and tender nature that made him the wonderful man who he was. He was the kind of person who I wanted to be friends with. Whenever I would get mad at him, he would win me over immediately by showing me his vulnerability and compassion for others.  I felt that I was a part of his story; I wanted so badly to hug and comfort him, and tell him that everything would work out for the best in the end.


I was ecstatic when Sam and his husband John, his first and true love, were finally together romantically. Sam had struggled for years to come to terms with his feelings for John. Sam fell in love with John when they first met when Sam was a new student at the school that John attended; there, they became best friends swiftly. To Sam, who was bisexual, it was inconceivable to accept the fact that John, who was heterosexual, could have any feelings for him that were not platonic. But it was also tremendously arduous for John to comprehend his affection for Sam. John, too, had loved Sam since they first met. It was considerably strenuous for John, because Sam had been the only man who he had ever wanted. John was still heterosexual, but in love with Sam who happened to be a man, so he was wrestling with those feelings, as well. They could have been together sooner, but Sam had previously dated John’s sister, Mary (her name in the novel), whom Sam seriously loved, and the two men had reservations, individually, about being together because of it. But the main problem that they both had, especially Sam, was that their sexual orientations were not compatible. Had Sam given himself the chance to be happy, to forget about “labels” (Sam was bisexual, John was heterosexual, so how could John possibly love Sam?), and just think about the love that John felt for him, things between them would have begun sooner.


That was an important lesson for me to learn: to forget about labels, and think about the love. I have read about countless people who are not together because of those irritatingly annoying labels, despite the immeasurable feelings that they have for the ones whom they love. How incredibly sad, is it not? Before reading this novel, I had not really paid that much attention to the amount of pain and hurt those labels inflict in some people. I was able to educate myself in the subject, and it opened up a whole new world for me to both discover and travel, and for that I am forever grateful.


I knew that Sam would eventually pass on, but I was not expecting to respond to the novel as badly as I thought that I would. Yes, life can be unfair at times, or it probably always is… I really do not know. Oh, how happy I felt when Sam and John were finally living together, along with Sam’s son, Christopher (his name in the novel), who was born when Sam was only twenty-two years of age. I was genuinely delighted for them both! Seriously beaming! Why did things have to end up the way that they did? I cried out loud reading the last chapter that Sam had written, himself, without the assistance of Adam. Then I read the postscript written by John, and I could learn even more about the extraordinary human being who Sam was.

I cried for the time that Sam and John wasted not being together. I cried because they could only enjoy themselves as a couple for a very short time. I cried because when things were getting finally better for Sam, he learned that he was terminally ill. I cried due to him dying so young. I cried for Sam’s son, Christopher, losing his father at only twelve years old. I cried because Sam and John are not physically together now. I cried for days, and I still do from time to time when I think about Sam.


Sam is an inspiration to me. He was born with parents who did not care much about him. He was sexually abused by older cousins and when he told his parents about it, they chose not to believe their own son. When he was outed by a jealous girlfriend, Amy (her name in the novel), his parents disowned him. He was determined to succeed because he wanted to prove his parents wrong, so he could not afford to be depressed. He was stalked viciously for years by a vindictive ex-boyfriend, Neal (his name in the novel). As I mentioned before, he became a father at twenty-two, and had sole custody of his son when his relationship with the mother of the child went downhill. Sam mentioned that his life was dominated by fear, but he did not let that to stop him. He worked several jobs while attending college because he could not rely on his parents for support. He graduated with honors sooner than anyone else in his class. He had a great career, giving friends, a caring husband, and loving son. My life, too, has been dominated by fear, and Sam proved to me that you can succeed as long as you believe in yourself with all your body, heart, mind, and soul. I learned from him to be understanding and forgiving; to have both an open heart and mind; to choose love always; and to cherish every single moment because, unfortunately, tomorrow is not promised to anyone. He taught me success is the best revenge.


Despite all the hardships in his life, Sam was not bitter or hateful. He did not use the tragedies that happened to him as an excuse to fail, be dejected or sorrowful. He always had the good sense to look ahead and wait for the best in every situation. He was a good son, father, friend, colleague, classmate, roommate, boyfriend, and husband. He was an outstanding human being and an impeccable man. And I will always treasure the day I decided to read his story.


I honestly hope that John has been able to move on and share, once again, all the love that he has to give to someone else. I sincerely hope his son (who must be around twenty-two, the age Sam was when he was born) is doing all right, and know the splendid man he had as a father. I am aware that John adopted him, so I am certain that he has grown up with the best person to guide his steps.


I want to thank Adam Phillips, dearly, for helping Sam tell his story. It was such a selfless act for him to do so; according to his own words, he did it out of love for Sam whom he loved as a brother. I truthfully hope all is well with his wife and two sons. I personally cannot wait for him to continue writing, since I think that he is one of the most talented writers around.


In conclusion, I thank you, Sam, wherever you are for everything that you have taught me. As you can see, your legacy is living on not only inside the people who you knew, but also inside the ones who you have touched through your story. You made the right decision the day that you decided to tell your story. Your novel helped me when I needed it the most. If there is a Heaven, I know that you are there.


May you forever rest in peace.



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