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Extraterrestrial Summer

Growing Up With the Aliens

This poignant, space-obsessed, memoir tells the story of the summer a 10 year old grew up too fast, left to be raised by the film E.T.

In the summer of 1982, a ten-year-old Jason Heller was handed off to his grandparents on the Gulf Coast of Florida with little explanation as to why. He knows now that his mother had disappeared into a months long manic episode. But that summer–watching E.T. over 20 times in the two screen strip mall movie theater his grandmother managed–he felt like an alien longing for home.

Extraterrestrial Summer is the story of how he came of age that season–learning that his family was more complicated and poorer than he could possibly process, and coming online as sci-fi nerd–and the major influence it would have on the rest of his life and his own mental health.

It is also the portrait of an era in which longing for other worlds became mainstream: with the explosion of blockbuster sci-fi releases, the space shuttle craze (the launches of which he could see first hand from his grandparent’s front yard), and the development of SETI, which was conceived of just a few miles away. By the end of that summer, Jason, his family, and the world’s sense of itself would never be the same.

Jason Heller has written for the New YorkerRolling StonePitchfork, NPR, and The AV Club. His latest novel was Taft 2012, and his latest work of non-fiction was Strange Stars. He lives in Denver, CO.