CH resident John Brogan publishes his first book

John Brogan at the summit of Mount Marcy in New York. [courtesy John Brogan]

Cleveland Heights resident John Brogan is only 22 years old, but he recently published his first book. In Reflection of Nature, which came out in September, is the story of Brogan’s efforts to deal with his mother’s struggles with cancer and the death of his 14-year-old cousin, who was killed when he was hit by a car when Brogan was only 10 years old.

“The book is about the adventures I took to try and seek solace,” Brogan said. “It was a way to give myself confidence that I would be able to live my life after my mom died.” 

Brogan’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2013. Prior to that, she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In January 2015, Brogan began taking trips to various national parks and forests. “I would go when my mom was able to be by herself,” he said. “It was a way to test my ability to be physically and mentally secure. And it was also a way to test my willingness to survive and adapt.”

Seven of the book’s nine chapters tell the story of those trips to such places as Arches National Park in Utah, Mohican State Park and Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

Brogan would take the trips to convince himself that he knew how to survive. For example, sometimes he traveled in bad weather, such as the time he went to Mohican State Park when the temperature was 10 degrees below zero. He would also take trips that were physically challenging. When he went to the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath, he rode 140 miles on his bike.

Brogan’s mother died on Aug. 31, but she was able to read his book before her death.

Brogan has spent most of his life in Cleveland Heights. An only child, he was born in Cleveland, but moved to Cleveland Heights as a young child. He and his mother lived on Ashton Road, near Fairmount Boulevard and Lee Road. He attended Fairfax Elementary School, Roxboro Middle School and Cleveland Heights High School. He graduated from high school in 2011 and then attended Ohio University. After his mother was diagnosed with cancer, he transferred to Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) so he would be closer to home.

He is currently a senior at CWRU, where he is majoring in cognitive science with a focus on linguistics. He has loved writing most of his life. Recently, when he was going through his mother’s belongings, he came upon a manuscript for a book he wrote when he was 11 years old. He called the book Light Will Vanquish All Shadows. “It’s about a family of owls who take on human qualities,” he said. “Then they search for their youngest son who was lost.”

Brogan has been writing poetry since he was very young, and In Reflection of Nature includes several poems about his journeys. He is also planning to publish a book of poems with associated photos in the near future, and is working on a novel. “It’s fictional,” Brogan said. “It’s about me traveling at the age of 26. It was inspired by Jack Kerouac’s book, On the Road.”

“I really enjoy writing,” Brogan said, “And I have dedicated my book to my mother, my cousin, the Case community and the Cleveland Heights community. I really appreciate all that the people in Cleveland Heights have done for me.”

In Reflection of Nature is available at Mac's Backs on Coventry Road and at the Barnes & Noble store on Euclid Avenue in University Circle. It is also available on More of Brogan’s writing can be found on his website,

James Henke

James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.

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Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 3:50 PM, 10.30.2015