With masterful narrative control, Moser reveals the narrowness of perspective as well as the limitations of memory.

This boyhood memoir reveals much more than it ever explicitly states, with its tight focus on boyhood, brotherhood, estrangement, and reconciliation.

An art professor and National Book Award–winning illustrator (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 2011), Moser writes that his older brother, Tommy, was actually the better artist of the two. He was also more troubled, though when Tommy gets the climactic chance to speak (or write) in his own words, a different perspective emerges. “Most of my memories of that time have the visual qualities of dreams: the images are slightly out of focus and dissolve at the edge,” writes the author. “The palette is muted and nearly void of color.” With a prose style that is precise, understated, and that rarely veers toward sentimentality, Moser describes coming of age in Chattanooga in an era permeated by racism and where any sign of oddness or weakness encouraged bullying. Both boys carried a “chip of inferiority”—the author was fat, dyslexic, and not athletic; his brother had developmental problems that kept him behind in school. With his brother as instigator (in the author’s memory), they fought so hard that the police once were summoned. Tommy dropped out of military school, remained an apparently unrepentant racist, and enjoyed more of a successful life than one might have expected. The author rejected the racism of his upbringing, studied theology, and became a preacher before he found renown as an artist (his illustrations highlight the chapters). Yet the narrative isn’t simply that black and white—their mother’s best, lifelong friend was black, and both boys enjoyed playing with a black friend—and a climactic exchange of letters suggests how deeply each brother had misjudged the other through their extended estrangement of adulthood. Before Tommy’s death, they enjoyed eight years of a brotherhood they had never known before, and the author describes the book as “an homage to him as well as a history of our burdened brotherhood.”

With masterful narrative control, Moser reveals the narrowness of perspective as well as the limitations of memory.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61620-413-6

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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