A worthy memoir for a truly unique individual.

I WAS BORN THIS WAY

A GAY PREACHER’S JOURNEY THROUGH GOSPEL MUSIC, DISCO STARDOM, AND A MINISTRY IN CHRIST

With the assistance of Ritz (co-author: Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, A Memoir, 2009, etc.), Bean chronicles the story of his life as a minister and as the singer of the 1977 gay-liberation–themed disco hit, “I Was Born This Way.”

Born to a teenaged mother in 1950s Baltimore, the author was raised by neighbors and suffered an extremely difficult childhood. He was sexually abused at a very young age, by his foster uncle and by other men, and his birth mother died of complications from a botched abortion when he was a teenager. He also struggled with his homosexuality in a religious African-American community. After a suicide attempt at age 14, he came to accept and embrace his sexual orientation. He was also a devout Christian who went on to make a living singing in gospel groups, including the famed Alex Bradford Singers. In 1977, Motown Records asked him to sing the vocals for a disco song entitled “I Was Born This Way, which featured a memorable lyrical hook with a startlingly up-front gay perspective—“I’m happy / I’m carefree / And I’m gay / I was born this way.” It became hugely popular in dance clubs, but when Motown offered him a chance to follow up with an album of heterosexual love songs, he declined, not wanting to portray himself as someone he wasn’t. In 1982, Bean was ordained as a minister and opened his own church, the Unity Fellowship Church of Christ, which was accepting of all sexual orientations. (“God doesn’t care if you’re straight, gay, bi, or transgendered. God contains everything,” he preached.) He also established the Minority AIDS Project to help underserved AIDS patients in Los Angeles. Bean has certainly led a one-of-a-kind life, and his fast-moving, engaging memoir illuminates the 1960s and ’70s gospel world and provides the rare perspective of a homosexual minister. The early chapters, which detail terrible sexual abuse, can be harrowing at times, but the message is insightful and often powerful.

A worthy memoir for a truly unique individual.

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9282-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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

NIGHT

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

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