Young sharply conveys important truths with powerful effect.

The co-founder and editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas documents the evolution of a city, a family, and a man using language that runs the gamut from irreverent to uproarious.

The author, who is also a columnist for GQ, provides an inward-looking examination of the foibles, desires, and fears of a black man attempting to make his way in the world, the questions he asks along the way, and the destructive forces (sometimes controllable, sometimes not) that threaten to break him. This cultural landscape is steeped in the legacy of America’s domestic immigrants who carved paths out of the South and into the steel and mining towns of Pennsylvania. Young’s aspirational personal story parallels the trajectories of other descendants of the Great Migration. By sharing snapshots of his growth from adolescence into adulthood, he offers a glimpse into the crucible that shaped his personality and his politics, both of which came to define the aesthetic of VerySmartBrothas. But where VSB is rooted in the transactional here and now, the author’s memoir explores the template upon which white supremacy is based and the recurring themes of oppression that permeate every aspect of black life in America. That Young does this vis-à-vis the tragicomedy of his own experiences makes each vignette that much more poignant. Everyone in America has some level of adjacency to the N-word: how it’s used, how it’s received, and the context in which the usage is deemed acceptable (or not). In addition to mining that explosive aspect of the cultural landscape, Young also looks at the extreme lengths to which men will go in search of love; how to know when to talk and when it’s time to listen; and the fear of failing ones’ family and how that sometimes manifests poorly in black men as opposed to more successful strategies employed by their partners. Health disparities, gentrification, and low expectations operating as a de facto form of violence on the bodies and minds of black people are among the author’s many prescient themes.

Young sharply conveys important truths with powerful effect.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-268430-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2019


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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