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

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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 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...


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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