A dynamic version of the mythic American dream.



After nearly three decades of shaping much of what we know of as “street style,” Harlem-born Day, aka Dapper Dan, tells his life story in an engaging prose style.

From growing up hungry in the 1940s and ’50s (“nothing makes you question the purpose and meaning of life like hunger”) to being a master dice gambler to opening (and subsequently closing) his own clothing boutique, the author chronicles his own story as well as that of the changing societal landscape of Harlem. Day’s parents had moved from “tight-knit rural communities in the South where everyone knew each other” to black Harlem, where families “did their best to re-create those communities.” There was little crime and decent education in the public schools, but as Day grew older, the allure of the streets became more important than an education. The author quit high school as the neighborhood was becoming increasingly violent and fragmented due to new housing projects and the rise of heroin and crack, and he took up gambling as his primary hustle. He became a master of his trade, “somewhere between a magician and a scientist,” and he used his smarts through dice games as a primary means of income to support his growing family. After a brief stint in prison for a credit-card fraud scheme in Aruba, Day, increasingly spiritually minded and determined to get off the streets, returned to Harlem and opened the clothing boutique Dapper Dan, specializing in furs and leathers. “Fashion for me wasn’t about expression,” he writes. “Fashion was about power,” a message that resonated with his neighborhood connections, drawing in the hustlers with money to spend. Day eventually found a creative way to screen print the logos of high-fashion labels, such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Fendi, and make custom clothing for his first customers—the black gangsters of Harlem. Since then, his clothes and vision have become iconic to American hip-hop culture. With clients like Jam Master Jay, Flavor Flav, and Beyoncé, Day continues to have an instrumental effect on black urban culture.

A dynamic version of the mythic American dream.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51051-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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