A memoir of great style, exploration, and impact.
“I was born worried. I was born anxious,” writes the third child of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. It’s not surprising. Even in the beginning, when “we were kids just running around” in the bitterly segregationist Atlanta of the early 1960s, “a lot did rub off on us, just through osmosis, being in the environment, the SCLC conventions where Aretha Franklin sang.” When Dexter was six, his father was killed. “Hope went out of many lives. We were not alone in that, and never would be alone in it from then on.” Imagine the pressures: The requirement of being pious moral exemplar; the “if only I’d been more like my father” guilt; the failure to finish college; the love of music that earned him the black-sheep tag; the “extra oomph in my feelings of failure when I didn’t follow in his exact footprints.” There would be highs and lows: the cruel politics of the King Center; the author’s inability to sustain a commitment because of his experience of what happens when you love somebody and they are taken away. But there were also his fights to secure the intellectual-property rights of his father and to try to learn the full circumstances of the assassination, both efforts that earned him the calumny of vested interests. Throughout, the memoir is wonderfully written: stories are nested within stories, pulled forward through history with a disarming openness—King is still very much a work in progress. There’s a lightness to his touch and a subversiveness to his humor.
For all his black-sheep status, the author has found grace and purpose, and has stayed aware of his own identity, even when it was truly out of focus.