Relatively Criminal: A Memoir

Abear’s (Mom…You’re Not Naked, Are You?, 2000) memoir tells the story of her close-knit relationship with her brother, a lifelong criminal and addict, and her attempts to care for him.
In 1983, the author had just gotten out of a dead-end marriage when her younger brother, Frank, contacted her from prison. Although she hadn’t talked with him for years, she agreed to let him live with her and her two young sons once he was paroled. They both grew up in a household with an aloof, self-absorbed mother and a predatory stepfather, and they now began to depend increasingly upon each other for emotional support. However, she soon realized that despite their bond and Frank’s childlike, gregarious good nature, she couldn’t do anything to turn him away from a life of drugs and theft. She continued to support him, appearing for his court dates, pleading with public defenders and visiting him in prison as his life spiraled further out of control. Abear remarried, and her life began to flourish, while Frank continued to steal to finance his dependence on hard drugs—despite a nearly fatal staph infection and an eventual HIV diagnosis. Abear perfectly captures the 1980s zeitgeist, and her often dark humor hits the mark, as when she tells the story of when her brother, mistakenly released from jail, stole a car and broke into a condom machine before police picked him up. (The author quips that she was “sure the drunken dating population in the area was happy to see the local rubber supply return to normal.”) Although she never seeks to excuse her brother’s lifestyle, Abear shows how he was repeatedly denied access to drug-treatment programs, drawing attention to a system that’s more invested in punishment than rehabilitation.
A hilarious, heartbreaking and poignant story of family ties that bind, against all odds.

Pub Date: July 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0967710112

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Moonshadow Books

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2014

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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