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THE SLICK BOYS

A TEN-POINT PLAN TO RESCUE YOUR COMMUNITY BY THREE CHICAGO COPS WHO ARE MAKING IT HAPPEN

A sobering yet uplifting look at life in the Chicago projects, written by three who escaped it: Eric Davis, James Martin, and Randy Holcomb. They are the Slick Boys, three plainclothes cops from Chicago who grew up in notorious projects like Cabrini Green, Rockwell Gardens, and Ida B. Welts. Such addresses often prove fatal to young black men in the city of big shoulders, but these three, friends since childhood, formed a rap group whose songs celebrated survival and religion. Their music gained popularity around the city, and all three became police officers—in a town not known for its kindness to minorities—and continue to visit the city’s project to spread their message. Their grim life stories, which open the book, manage to avoid treacly sentiment. Their families share common tales of death, abandonment, and addiction, but these woes only inspire them to help others. In this book, the three introduce a simple guide for cities to adopt in order to arrest violence at its root, with police officers used as a bridge between a civil society and communities at risk. Written with the help of People magazine staffer Luchina Fisher, the language in the book is fairly straightforward and slangy throughout, but the ideas are deceptively simple. The authors— rules are refreshingly phrased: “Lead by Example” and “Be a Ray of Hope” sound like snake-oil clichÇs, but here these notions come alive with ideas about good parenting, good citizenship, and optimism. Their enthusiasm is infectious. While they don’t offer solutions to huge issues like racism and poverty, the Slick Boys present an attitude that is both reasonable (“Don’t play to the stereotypes”) and intelligent (“You’re a slave if you’re not educated”). A wise and believable mandate for surviving an inner-city childhood.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-83300-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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