A vibrant, thoughtful memoir reflecting contemporary black cultural concerns.

A DROP OF MIDNIGHT

A MEMOIR

A memoir from a Swedish hip-hop artist with a multiracial background.

In his debut, Diakité looks at themes such as race, manhood, family ties, and rootlessness with an unusual stance and fresh, sometimes-striking voice. His writing has an ethereal, questioning quality, in sync with his background as the son of an African American man and a white American woman who moved to Sweden and then divorced. “I was never American, never Swedish, never white but never black either,” he writes. “I was a no-man’s-land in the world. I have a complex system of roots that branches across continents, ethnicities, classes, colors, and eras….Must I have just one origin?” Both parents are portrayed as complex, with mixed feelings about their experiences. As his mother notes, “to experience the same ignorance, the same fear, the same hate, in Sweden, weighed heavy on us.” Diakité captures the cruelty of childhood peers alongside his dawning perceptions regarding race, and he reflects on the cultural awakening that led him to success as a rapper in Sweden. “You might call Reagan the godfather of gangster rap,” he writes. “Under his rule was born the music made of hard drums and urgent voices.” The two primary narrative threads are his travels to the U.S., in an attempt to weigh his personal history against a larger story of racial marginalization, and his tenuous relationship with his father. Accompanied by a filmmaker friend, he visited places including rural South Carolina, Harlem, New Orleans, Baltimore, and tourist-oriented slave plantations (and one acknowledging the black perspective). Everywhere he grimly observes hidden narratives of the long-term mistreatment of black communities, tied to the original sin of slavery: “Real people—my forefathers—were whipped, tortured, herded, and sold like livestock.” Diakité explores family history that reflects much African American experience, including Jim Crow, Harlem in its prime, and the embrace of Afrocentrism in the 1960s. While his storytelling is occasionally heavy-handed or repetitive, the author’s prose is often nimble and observant, sharply considering the burdens surrounding race and masculinity.

A vibrant, thoughtful memoir reflecting contemporary black cultural concerns.

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1707-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Amazon Crossing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he...

LIVES OTHER THAN MY OWN

The latest from French writer/filmmaker Carrère (My Life as a Russian Novel, 2010, etc.) is an awkward but intermittently touching hybrid of novel and autobiography.

The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he describes powerfully. Carrère and his partner, Hélène, then return to Paris—and do so with a mutual devotion that's been renewed and deepened by all they've witnessed. Back in France, Hélène's sister Juliette, a magistrate and mother of three small daughters, has suffered a recurrence of the cancer that crippled her in adolescence. After her death, Carrère decides to write an oblique tribute and an investigation into the ravages of grief. He focuses first on Juliette's colleague and intimate friend Étienne, himself an amputee and survivor of childhood cancer, and a man in whose talkativeness and strength Carrère sees parallels to himself ("He liked to talk about himself. It's my way, he said, of talking to and about others, and he remarked astutely that it was my way, too”). Étienne is a perceptive, dignified person and a loyal, loving friend, and Carrère's portrait of him—including an unexpectedly fascinating foray into Étienne and Juliette's chief professional accomplishment, which was to tap the new European courts for help in overturning longtime French precedents that advantaged credit-card companies over small borrowers—is impressive. Less successful is Carrère's account of Juliette's widower, Patrice, an unworldly cartoonist whom he admires for his fortitude but seems to consider something of a simpleton. Now and again, especially in the Étienne sections, Carrère's meditations pay off in fresh, pungent insights, and his account of Juliette's last days and of the aftermath (especially for her daughters) is quietly harrowing.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9261-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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