The book’s simple style seems to suggest a young adult audience, but the moralistic qualities, as well as a pronounced lack...

A MOMENT IN MY LIFE

SUMMER OF 1974

Ambriz’s debut is a true-life tale of his coming of age one summer in San Antonio, Texas, set against the backdrop of the city’s roughest neighborhood.

The book begins in ’94 with Ambriz as a successful police officer, then quickly flashes back to the titular summer 20 years earlier. The youthful Ambriz is headed back to San Antonio after spending some time living with relatives in the Rio Grande Valley. Returning to his family home is a risky proposition for the author because of his brother Jimmy—a gang leader that young Jesse very much admires—but Ambriz insists on living with his immediate family again. At home, Jimmy is happy to see his younger brother, but Ambriz’s parents express concern over the pair spending time together. The author assures his parents that he will no longer be involved in the gang-related activities that he had been previously, though he immediately goes out to see the old gang, and, simply by fraternizing, does become involved. Told with no paragraphs and in large print on small pages, the story quickly proceeds to Ambriz also becoming involved with an uppity girl named Mina who has ties to the gang, as well as a few encounters he has with Los Ghost Town Boys, a rival gang. In the end, Ambriz’s violent reaction to a Los Ghost Town Boys attack on his brother prompts his father to send him to live in another neighborhood where Ambriz eventually goes to college and gets his act together. Despite the fact that the story is rife with characters and situations, the author describes them with such vagueness that they appear as little more than passing shadows.

The book’s simple style seems to suggest a young adult audience, but the moralistic qualities, as well as a pronounced lack of image and detail, keep the work from resonating.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4343-2677-5

Page Count: 76

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2010

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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