AN UNLIKELY JOURNEY

WAKING UP FROM MY AMERICAN DREAM

A timely, inspiring memoir.

The former San Antonio mayor and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development tells the story of how he rose from humble origins to live the American dream.

Born to Chicano activist parents, Castro and his twin brother, Joaquín, grew up in a household where both were taught “the importance of political engagement” from an early age. They also grew up imbibing the “trifecta of…religion, cooking and stories” provided to them by their Mexican grandmother, who had first crossed into the United States as an orphan in the early 1920s. Their father eventually left the family; undaunted, Castro’s mother completed a master’s program in urban studies and worked at an internship with the City of San Antonio while raising her sons and caring for an aging mother. The difficulties the brothers faced at home forced them to learn “how to support each other without a parent around” and helped them overcome their ongoing rivalry. Determined to fulfill their mother’s wishes that they “reach as high as [they] possibly could,” they graduated high school near the top of their class and entered Stanford University. There, they continued to excel and won election to the student senate. Before the brothers went on to attend Harvard Law School, the author briefly taught high school in San Antonio in a working-class Mexican-American neighborhood similar to the ones he had known as a child. The experience left him determined to use his education to help ordinary citizens and especially Mexican-Americans. He and Joaquín returned to San Antonio to work as lawyers and begin careers in politics. Joaquín went on to win a seat in the House of Representatives while the author became mayor and then joined the Barack Obama administration as HUD secretary. Eloquent in its simplicity, Castro’s book offers a moving account of immigrant success that seeks to encourage all Americans to continue the fight against government injustice toward immigrants.

A timely, inspiring memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-25216-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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