BURN DOWN THE GROUND

A MEMOIR

Poignant and unsettling.

A New York publicist and producer’s unsparing yet compassionate account of her dysfunctional childhood and the father who both charmed and victimized her family.

As the hearing child of two deaf adults, Crews grew up between worlds. Her outsider status increased when she and her parents moved to Boars Head, Texas, a place that “wasn’t even on the map.” At first, their new life, though undeniably difficult, seemed a glorious, backwoods adventure—the perfect tonic for her father’s roving eye and failing marriage. But not long after they moved from their tin-shed shelter into a mobile home, Crews began to see evidence of domestic abuse that took the form of mysterious bruises on her mother’s face and inexplicably cruel behavior in her brother. Her home life continued to show signs of ugly undercurrents, yet only silence prevailed, and the author threw herself into school and a full-time job. Meanwhile, her carpenter father began losing jobs and turning to alcohol and gambling while her mother struggled to support a splintering family. When Crews was 16, she witnessed “by far the most traumatic incident I had ever experienced in my life”: her father destroying the family home and brutalizing her mother. Even after she found success in her career, her past was far from behind her. At age 31, she received the shattering news that her father had stabbed his girlfriend. Rather than blame her father for his actions, however, Crews chose to embrace a more difficult truth. She, along with her own family—in collusion with a society and criminal-justice system insensitive to the needs of domestic-abuse victims—had contributed to what he had become.

Poignant and unsettling.

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-51602-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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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