Raw-edged honesty at its most revealing and intense.



A noted African-American journalist’s account of his hardscrabble youth and its consequences in later life.

Poet, journalist, and essayist Powell (Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King, 2012, etc.) grew up the son of a struggling single mother who dreamed he would become “somebody important.” Though loving and encouraging, his mother was also ferociously strict and often beat Powell to keep him on the straight and narrow. Between her brutality and the poverty and violence he faced in the New Jersey ghettos where he grew up, Powell felt as though he were living in a “concrete box” from which there was no escape. Despite the many obstacles he faced and his flirtation with a life of petty crime, he still excelled academically. Yet his suppressed rage and sadness often erupted at unexpected moments and led to arrests and his expulsion from high school. Powell still managed to gain tuition-free acceptance into Rutgers University, where he became involved with black student activists. After the university suspended him for pulling a knife on a fellow student in a fit of frustration, Powell left for New York determined to make a living as a writer. His experiments in poetry and journalism eventually led to a job writing about hip-hop music and culture for Vibe. But his anger at working for two white editors at a black magazine caused him to eventually be fired. Powell’s life spiraled into an abyss of alcoholism, depression, and dysfunctional relationships, one of which ended after he physically attacked his lover. After two unsuccessful runs for Congress, Powell went to Africa, where he finally began to experience personal healing. The author’s story is powerful and unsparing. By the end, his narrative bears witness not only to the life of one black man, but to an American society still bound to a tragic history of racism.

Raw-edged honesty at its most revealing and intense.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4391-6368-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?