A well-researched and engaging biography and a fine addition to Marshall scholarship.

In his debut, Gibson (Univ. of Maryland School of Law) looks at the early years of the legendary Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993).

Marshall, a brilliant legal mind, became the first black Supreme Court justice in 1967, and before that, he was the chief counsel for the plaintiffs in the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, in which school segregation was declared unconstitutional. But while Marshall’s law career has been amply covered by other biographers, his earlier life has gotten relatively short shrift. This biography, by contrast, focuses solely on the first 30 years of Marshall’s life. Growing up, Marshall intensely discussed politics and race relations with his father. “He never told me to be a lawyer, but he turned me into one,” Marshall later said. Indeed, Gibson writes that Marshall inherited his family members’ assertive and deeply hardworking natures. Marshall experienced segregation firsthand, attending an all-black high school; he refined his brilliant debating style on the debate team there and, later, at historically black Lincoln University. Gibson also covers Marshall’s time at Howard University Law School and his first cases as a Baltimore lawyer, which led to his work with the NAACP and civil rights law. The author, who met Marshall a few times in the 1970s and ’80s, writes in his introduction of how he wished to correct the record regarding some details of Marshall’s early life—noting, for example, that while some sources have claimed that Marshall was a mediocre student before law school, Gibson’s research found that Marshall had in fact graduated high school with honors at the age of 16. But this biography also deftly evokes the atmosphere in which Marshall developed his talents and effectively sketches the many people and events that influenced him.

A well-researched and engaging biography and a fine addition to Marshall scholarship.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61614-571-2

Page Count: 390

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012


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



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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