An often thoughtful meditation on race in America.

The Children of My Knee

A debut memoir reflects back on an African-American man’s lifelong grappling with others’ racist hatred.

Cooper grew up in rural Alabama. From a very young age, he was keenly aware of ferocious prejudice; in 1963, when he was only 10 years old, a Baptist church in Birmingham was bombed, killing four young girls. The author’s father angrily insisted that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. shared some of the blame, due to his agitation—a sentiment that some other African-Americans shared. Cooper writes of suffering under the tyranny of his father, who beat him and his mother regularly, he says. The author decided to attend a largely white high school, despite its considerable distance, only to be confronted by ubiquitous racism there: “It astounds me the way in which Jim Crow touched every single area of black life in Birmingham when I was growing up,” he says. Later, Cooper was attracted to Catholicism, which seemed more emotionally restrained than the Baptist tradition in which he was raised, and he decided to pursue the priesthood. However, he says that in seminary he again encountered prejudice, as well as what he characterizes as “drinking, blatant homosexuality and petty bickering.” The author eventually joined the Washington Concert Singers and the National Choral Society and was given the opportunity to travel to Jerusalem, a transformative event in his life. He would return there many times for extended trips, and he considered Israel a refuge from his troubles. Cooper eventually took a low-level job as a reporter at The Washington Post; there, he was able to contribute articles on controversial subjects, such as the role of African-American people during the Holocaust. Cooper’s life, as depicted in this memoir, was filled with daunting challenges, and it will be impossible for readers not to be inspired by his dogged perseverance in the face of adversity. Sometimes, however, the endless catalog of travails can also be exhausting. The author is at his best when discussing the racial tinderbox that was the Deep South during his upbringing, and he intelligently reflects on the many ways that the legacy of slavery continued to haunt the region, long after it was abolished. Overall, this is not a light read, but readers’ patience will be rewarded by its considerable insight.

An often thoughtful meditation on race in America. 

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-76431-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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