A mentally disabled man feistily perseveres in this wry, heartwarming memoir.
Born with cerebral palsy after he was deprived of oxygen during a troubled delivery, the author’s brother “Wendy” Jacobson suffered partial paralysis and permanent mental retardation. (To top it off, he developed epilepsy in his teens.) Rejecting doctors’ advice to institutionalize him, his parents raised him as normally as possible, and he grew into a man of limited intellect, halting speech, spastic gait and expansive soul. Writing with a limpid prose style and a clear-eyed empathy, Jacobson pens an evocative portrait of his brother and the blessings and burdens of his existence. Now in his 70s, a grizzled coot with the mind of a child, Wendy is often stubborn and exasperating (especially on matters of personal hygiene) and obsessive about pestering people on the phone. But he also has an open, welcoming attitude toward others and himself—“good-lookin’ man like me” is his cheerfully ironic characterization of his own off-beat looks—a stern work ethic and an exuberant, garrulous charm that makes friends of everyone he meets. Jacobson is frank about Wendy’s limitations, which are severe and at times heartbreaking, but he also shows us the meaning and satisfaction his brother draws from simple pleasures. Wendy’s triumphs are as inspiring as they are commonplace—in a miracle of patient resolve, his father manages to teach him to ride a bike even though he can barely walk—and the impact of his life on those around him significant. Jacobson’s account of Wendy’s long, tender relationship with a woman even more handicapped than himself is especially moving. The author draws homespun morals from his brother’s struggles, but they are hardly needed; there’s plenty of uplift just watching Wendy play the difficult hand he was dealt with gusto.
A luminous portrait of a life that transcends constraints.
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)
This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)