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Whether you’re a parent or simply thinking about life choices, there’s both melancholy and wisdom to be found here.

A multitalented actor and comedian digs deep to write a letter to his son about becoming a man.

Black, who got his start with the cult classic The State, is a performer with many facets. Onstage, he displays a dryly sarcastic sense of humor, and at the same time, he has been able to fully engage his goofy side in projects like Wet Hot American Summer. In his latest work of autobiography, following You’re Not Doing It Right, Black drops the act in order to deliver heartfelt lessons for his college-bound son. Opening with the Sandy Hook mass shooting, which occurred blocks from his son’s school, the author addresses his fears, hopes, and missteps in raising his children. The shooting, he writes, “felt like a tornado touching down, mindless and cruel. But also predictable. Infuriatingly predictable….In America…mass shootings are as common as sunsets.” Whether examining violence, sex, relationships, or compassion, Black lays out his thoughts and feelings with few defenses up and a comic lightness that doesn’t belie the book’s rather heavy truths. Though not as analytical as Peggy Ornstein’s incisive analyses of the sex lives of young people (although she shows up here), the narrative offers thoughtful ruminations on masculinity in the modern age. It’s also refreshing to read a memoir that doesn’t preach its messages from an author who honestly admits his imperfections. “The ideas I’m giving to you now are the best I can do now,” Black writes. “I hope you’ll tell me where you think I’ve fallen short. I hope you’ll remind me to stay open and available and receptive to new ideas. Maybe the last job of parenting is surrendering the lead and letting our kids guide us forward. We’re going to need the help.”

Whether you’re a parent or simply thinking about life choices, there’s both melancholy and wisdom to be found here.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-911-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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

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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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