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I SLEPT WITH JOEY RAMONE

A FAMILY MEMOIR

Overlong but intermittently fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of punk’s most unlikely icons.

The late Joey Ramone is feted with tough love in these cradle-to-grave memories from his kid brother Mickey Leigh (born Mitch Hyman).

In Leigh’s collaboration with longtime punk journalist McNeil (co-author: The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry, 2005, etc.), Joey Ramone (born Jeff Hyman) is the classic middle-class misfit whose salvation came in the rock ’n’ roll teen culture of the late 1960s. Growing up in suburban Forest Hills, N.Y., Leigh witnessed his sickly, awkward OCD brother transform from a freakish, sometimes violent kid to a moon-booted glam-rocker known as “Jeff Starship.” In the early ’70s Jeff transformed again—into Joey Ramone, the charismatic Ramones frontman and punk-rock heartthrob. Although Leigh planned to pursue his own dreams of rock stardom, initially he settled for being the Ramones’ underpaid roadie. From this vantage point he saw the band’s rise to international cult stardom through New York City’s fledgling CBGB punk scene. He also experienced firsthand the Ramones’ perpetually dysfunctional, dark netherworld governed by the near-psychotic dictatorial ways of guitar player Johnny Ramone. Frustrated and broke, Leigh eventually cut his professional ties with the Ramones and pursued a series of dead-end musical and occupational activities. When the author focuses on his own uphill battles, the memoir hits occasional snags. He hit up Joey for residual money for his backup vocals on the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”—used in a 1991 Budweiser commercial—and had constant feuds with his brother about songwriting credit on their several musical collaborations. This belated demand for money and recognition seems somewhat hypocritical, especially considering Leigh had previously been determined to stake out his own identity apart from the Ramones. Nevertheless, Leigh showed dogged persistence in the face of constant futility. Sadly, though, it took Joey’s losing bout with cancer to fully reconcile the two brothers’ differences and bring them together again.

Overlong but intermittently fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of punk’s most unlikely icons.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7432-5216-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2009

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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  • National Book Award Winner

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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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