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GOOD TALK

A MEMOIR IN CONVERSATIONS

The visual echoes between past and present make this extraordinary memoir about difficult conversations all the more...

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019


  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

A novelist explores the perils and joys of parenting, marriage, and love in this showstopping memoir about race in America.

When her 6-year-old, half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, started asking complicated questions about Michael Jackson's skin color, Jacob (The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, 2014) faced the challenge of being honest about racism in America without giving him answers that might be too much to handle at such a tender age. The result is this series of illustrated conversations between Z and the author, by turns funny, philosophical, cautious, and heartbreaking. "Every question Z asked,” writes Jacob, “made me realize the growing gap between the America I'd been raised to believe in and the one rising fast all around us.” These reflections compelled the author to excavate her formative years in New Mexico and, later, in New York as a young writer struggling through her 20s. Jacob grew up navigating a constant stream of expectations from her parents, who emigrated from India to the American Southwest in the middle of the civil rights movement. Particularly moving are the chapters in which Jacob explores how even those close to her retain closed-minded and culturally defined prejudices. With grace and honesty, the author chronicles how she navigated the racist assumptions of an employer and dealt with Indian relatives who viewed her as "a darkie" with no marriage prospects as well as the devastating decision of her Jewish in-laws to vote for Donald Trump. "I feel awful," Jacob explained to her husband. "I feel like they've abandoned me." The memoir works well visually, with striking pen-and-ink drawings of Jacob and her family that are collaged onto vibrant found photographs and illustrated backgrounds. Occasionally the author reuses a drawing to spectacular effect, as when the faces of a white boyfriend and colleague from her past show up in a collage about the responses of white Americans to Trump’s candidacy. Told with immense bravery and candor, this book will make readers hunger for more of Jacob's wisdom and light.

The visual echoes between past and present make this extraordinary memoir about difficult conversations all the more powerful.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-58904-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2019

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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