SCHOOL DAYS

Having already evoked the Creole experience in folktale (Creole Folktales, 1995) and novel (Texaco, 1997, which won France's Prix Goncourt), Martinique's Chamoiseau proves an inventive memoirist in his account of a boy's struggle to keep his identity in a school committed to crushing it. In the first part, a ``little black boy'' badgers his mother to let him go to school; in the second part, he comes to regret his wish. Some of the school's terrors—sadistic teachers, schoolyard bullies—seem overly familiar. What is fresh is this school's systematic effort to root the Creole—``po'-nigger talk'' associated with poverty and subjection—out of the children and substitute pure French, the language of Martinique's imperial masters. The attempt results mainly in fostering shame and resentment as the students cling to their identity. The child's limited consciousness of this struggle (``his tongue soon seemed heavy to him . . . his accent hateful'') is expertly blended with the adult's awareness of the larger cultural issues. Never a simpleminded ideologue (he ridicules a substitute teacher whose black pride prevented him from ``tackl[ing] either the Universal or its world order''), the author sympathetically portrays the Francophile teacher's motives while condemning his actions; the preferred butt of the teacher's cruelty, Big Bellybutton, is also a memorable character. The irony of a memoir written in French about the evils of French language education is not evaded: The gift of letters is ultimately shown to be ``an inky lifeline of survival'' that allows the author to preserve Creole oral culture. That culture infuses his prose, vividly written in storyteller's rhythms and peppered with such Creole phrases as ``ziggedy-devil.'' Though sometimes distracting, the use of a chorus of rÇpondeurs and frequent shifting from third- person singular to first-person plural help transport the reader inside a foreign sensibility. Sometimes reading like an archetypal narrative of cultural domination, sometimes like an intimate memory from one's own childhood, this memoir rewards the effort to learn its language.

Pub Date: March 19, 1997

ISBN: 0-8032-1477-4

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

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)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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