THE ELEPHANTS IN MY BACKYARD

A MEMOIR

One of the more insightful and inspirational of the recent glut of showbiz memoirs.

A young actor loses a great role but finds a wonderful story to share.

Surendra might best be known through a memorable supporting role in Mean Girls, but this debut shows a real gift for writing, likely one that has been shaped by the story it relates. While still a student in Canada, the son of Tamil immigrants from India landed a role that would change his life—that of the rapping Kevin Gnapoor in the Tina Fey film starring Lindsay Lohan that would far exceed all expectations as a cult favorite. While shooting that movie, a cameraman strongly recommended the popular novel Life of Pi, and Surendra discovered a host of remarkable similarities between himself and the young Indian boy cast adrift on the sea. Then he learned that the novel was being adapted into a movie, and he devoted himself to landing the lead role. He traveled to India, immersed himself in the locations referenced in the novel, initiated a correspondence with novelist Yann Martel, and conquered his fear of water and learned to swim. Surendra even turned down an offer for regular work on a series to pursue the Life of Pi role. However, as Martel advised him, “it’s in the hands of Vishnu and Hollywood.” Early signs looked promising, as “the only notable brown director in Hollywood was attached—M. Night Shyamalan, of The Sixth Sense fame.” Alas, Shyamalan was only the first of many to be involved, and the process went on and on. Though many readers will know that the part went to someone else, the author’s determination was rewarded in different fashion: through what he learned about himself and the “salvation” he experienced. He remains an actor, but he has also established a successful commercial calligraphy business, and this book shows that he is an accomplished writer as well.

One of the more insightful and inspirational of the recent glut of showbiz memoirs.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68245-050-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Regan Arts

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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