A page-turning tale from the 1960s about politics and sports and two proud, extraordinary men whose legacies endure.

How Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and then an enemy of his mentor and friend Malcolm X.

These two titanic lives intersected for less than two years, with huge consequences for each man. Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam’s most visible minister and spokesman, confirmed the young Clay’s deep suspicions about the white man and wooed him for the Nation. Malcolm’s incendiary rhetoric astonished Clay, who believed God protected him. How else could Malcolm be so bold and remain alive? In the run-up to Clay’s historic upset of champion Sonny Liston, Malcolm filled the young boxer with confidence, privately advised him, supplied him with a business adviser, and shared many meals and moments of intimate family time. Malcolm loved Clay and quickly understood his potential cultural impact and the glittering youth’s value as a propaganda tool for the sclerotic Nation. When Clay denounced his “slave name” and was anointed as Muhammad Ali, Malcolm understood he’d lost an intense power struggle with the Nation’s leader, Elijah Muhammad, and that it was only a matter of time before he’d be killed. Roberts (History/Purdue Univ.; A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game that Rallied a Nation at War, 2011, etc.) and Smith (American History/Georgia Tech; The Sons of Westwood: John Wooden, UCLA, and the Dynasty that Changed College Basketball, 2013, etc.) minutely examine the construction and tortured dissolution of this friendship, highlighting the influence of their fathers on their sensitive sons and the varying masks they adopted to navigate their worlds of prizefighting and politics. Backdropping the authors’ main tale are incisive looks at Ali’s showmanship, his almost single-handed resurrection of boxing, and the befuddlement of sportswriters confronted with his conversion. They sharply detail Malcolm’s growing disillusionment with Elijah, his heartbreak at the loss of Ali’s allegiance, and the ugly dynamic within the Nation that left the defiant minister murdered.

A page-turning tale from the 1960s about politics and sports and two proud, extraordinary men whose legacies endure.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-07970-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015


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



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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