Sad, revealing testimony to the continuing effects of racism and inequality.



Black millennials offer candid views of the challenges they face.

In her first book, journalist and broadcast producer Allen, an Eisner Fellow at the Nation Institute, investigates how the enduring myth of the American dream relates to young blacks between the ages of 18 and 30: “folks,” she writes, “who looked like me.” The American dream—“the idea that anyone can succeed and enjoy a prosperous life through hard work”—applies, the author asserts, only “to a limited number of people.” For oppressed and marginalized blacks, the dream has been largely unattainable. Has that changed, Allen asks, for a new generation? What does upward mobility look like for them? How do they express their own dreams? Drawing on interviews with 75 millennials as well as studies, surveys, and articles, the author recounts stories of defeat and dashed hopes from blacks who feel that the American dream “wasn’t and isn’t for them.” Among their frustrations is education: Many believe that a college degree is essential to their future success, accumulating huge debt to pay for schooling. More than 80 percent of Blacks who complete bachelor’s degrees have debt upon graduating, compared with 64 percent of whites. Moreover, a college education does not ensure employment: “The unemployment rate for Black college graduates is the same as for White high school graduates.” For those who manage to pursue a professional career, the workplace often feels unwelcoming. As one woman told her, “Black millennials do not have stability and security” in their jobs; they are often paid less than whites, are not offered career guidance and mentorship, and “often walk a tightrope between the hood and the elite.” Home ownership eludes many blacks, as well, with redlining and predatory lenders victimizing prospective buyers. Frustrated with their efforts to hold on to middle-class status, some blacks are redefining what success means to them, rejecting ‘the White-picket fence version of the dream” in favor of “what the dream means at its core: freedom.”

Sad, revealing testimony to the continuing effects of racism and inequality.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-56858-586-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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

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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 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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