Next book



By refusing to abandon hope, easy though it would have been to do so, Rufus’ memoir makes a valuable contribution to the...

Buy a drum kit. Buy a guitar. Get cancer. It’s not the usual rock ’n’ roll trajectory.

Natives of the Appalachian coal country, Rufus and his identical twin brother, Nat, came to punk rock honestly—by skateboarding, that is—and with all the rebelliousness that a kid in a small town with a skateboard and different hair is likely to develop. Couple that with big-city kin who know their way to the record shop, and you have the necessary ingredients for a band that will become known as Defiance of Authority (D.O.A., of course). Add to all that righteous tattoos and cool leather jackets, and the future seemed set, save that illness intervened just at the time that the boys were ready to break out of Huntington and conquer the world. “I felt blank,” writes Rufus on receiving his first diagnosis. “I thought of all those machines outside, the white noise of their engines—blank and empty—calling to me. I sat there expressionless. I slipped into the hum.” The blend of rhythms in those sentences is typical of his musicianly prose as he recounts the course from illness to recovery, with dreams dashed and dashed again and then rebuilt. The narrative runs a touch long, but it seldom drags, and Rufus writes affectingly of the awfulness of chemotherapy, hospital food, and diminished energy without ever feeling too sorry for himself. At its best, the book is a resounding affirmation of how music can lift one’s spirits beyond gray skies and bad news; as the author writes, “hopelessness is a birthright in West Virginia, as easy to slip into as a warm bath.”

By refusing to abandon hope, easy though it would have been to do so, Rufus’ memoir makes a valuable contribution to the literature of healing and recovery. It’s a good piece of rock writing, too, with “one hell of a soundtrack.”

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4261-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

Next book


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

Next book



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

Close Quickview