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An African-American woman, a child of the '60s, recalls growing up poor on Chicago's South Side, attending Yale as an affirmative-action beneficiary, and taking her knocks en route to an understanding of the world and her role in it. Critical of recent changes in welfare that would prohibit the kind of good fortune she received, Bray, whose father spent more time gambling and fighting with his wife than he did working, and whose proud mother took welfare to make ends meet, says she has written this book to show the good that could happen under the welfare system of the '60s. She describes the frustrations of being poor—an early reader who later, with her mother's assistance, took titles home from the library, she would also become a petty thief, pilfering bills from carelessly left wallets at school, until she was caught. At Yale, her personal style of ``unadorned feminism'' was ``anathema.'' Work as a reporter at a Connecticut daily led soon enough to a New York publishing career and conflicts with egotistical male editors. She found herself living in Harlem in the go-go '80s, working for several publications before landing a dream job at the New York Times Book Review. In the closing section Bray speaks out against the demonization of welfare recipients inherent in the dialogue surrounding the 1996 welfare bill. Writes Bray, ``I was not a wolf, or an alligator, or a mistake, or an affront.'' The bill, she says, substitutes social Darwinism for democratic and religious values like compassion and protection of the vulnerable. Bray is an eloquent and perhaps surprising voice for the generation of welfare recipients that has come of age since the '60s. As her affecting story reflects, her accomplishment is an achievement not so much of material progress but of the intellect— a contribution to cultural understanding. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-42555-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

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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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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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