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A candid, charged slice of personal history.

A salty, pugnacious memoir of a Little Person, his gangland background, his love of pit bulls and his road back from self-destruction.

Rossi is known to many as a brash-talking TV personality whose mission is to rehabilitate the pit bulls’ woeful image. “The dogs were not designed to kill,” he writes. “They had no special “enzyme” that made them fight. It’s only humans that consciously make the decision to kill. All dogs are capable of violence if they’ve been trained by shitty owners to be nasty, protective, fighting machines.” Rossi has seen the same thing happen with another species—his own. He barely survived his youth at the hands of a violently abusive father, fleeing to his friend’s house in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, where by dint of association he became a member of the Bloods gang. He lived on the edge, always ready for something bad to happen: “I learned to protect myself. I carried guns.” This path would earn him 11 years in prison, where he was the only white man housed in a black unit, preferring Blood relations to life with the Aryan Brotherhood. His prison diary is told with a surprising degree of insight, but this is a story of redemption. Eventually Rossi managed to wire his act together, starting a Little People talent agency, working hard as an actor and dance man and working tirelessly to resuscitate the pit bull and bull terrier image. “That’s the most important thing,” he writes. “To give something back, no matter what it is…To actually be considered a success, you gotta give a shit.” Now he has caught a little break, a moment of fame, and he’s using it for the dogs and the Little People.

A candid, charged slice of personal history.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-98588-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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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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