A searingly honest coming-of-age memoir.

A writer and motivational speaker’s account of how she learned to embrace complex truths about her biracial ancestry that her dysfunctional family had kept hidden.

As a child, Maui native Abrams believed that her mother, Daisy, was Chinese and her father, George, was a white American. Both parents, who had come together for reasons of “desperation and addiction,” had told their daughter that her brown skin and curly hair were proof that she was Hawaiian. Their unstable union ended when Abrams was just 5 and George forced his unfaithful, alcoholic wife to leave. Growing up among white family members and in mostly white neighborhoods in California and Florida, Abrams always felt out of place. She finally learned the truth—that she had been the product of Daisy's premarital liaison with a black pilot—just before she turned 14. From that moment on, Abrams openly rebelled against her father's “oppressive regime” and binged on drugs, food, sex, and especially alcohol. At 18, she left Florida for New York to become a model. The city became a multiracial haven where she learned to love the blackness that she had negated. But alcoholism, bulimia, and a volatile temperament derailed her career aspirations and tore her personal life apart, as did two unexpected pregnancies by two different men who abused her. Despite the many complications she faced—a brief, but ultimately unhappy reunion with her Chinese mother, rejection by her Chinese relatives, and the tragic heroin-induced death of her sister—motherhood became the author’s salvation. “It was my love for them that forced me through circumstances that, had I been alone, would have caused me to give up on life,” she writes. Her ability to own her identity as a biracial woman with a troubled past is the greatest strength of this compelling narrative. Her book affirms that while personal history cannot be rewritten, an individual can always become “the author of [his or her] life.”

A searingly honest coming-of-age memoir.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8846-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016


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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