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A candid testimony of struggle and achievement.

A debut memoir that traces an unlikely trajectory from isolation and poverty to financial success and hard-won self-knowledge.

In a book that reads more like oral history than crafted narrative, Sana recounts the forces that shaped his identity as an African-American. Born Bernard Sutton in 1968, Sana grew up in inner-city Washington, D.C., in a neighborhood dominated by gangs and drugs. He was raised by a single mother who suffered from mental illness so severe that she could not work, and even as a young teenager, Sana looked for ways to supplement his mother’s Social Security checks. Although he saw his friends making money through drug sales and robbery, he refused to get involved. Instead, he loaded grocery bags for tips and worked as a cook at a fast-food restaurant. Earning his own money, writes the author, “gave me a sense of pride.” Despite financial straits, his mother made sure that he went to the best schools possible and pushed him to do well. He attended Gonzaga, a prestigious high school where the student body was largely white and college bound. The transition from his crumbling African-American neighborhood caused “a lot of culture shock” that resulted in altercations with classmates. But a combination of grit, intelligence, and teachers’ encouragement fueled his determination. School became an escape route: Sana attended Mount Saint Mary’s College, where he discovered Eldridge Cleaver and Malcolm X, whose books exerted a great impact on his changing consciousness. He became passionately interested in African-American history and culture, which led to his adopting an African name. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in business and accounting, he worked at an accounting firm and also joined a friend to sell books like the ones that had influenced him. Their hard work led to the establishment of a thriving chain of bookstores, Karibu Books. Sana’s personal life was difficult, and he is forthright about the sexual and emotional problems that beset his relationships with women and the tumultuous losses that afforded him new insight into his identity.

A candid testimony of struggle and achievement.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-57284-192-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Agate

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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