An intimate, entertaining, and engrossing read for hip-hop fans.

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  • Rolling Stone & Kirkus' Best Music Books of 2020

THE BADDEST BITCH IN THE ROOM

A MEMOIR

A blend of music industry 101, hip-hop history, and memoir from the Wu-Tang Clan’s muse.

For decades as a manager, marketer, and A&R rep, Chang helped talented men tell their stories through hip-hop and R&B. Now it’s her turn to tell her story: How did a “Korean Canadian French lit major” end up working with a who’s who of heavy hitters in the music industry—and getting relationship advice from Method Man? From a chance meeting with Joey Ramone as a college student in the late 1980s to working with the Wu-Tang Clan, one of the greatest rap groups of all time, Chang has a storied history in the industry. Her love for hip-hop—the music and the artists—comes through loud and clear in this deeply personal memoir. Now in her 50s, she reflects on her experiences, including her stint as head of a marketing department at Atlantic Records just two years out of college and working with artists like A Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One, Too Short, and Raphael Saadiq. It’s clear why Chang gained a reputation for being hard and no-nonsense, and that comes across in the narrative. But she also shows her more vulnerable side: enduring the highs and lows of love and loss, reclaiming her sexual confidence after the end of a 12-year relationship, and learning to embrace her Asian heritage. The author writes wisely about erasure and fighting to be seen professionally as a woman of color. Unfortunately, aside from a vague mention of a Black woman friend calling her out on her privilege, she doesn’t address being embraced and respected as a non-Black woman within a music culture that often objectifies and denigrates Black women. This is a disappointing omission in an otherwise thoughtful and revealing story. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

An intimate, entertaining, and engrossing read for hip-hop fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64622-009-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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