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Poet Derricotte offers this portrait of a black woman's frustrating experience with racial prejudice from both outside and within her own people, and her own ambivalence about the color of her skin. This volume is largely comprised of the journals that Derricotte kept when she lived for the first time in a mostly white community. The author, who is light-skinned enough to ``pass'' when she wants, recounts keeping her dark-skinned husband away from real-estate brokers so that she could be shown better homes in nicer neighborhoods. This process secured her a house in an affluent suburb of New York but led to so much self-loathing and examination of her own feelings about the darker-skinned members of her race that she suffered a deep depression and ultimately separated from her husband. She wrote The Black Notebooks, she notes in her introductory essay, not out of ``desire'' but to ``save [her] life.'' At her best, Derricotte is reminiscent of Nella Larsen, for whom ``passing'' was a primary topic, and Doris Lessing in The Golden Notebooks, which is also about avoiding breakdown through writing. Some pieces in the collection are less cohesive than others and are subsequently less impressive from an artistic standpoint than pieces with a strong overarching theme. Typical of the latter group are ``The Club,'' which concerns Derricotte's and her husband's sojourn in the white suburbs and the country club that they were never invited to join, and ``Diaries at an Artists' Colony,'' with its collection of reactions from fellow colonists to her revelation of her racial background. ``Blacks in the U.'' and ``Face to Face,'' on the other hand, are more disjointed, but their point is not lost: It's not easy to be a black person in either a racially divided country or a color-conscious black community. A very strong first prose offering on an always provocative subject. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-393-04544-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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