Optimistic and galvanizing, Graves’ message of hope and hard work is timely and applicable.

A pioneer in multicultural advertising recounts her life surmounting the odds of being African-American and female in a predominantly white male business arena.

A precocious girl with big dreams, Graves grew up in a Michigan public housing project on the shores of Pontiac’s polluted Crystal Lake. The daughter of a smart, single mother and an errant father, the author, though a self-proclaimed “mouthy show-off,” embraced her tenacity and youthful intelligence and excelled throughout grade school with a natural talent for public speaking. Life soon intervened, however, and, playing out against the backdrop of the 1967 Detroit riots, the “disgrace” of teenage motherhood temporarily derailed Graves’ academic potential. Yet her spirit to exceed eventually won out with college enrollment and an adventuresome and career-defining ascent in the largely white male–dominated world of creative advertising. Her adulthood was clearly shaped by a challenging past, and Graves harnessed the advantages of her hardscrabble youth and channeled that energy and experience into a noteworthy career, theater work, marriage, and watching her son achieve sobriety. The author narrates her unconventional journey with unabashed pride and fortitude and shares both positive and negative anecdotes, as with her unsurprising termination after calling herself the “token” black employee during an ad agency meeting full of “anxious, driven white men seeking money and power of every sort.” Achieving multiple accolades and even collaborating with Bill Clinton, Graves established herself as a fierce force in the advertising field and a greatly admired role model for black professionals establishing themselves in American business. In a moving book steeped in perseverance and empowering determination, the author fully embodies the challenges of her culture and those of being a motivated businesswoman. She concludes with optimistic anticipation for a truly “postracial America” where society has moved beyond skin color, “when race doesn’t determine who lives next door.”

Optimistic and galvanizing, Graves’ message of hope and hard work is timely and applicable.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61775-493-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Open Lens/Akashic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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