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THE AWKWARD THOUGHTS OF W. KAMAU BELL

TALES OF A 6'4", AFRICAN AMERICAN, HETEROSEXUAL, CISGENDER, LEFT-LEANING, ASTHMATIC, BLACK AND PROUD BLERD, MAMA'S BOY, DAD, AND STAND-UP COMEDIAN

A unique perspective of the development of identity comedy in the 21st century.

The “sociopolitical comedian” shares his opinions and stories from his life.

Best known for his socially conscious, political style, Bell, the host of CNN’s United Shades of America, offers readers more of the same in his first book. The author riffs on pop-culture topics such as being a “blerd”—i.e., black nerd—his childhood love of superheroes, why Denzel Washington is the greatest actor of all time (an idea he originally discussed in a podcast series), the film Creed, and social issues such as sexism and racism from personal experiences. Fittingly, he also dedicates chapters to his thoughts on the recent presidential election and the state of the Democratic Party. Bell’s brand of comedy is insightful at times, but oftentimes the punch line or message is immediately obvious from the outset, and there is a one-dimensional tendency to many of his bits that begins to grow tiresome after a few chapters. The author is at his best when he recounts his early stand-up career in the 1990s and the comedy business in general. He recalls how the comedy boom of the ’80s had burst, and he was left trying to find his personal and professional identity in this new era. It was then that Bell learned to use current events as source material—though during his first experience doing so, in which he joked about the Rodney King beating, he was booed offstage. It wasn’t until 2007 that Bell began to truly find his voice with his one-man show The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour, which mixed “personal stories, late night theories, and topical news stories” and incorporated what would become his signature social critique. Though Bell’s social commentary is hit-or-miss, he is establishing himself as one of the most outspoken comedians of our time.

A unique perspective of the development of identity comedy in the 21st century.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-98587-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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NIGHT

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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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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