Here is an unsentimental family memoir that also elegizes Mt. Vernon Avenue, a mile-and-a-quarter strip that once saw its best days as the heartbeat of Columbus, Ohio's African-American community in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Haygood, a Boston Globe reporter, is the author of two previous books, including an admired 1993 biography of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., King of the Cats. This book, an account of ``the common Burkes, the holding-on Haygoods,'' documents a sprawling urban, working-class African-American family with southern rural roots. These are people who juggle multiple jobs and scrimp to buy homes and to dress with style on Saturday night and Sunday morning. In 1968, as Haygood is entering adolescence, his spirited mother, Elvira, moves her brood from her parents' ramshackle house to a new, three-acre federal housing complex on the other side of town, closer to the glitter of Mt. Vernon Avenue's nightlife, where she too often drifts in search of glamour beyond her workaday world. The lure of the streets and easy living poses a constant threat to the Haygood siblings, but even when they succumb, some of them find a redemptive path through faith, family, and grit. What keeps Wil on his upwardly mobile path is a devotion to basketball. Ironically, his athletic skills are marginal, but he has the shrewdness to transfer to a more affluent and academically stronger high school, where he makes the team. To protect his eligibility to play sports, he gets himself into a federally funded summer enrichment program. Such improvisational efforts result in a scholarship to Miami University of Ohio. After graduation, a stint on the local black weekly newspaper, whose offices anchored the business community of Mt. Vernon Avenue, sets him on his eventual career course. With an unpretentious eloquence and humor, Haygood shows a deft ability to convey complex lives, a past era, and a memorable place. (20 b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 13, 1997

ISBN: 0-395-67170-1

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997


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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