Slick, unwieldy overview of Jean’s stardom and humanitarian ambitions.




Reflective memoir from a breakout hip-hop star of the 1990s, served with a generous helping of braggadocio.

Jean, who co-authored this book with prolific celebrity biographer Bozza (Why AC/DC Matters, 2009, etc.), has been in the public eye recently for his controversial efforts on behalf of his native Haiti, including an abortive run for the presidency. The narrative opens dramatically, with Jean’s initial trip home after the devastating 2010 earthquake (“I had to help any way I could, not as Wyclef Jean, but as a Haitian”). Jean then looks back at his improbable journey from rural childhood to genre-defining triumph with the Fugees. As an adolescent, Jean left Haiti for New Jersey, where his strict father established himself as a fiery Nazarene preacher who regarded hip-hop as “bum music.” Yet Jean’s passion for musical expression developed early; he played in the church band to please his father, while making connections in the rapidly expanding universe of East Coast rap. By his early 20s, he’d joined fellow Haitian Pras Michel and two young women, forming the group that eventually became the Fugees. The author’s greatest strength is his nostalgic discussion of the music scene of the ’90s, when any success seemed possible, and his focus on the nitty-gritty of artistic development, as the Fugees moved from their run-down basement studio to sold-out stadium tours and platinum records. On the whole, though, the narrative is strangely paced: Jean intersperses humorous, self-deprecating anecdotes with repetitive storytelling and frequent assertions of his many accomplishments. The author awkwardly discusses the Fugees’ dissolution at the height of success. Jean acknowledges his long extramarital affair with Lauryn Hill but seems to regard its destructive reverberations (including her virtual disappearance from the music industry) as inevitable, the product of their passion and artistry.

Slick, unwieldy overview of Jean’s stardom and humanitarian ambitions.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-196686-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: It Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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