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Ace of Spades: A Memoir Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 6, 2007


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805081496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805081497
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,040,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The son of an African-American father and a Jewish mother, Matthews tells of growing up racially mixed in Baltimore, Md., during the 1970s and '80s. Soon after his birth, Matthews's mother, a victim of schizophrenia, disappears from his life, and his father, "a prominent black journalist," moves through a series of jobs and relationships as Matthews begins a lifelong struggle with the circumstances of his ambiguous racial heritage. Adults in various states of mental and emotional disarray pass through Matthews's life. Some of his father's girlfriends are abusive ("She passed her cigarette from her clipping hand to her mouth, and... plunged a dinner fork into the bony flesh between my shoulder blades"); some are kind. As his father spends more and more of his time at work, Matthews comes into the care of his beloved grandmother. Until her death, this kindly woman will be at the eye of the storm that is his life. Unsurprisingly, Matthews drifts—into drugs, petty crime and a general slackness—which is the central problem here. While Matthews piles up nicely crafted anecdotes and a list of intriguing characters, there is a lack of tension, leaving a flat narrative. This memoir is long on adolescent male observation ("Julie, an Art Institute coed with apple cheeks and honeydew breasts...") and rather short on resonant revelation. Matthews builds a lot of momentum through the course of his tale, but with little genuine payoff. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Matthews was born in late 1967 to an African-American father who was a dedicated journalist and his apparently unbalanced white Jewish wife who, with no word of warning to her husband, took her son to Israel shortly after giving birth. The boy was quickly retrieved, and he never saw her again. This memoir richly describes the childhood, youth, and early manhood of a bright and angry person. Stymied by his lack of a mother, his inability to own his racial identity, and the vagaries of every boyhood, such as filial disobedience and posturing within the peer group, Matthews led a life that included almost enough to eat, one or two good friends, and a late-dawning subscription to black pride. Contemporary teens of all backgrounds can learn a lot from Matthews, including the fact that maturity brings change to one's beliefs and outlook as well as to one's appearance and degree of personal power. Some of what he offers is provocative enough to invite book discussion or classroom debate, while much of his story clarifies a period and a place by personalizing them.—Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Unfortunately, that didn't translate into writing very well for me personally.
Kimberly D. Norgon
If you don't have a dictionary to carry around with you while reading this book, you'll soon find out what I mean.
B. Green
What I love about this memoir is the way Matthews examines his life with such openness and intensity.
Danielle Trussoni

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on February 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Black men writing about their Jewish mothers seems to be a trend as of late (think James McBride's THE COLOR OF WATER). Nevertheless, this book reads fresh to me, perhaps because of the to-the-day decade between ACE OF SPADES and the parenthesized McBride account. My memory of THE COLOR OF WATER was beginning to fade, and David Matthews's memoir has stepped up to take its place as the biracial book most present in my mind.

The story is set around Matthews's childhood and young adult years in Baltimore, trying to find his identity in a black/white world. His Jewish mother leaves him when he is just a baby, and he is raised by his submissive/activist father. "Black" to Matthews is a disease, a melanin destined for a life of pain and destruction. His young self takes a pessimistic stance against the black race's ability to become equal with their white counterparts in American society, and he therefore tries to separate himself from this second-class life and from the father he sees as weak and ineffectual.

But things aren't that easy. The white side accepts him only when his blackness is beaten down so strongly that they don't catch the whiff of its scent. His exotic features raise questions and eyebrows, and he forever has to squelch one side of himself in order for the other side to live peaceably in his truculent world. In an area of town where the privileged whites are becoming the minority --- and where the blacks are taking over in number, force and resentment of their status --- his part of town does not allow for subtleties of color or of a mixed-race identity.

Matthews's vocabulary is huge, and even the college-educated will find numerous words that they have never come across before.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sandra A. on February 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I will try to describe this book, but it is a very difficult book to describe. If you like, you can skip what I have to say, and refer back to the 4 stars I have given it--with the understanding that I refuse to give 5 stars to anything on principal. This book gets close, however. Ace of Spades is a memoir about the David Matthews' experiences as a "mixed" (white looking) boy and young man in the depressed black neighborhoods of Baltimore. The story is about how he fakes a "Jewish" identity, rather than live as a black boy... an identity he views as the lowest rung on the social totem pole in 1980's America.

This book is in fact about an America many people will recognize since the end of the viet nam war, until right now in our nation's history. Matthews' personal story seems to weave in and out of major historical events and turning points in our culture; and he deftly manages to loop major world events right back into his solitary journey. Malcolm X, Fidel Castro, The Six Day War--these people and places telescope into Matthews' injured, wry tale of abandonment. The author never met his real life Jewish mother, so his "Jewish" identity-grab is a painful (and painfully funny) act of self-sabotage and cultural betrayal, that reminded me of the character Coleman Silk in "The Human Stain" by Philip Roth. I had to remind myself that these excruciating (it's like watching a car wreck in slow-motion) situations were someone's life, and I felt the necessity of his choices at every turn. The world he describes, even if he imagines it, seems like a very scary and confining place.

I never forgive him for his actions--for example burning a cross(even this scene he wrings a laugh from)--but I understand them.

His writing style is long and languid, or short and punchy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dolores on March 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Ace of Spades by David Matthews... I must pause before writing this review to thoroughly gather my thoughts about this intense, sweet, brutal, entertaining, bitingly witty, suspenseful, ugly, beautiful story. The book is challenging on many levels. The vocabulary, on occasion, is daunting, to say the least. The subject matter of race in society, in and of itself, is difficult to look at... honestly. The recollections of the author, the thoughts surrounding the stories of his life, are, at times, difficult stories to embrace due to their harshness and vulgarity. All of this makes for a challenging read. With that said, after finishing the book, I found myself moved beyond what I'd expected. The final chapters put things in perspective for me. All at once, I was able to understand and appreciate the author, and they way in which he chose to tell his story, in a much different light. I, also, had a sense that this was a very important book, and was grateful to have read it. In my opinion, the author's unique perspective and experience with racism and bigotry is an invaluable point of view that needs to be heard in the current discussion of racism and bigotry in America.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Danielle Trussoni on February 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This memoir follows David Matthews as he grows up the child of a white Jewish mother (who abandoned him) and a black father. What I love about this memoir is the way Matthews examines his life with such openness and intensity. It isn't simply an memoir about identity, but one that brings the reader into the confusing emotional world of Matthews' childhood.
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