From Publishers Weekly
In his vivid and charming memoir, novelist and screenwriter George (Hip Hop America
) recounts incidents from an eventful life that has ranged from a tough upbringing by his single mother in Brooklyn in the 1960s to a career of assorted writing gigs in music journalism, television and film. Early in the book, George captures the anxieties of an intelligent child in a dangerous neighborhood, finding solace in his mother's soul records, screenings of Planet of the Apes
and Hemingway and Fitzgerald novels. Later, George provides a welcome and appropriately nerve-wracking portrait of a young New York writer, interning at the Amsterdam News
and writing concert reviews for Billboard
. Slowly, the mature writer and tastemaker emerges, witnessing and shepherding hip-hop's sometimes rocky transition into the mainstream pop-music world, as exemplified by a bizarre concert bill featuring the Commodores, Bob Marley and hip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blow. George's life has been blessed by the presences of an eclectic array of black entertainers, including a young Russell Simmons and a struggling Chris Rock, and he sketches these characters with affection, though at times the book feels more like a collection of anecdotes than a cohesive narrative. Nonetheless, George provides tempting glimpses of the vibrant New York of the recent past. (Apr.)
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“Suddenly black nerds were chic”—not just athletes, musicians, and activists. The award-winning author of hip hop America (1998) and other books and films on popular culture writes about his coming-of-age in his Brooklyn inner-city neighborhood. Rooted in George’s personal experience, this memoir is also a lively look back at historical changes in popular music, film, and writing. A voracious reader, George was thrilled as a kid by Wright and Baldwin but also by Hemingway and Fitzgerald. As a music critic at Billboard, then the Village Voice, he charted the journey from segregation to integration via popular music, connecting the established world of rhythm and blues with the still relatively underground world of rap. His moving family story grounds the book—accounts of his still-troubled relationship with his druggie dad and his adult reconciliation with his sister—but it is the wry, sharp, unpretentious cultural analysis that is at the core here, especially what he calls the exhilarating mix of fear and freedom that comes with listening to music. --Hazel Rochman