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Ghetto Celebrity: Searching for My Father in Me
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Ghetto Celebrity: Searching for My Father in Me [Hardcover]

Donnell Alexander
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 10, 2003
Donnell Alexander grew up sideways in the cramped spaces of Sandusky, Ohio, the son of a devout mother and a dad named Delbert, a protean genius who jacked a thousand identities—from pimpin’ them hoes to preaching the gospel—but skipped out on fatherhood when his son was in diapers. Donnell unwittingly replayed Delbert’s tragedy as farce until he finally wrote himself his own story, becoming a star of California’s freewheeling alternative press, spreading the gospels of punk and hip-hop in print. After finding a career and starting a family of his own, Donnell was drawn to reconnect with the vanished Delbert, and when he did, things fell apart, as they tend to in the grip of ghetto celebrity.

Told in multiple voices, freestyle raps, and a graphic interlude, this is the riotous story of one writer’s mission to find truth in the margins and an engrossing tale about phantom fathers and the sons they leave behind.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"I got paid for being dope," brags Alexander, a veteran hip-hop journalist who was tapped by ESPN: The Magazine to provide street cred in its coverage of African-American athletes, only to find his prose chipped at by uncomprehending white editors. He counts among his talents "consuming the stranger dimensions of popular culture and then talking about it" and "[getting] tore-down drunk and [writing] about the emotions I experienced at their most raw." Both are on display in this dizzying memoir, which shifts seamlessly from one literary style to the next, even turning briefly into a graphic novel in a scene depicting Alexander's first breakdancing lesson and subsequent concussion. From a whirlwind tour of Alexander's escape from Sandusky, Ohio, to start a career as a reporter, and of bouts of sex and drug use that repeatedly bring him to the brink of mental collapse, his father, Delbert, flits through the narrative. Although Alexander's mother called her son's wild temper "the Delbert in him," the memoir eventually identifies that quality as his unrelenting desire to reinvent himself, to hustle the system even when he hurts those closest to him and grinds himself down in the process. Few writers would possess the willingness to confront their disintegrating marriage with the brutal honesty shown here; fewer still would admit so readily to their own culpability. Alexander has given his inner demons a powerful voice, only to shout them down and prove himself at the top of his game.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

After a misspent youth in the country ghetto of Sandusky, Ohio, Alexander became a popular magazine writer. But even though he developed into a ghetto celebrity of the literary variety, he couldn't seem to break free from the influence of his father, Delbert, a ghetto celebrity of the pimpin' variety. Donnell has felt the "Delbert in me" throughout his life, sharing his father's fondness for getting high and talking big. This memoir parallels the lives of son and father, juxtaposing stories of Alexander's success (and drug addiction and unhappiness) with Delbert's failure (and drug addiction and unhappiness). The story, told with hip-hop lyricism, reads like an invigorating mix of Paul Beatty's White Boy Shuffle and Dave Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But Eggers' title is clearly tongue-in-cheek, whereas readers will emerge from Alexander's boast-filled memoir wondering whether he really thinks he's that brilliant. Even though the braggadocio gets tiring, this ambitious book has moments that live up to Alexander's opinion of his greatness--and that's high praise. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (June 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400046025
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400046027
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,946,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Growing up with Donnell Alexander July 29, 2003
By A Customer
Whoa. This book is about much more than just Donnell Alexander.It's about a child of a unsupported single mother. An awkward adolescent boy trying to be cool (knowing he's not). A young writer trying to give himself the chance to succeed and really struggling with self discipline. And I empathised with all of him. I give the author MAJOR points for his frank descriptions of his sexual conquests. They felt true, lame, sorta selfish and very, very real. I love this uncovering of dimensions and histories of himself and those around him brave...not knowing or caring whether they look good to us or not. Maybe people will respond to the street-cred, hipness but I felt moved by the vulnerability underneath. I don't feel that often from any non-fiction I've read by a man of his age or background. If I had one complaint it's that the book jumps around a bit too much for my taste. I would've been happy to sink into any one of the stories going on for longer. I can't wait for this author's NEXT book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the man did his job June 23, 2003
By A Customer
some writers write about topics outside of their biography. some writers write books about their biography, and somehow make it about all of us.
In 'Ghetto Celebrity', the author donnell alexander pulled it off. he atomizes seemingly every person and institution that's held relevance in his 35 years from his parents in Cleveland to his employers in journalism from small town newspapers to glossy national magazine to his wife and mother of his two boys. Everyone pissed him at one time or the other, and he lets them have it in lovingly cathartic prose. If you're a private or shy person, alexander's act of naked extroversion is amazing to read. he seems to empty out his diary in this book, but he kept his sense of humor about his throughout.
alexander has issues with everyone, but mostly with himself. 'ghetto celebrity' is a meditation on self-celebration. the lesson appears to be you can't get to self-celebration without looking candidly at the things you hate that rub you wrong about life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what this country needs. July 29, 2003
By A Customer
We are living in a time of lies. White lies, absurd lies, blatant lies, atrocious lies, I have had it with lies. The 80's look tame and "I am not a crook" Nixon is a altar boy in comparison. Donnell Alexander tells the truth with all of it's stankness. Donnell wrote about all of that we don't want to admit; our hatred of our bosses, our infidelities, our dysfuctional families, our drug use, our arrogance. It feels good to read honesty. This country needs hundreds more Ghetto Celebrities.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something different... July 28, 2003
By A Customer
If you love great writing, this is your book. I read a variety of authors, including Dostoevsky, Wallace Stegner, Maya Angelou, Anne Lamott, and Arundhati Roy. Ghetto Celebrity is a unique memoir that's about much more than a single life. Among other things, it's about growing up and about race in America. This is a very honest view, told with incredible style, pain and humor. One of the best books I've read in years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading November 16, 2005
Take a good swing at Donnell Alexander. He deserves it sometimes for pretending to be the hippest dude on the block but the best kept secret is that there's a complexity here that goes beyond the sex, the dope, and the hip-hop pose. Sure he tried to screw up his life but somehow the gods allowed him to survive and become a writer worth something. At the end of the day he's still someone I'd want to have a beer with.
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More About the Author

My 46th birthday is coming up in July....

I'm just trying to offer tomorrow's story today. If that seems edgy, well... I'll admit that it's a continuing struggle, a journey with no end. My performances on blogs and in social networking aren't to be separated from the books and pieces I've made for other media. Or that I've performed live. It is all my writing.

Having said that, this is Amazon, and it's books you're after.

So, here it is. The book part of my story:

Ghetto Celebrity
My 2003 memoir, published by Crown. GC received excellent reviews, but not mainstream reviews. Keith Olbermann blurbed it in between peaks of fame. Toure liked it... The book is highly stylized, the most ambitious thing I've tried. An eight-page graphic interlude announces my interest in using comics and such to tell stories.

Rollin' with Dre
Entrepreneur Bruce Williams utilized my sense of West Coast rap music history in bringing to life his time as Dr. Dre's right-hand man. I enjoyed making this book a lot, as the product has such a great, insider-y feel to it. In fact, you pretty much need to have a solid understanding of hip-hop as it was in the Death Row era. Otherwise, the revelations will be lost on you.

Beyond Ellis D
Writing on Dock Ellis, a legendarily unusual baseball player. A different version of this book is available for iPad consumption. Rolling Stone called Beyond Ellis D "fascinating" and the product was recommended by

Also, I've had great essay and fiction-writing moments between book covers, in anthologies such as Shiny Adidas Track Suits and the Death of Camp, Step into a World and The Cocaine Chronicles. Anything else? I have three children who I try to see as often as possible while living in San Francisco, Portland and Los Angeles.

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