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Manchild in the Promised Land 1st Edition

129 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684864181
ISBN-10: 0684864185
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Editorial Reviews


Dick Schaap Books This is a magnificent book, not a good book, not an interesting book, a magnificent book....It is a guided tour of hell conducted by a man who broke out. -- Review

About the Author

Claude Brown was born in New York City and grew up in Harlem. At age seventeen, after serving several terms in reform school, he left Harlem for Greenwich Village. He went on to receive a bachelor's degree from Howard University and attended law school. He also wrote a book called The Children of Ham in 1976. Manchild in the Promised Land evolved from an article he published in Dissent magazine during his first year at college. He died in 2002 at the age of 64.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1 edition (June 3, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684864185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684864181
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #762,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Smith on September 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Manchild in the Promised Land" is a rare achievement: an autobiography written in clear, lucid prose without an ounce of self-pity, self-justification, or moralizing. While Claude Brown's life was difficult, dangerous, and violent, and he shows all of that in unflinching detail, he also recalls much of his childhood with pleasure and a good measure of pride that he survived.
Most of all, for me, Brown's memoir is filled with regret for the many from his Harlem neighborhood who died, victims of crime, poverty, alcoholism and drug addiction. Indeed, one could say that one of the major characters of his story is heroin, which Brown describes as the scourge of his generation. The power of heroin to destroy is most poignantly described in Brown's recounting of his relationship with his younger brother. Claude took his responsibilities as an older brother seriously, but his younger brother fell victim to addiction, and Brown was forced to admit that he had lost him.
As the book develops, an interesting change occurs in Brown's narrative voice. In the early stages, he describes with a defiant pride his wild exploits as a child and adolescent, which landed him in juvenile homes, and nearly got him killed. As he describes himself getting older and he eventually leaves Harlem, Brown's voice takes on a mixture of affection and regret as he talks about going back to the neighborhood and seeing old friends, many of whom had fallen on hard times.
In the end, Brown's story is one of achievement. While he escapes the poverty of his youth, he refuses to forget his roots. In this sense, "Manchild"'s spiritual descendant is Sandra Cisneros' great novella, "The House on Mango Street," whose main character realizes that one must "go away to come back." Brown forges an inspirational story that overcomes despair in its power to shape memory and find meaning in a difficult life.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall VINE VOICE on May 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
This was without doubt the most important book I read as a teenager. I moved to NYC from California when I was twelve and was pretty naive in the workings of the city. Reading this book when I was 13 helped me immensely. It was a street-wise primer for survival at the time (we're talking 1964). But I would hold that the subject matter is just as relevant today. If you don't know about a "Jones" or what makes a three-card-monty mark want to come back for more, then I suggest you are just as vulnerable as I was. It's also one of the all-time cautionary tales (without being preachy) about drug addiction. I did a lot of drugs in the late 60's, early 70's, but never touched heroin, primarily from reading this book. The writing, while maybe not on the level of Richard Wright, surpasses Malcom X's and Eldridge Cleaver's memoirs, and that's saying something, as those were both powerful works as well.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Terrell Hurston on March 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
this book changed my life in a way... not that i have similar experiences or grew up in that time because i'm only 24. This was an excellent book all the way but it did a little more for me. This is one of those books that touched me and will always get praise. My mother was an addict and up until i read this book i held a grudge because she left me at the age of 5. This book made me understand the mind of an addict and that she would have probably the best mother in the world if it were not for the drugs. I understood the control drugs had over people and my mom. The book wasnt just about drugs but you can overcome and rise from the evils of the world. But for me this book made me forgive my mother.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Vincent D. Pisano on May 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
Claude Brown's slightly fictionalized autobiography recounts his childhood and early adulthood throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Manchild in the Promised Land also documents the changing atmosphere of Harlem and the people it affected. Brown tells stories of himself as a hell-raiser, involved in theft and drug dealing, and spending time in juvenile detention centers like Wiltwyck and Warwick. He was able to establish a feared and respected name for himself both among the streetwalkers of Harlem and the inmates of the reform schools. Lacking formal education (resulting from years of playing hooky) and idolizing the criminal elements around him, he seemed to be heading down a short road of vice and danger.

Only after Brown moved to Greenwich Village shortly before turning twenty was he able to begin viewing Harlem with a more objective eye, and see the factors that led him down the downward spiral he had been traveling. One of the main reasons Brown believes he and his friends were wrought with such violence and recklessness is due to the mentality imported by their parents from the South. The thing that mattered most to them was fighting: for one's money, girl/family, and manhood (Brown 260). He feels that that rural mentality had been brought to a crowded city life that was not only incompatible with the setting, but also destructive. He laments, "it seems as though if I had stayed in Harlem all my life, I might have never known that there was anything else to life other than sex, religion, liquor, and violence" (Brown 281).

As a youth, Brown excelled in these very base attributes. It wasn't until the introduction of heroine, or "horse," as it was first introduced in the early 1950s, that he feels Harlem truly became unable to cope with their values.
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