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Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, A Memoir Hardcover – October 15, 2009
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About the Author
Educator and philosopher Cornel West is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton University. Known as one of America’s most gifted, provocative, and important public intellectuals, he is the author of the contemporary classic Race Matters, which changed the course of America’s dialogue on race and justice, and the New York Times bestseller Democracy Matters. He is the recipient of the American Book Award and holds more than 20 honorary degrees.
Award-winning writer David Ritz is the co-author of the autobiographies of Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and B.B. King.
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Top Customer Reviews
So enough about the bad! There are so many things to laud about Dr. West besides his unswerving philosophical and political support of humanities finest instincts and against the tyranny of capitalism and free-market economics. The book details Dr. Wests work to heal African American/Jewish relations while still acknowledging the positive aspects of the Nation of Islam, my heart really goes out to him on this subject where he gets slammed on all sides by the fundamentalist idealogues that make life so miserable for so many in the world. At least he does have some influential friends and allies, some of whom are a bit surprising. His details about academic politics shouldn't surprise anyone ("Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low." - Sayre's law). Finally, someone presents a true picture of the Black Panthers, it thoroughly disgusts me to see the lies propagated about the Panthers in the media, Dr. West tells it like it was. It seems so fitting that Dr. West worked hard for President Obama's campaign, they're both so optimistic! Dr. West is forthright in describing his intention in looking and dressing the way he does: it makes him feel good to look the way he wants. This is so refreshing in this era of deodorant soap, hair gel and Penny's hip look that infects our society.
I've seen Dr. West speak and he is all that. It is absolutely inspiring to get validation of one's value sytem by such an intelligent and interesting person. And the fro is the best!
As stated above, one of the reasons I was interested in this book is because the co-writer is David Ritz. Mr. Ritz is one of the very best biographers of musicians working today and has written many great biographies (Brother Ray, Etta James, The Neville Brothers, just to name a few.) Do search out his books if you liked this one.
I struggled with how many stars to give this book - I initially gave three but, on serious reflection, it deserves four. This is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in American life.
His self-description as "a jazz man in the life of the mind, and a blues man in the world of ideas" is a colorful way to sum up the fact that he has uniquely taken the mantle of Martin Luther King. In his speeches and other public appearances, West lovingly bears witness to the pain and struggles of the poor and disposessed; and relentlessly challenges
us to be our best selves all the time. Said another way: West, like King, can walk with crowds and keep his virtues, and talk with kings, but not lose the common touch. All people seemed to count with them, but none too much. How easy it would've been for King and West to rest on their academic laurels, and retreat to the ivory tower. Each chose the opposite path, and we are all the better for it. Both King and West belong to all of us. This is probably part of the reason that West's most intimate personal relationships have been so painful for him.
I hear those who say the book is shallow in places-especially the little he actually writes about his own son, and their relationship. It's not necessarily a weakness of the book, though. It's just West's recognition of his own human frailty; and that he is work in progress. West's letter to his children late in the book is deeply moving.
This book is an important reminder that the people we grow up with and befriend; and the music and books we gravitate to are not just personal window dressing. They actually can shape lives in ways we never imagined. For that, I thank brother West.
The memoir is a music-inspired journey, scripted with references to songs and lyrics throughout; unveiling not only Cornel West's unyielding passion for music but also providing the reader with cultural milestones.
We learn that, at a young age, Little Ronnie [West's middle name is Ronald] was a rebel...... but he was a rebel with a cause. He would bully the biggest boy in his class - who had lunch to spare - in order to give to the less fortunate classmate whose mother forgot to pack a lunch. His epiphany occurred when his parents, in an attempt to de-gangsterize Little Ronnie, placed him in a school for gifted students. It is probably no surprise that he became a voracious reader (and still is) and wanted to learn as much as possible.
We also discover that "Corn", as close family and friends call him, has an unwavering faith in God; born out of the deepest of Christian family traditions. His grandfather is a Baptist minister, his brother is a deacon, and there is a generous outpouring of love and respect for everyone in the West family. Cornel's respect and admiration for his older brother, Clifton West, is on display on a number of occasions throughout the book. Although his relationships with women were not as successful as he would like them to be, the sincere love for the women in his life is clear and it is even more apparent for his children.
In `Brother West', Cornel West shares with us his steadfast convictions, candid opinions and precious memories - a testimony to living his life `out loud'.