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City Kid: A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success Hardcover – April 2, 2009
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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
Top customer reviews
Comic books, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Baldwin occupied bookish George's time. He excelled in English and writing and thought one day he would write the Great American Novel. When he was in his teens, his mother moved them out of the projects to another part of Brooklyn. In his senior year of high school, he worked in an intern program at the Brooklyn Phoenix, a weekly newspaper where he learned to hone the journalism craft. He then attended St. John's University all the while writing for different venues including The Amsterdam News. He also attended parties and nightclubs writing music reviews. Along the way he became friends with the group Run DMC and Russell Simmons, who was a party promoter at the time. He would later move to Los Angeles, where he worked with Quincy Jones, and worked on several screenplays and wrote a number of nonfiction and fiction titles.
But New York is home to George. He has lived all over the city; Queens, Fort Green and other areas and the City is as much a character in the story of his life as the people he met on his journey. George has struggled to maintain a relationship with his father, who was among other things, a small-time drug dealer and he also had a tenuous relationship with his sister, Andrea. Music lovers and those who enjoy reading about the New York entertainment scene will enjoy living vicariously through the eyes of a man who knows music backwards, forwards sideways, and all ways. George gave a great presentation to a room full of people at Marcus Book Store in Oakland this past spring. A nice addition for memoir collectors.
Dera R. Williams