- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Dutton; First Edition edition (June 19, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781524742447
- ISBN-13: 978-1524742447
- ASIN: 1524742449
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 36 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America Hardcover – June 19, 2018
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“In this remarkably honest memoir, Zachary R. Wood has written a veritable bildungsroman, tracing his journey from high school scholarship student from a poor black neighborhood in Washington, DC, to leader of the free speech movement at Williams College. This work provides a timely view of both political life on elite college campuses and the struggles of the working poor against the backdrop of institutional racism. It also explores, with bracing candor, Wood’s growth as a young writer and intellectual, whose mistakes are as formative as his successes. Wood’s memoir is a must-read for anyone concerned about the American promise of social mobility.”—Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and author of Life Upon These Shores
“I met Zachary Wood when he was nineteen. After an hour of talking with him, I was volunteering for his (future) U.S. presidential campaign. (I have my fingers crossed that he’ll decide to run someday, because we need him.) Zachary Wood represents everyone, and he does so with dignity, clarity, kindness, and great courage, which comes across loud and clear in this phenomenal book, Uncensored. Zachary’s story of resilience, compassion, and conviction will be read by millions, and I’ll be pushing for it to be a book that’s assigned in high school classrooms everywhere. He teaches—and shows—us how to resolve and heal some of our deepest conflict—with true curiosity, empathy, and openness.”—Amy Cuddy, New York Times bestselling author of Presence
“An intensely personal memoir about a childhood that trained [Wood] to be nimble and empathetic.”—Chicago Tribune
“Wood is a cerebral analyst . . . an effective translator of the two worlds he navigates—four worlds, really, rich and poor as notable as black and white.”—The Christian Science Monitor
"[Wood] writes frankly—and with unfiltered language—of challenges both at home and at elite private schools in Michigan and DC."—World
"One cannot help but root for Wood while reading his life story . . . [and] conservatives would do well to emulate how Wood approaches the issues: listening, reflecting, and debating."—The College Fix
“Wood elevates the approach to difficult conversations and dialogue, succeeding in helping people overcome indifference. A must-read for young social activists, free speech crusaders, and fans of inspirational memoirs.”—Library Journal
“Wood writes movingly about the debilitating effects of racism and poverty. . . . A singular voice that, as Wood would say, you may not agree with but to which you at least have to listen.”—Booklist
“Uncensored is inspired. Zachary Wood is an American hero for standing up on the front line of the fight for free speech on college campuses. This young, black man who has overcome so much in his life, tells an incredible story of crossing political lines in search of honest debate.”
—Juan Williams, author of Eyes on the Prize and political analyst for Fox News
“Zachary Wood's story is wrenchingly honest and compelling, a triumph of discipline and resilience, with useful lessons for us all. His willingness to confront opposing views and engage ideological adversaries is brave and important at a time when political polarization is challenging our national strength."—Ambassador Susan E. Rice, coeditor of Confronting Poverty
“It is difficult to know what is more amazing, the fact that a twenty-one-year-old is publishing a memoir of his life, the fact that he indeed has a life and a complicated one to narrate, or the fact that out of hardscrabble beginnings he has fashioned a present full of accomplishment and promises a future that the reader soon comes to believe in. He thinks he will be president of the United States. I wouldn’t bet against him.”—Stanley Fish, New York Times bestselling author of How to Write a Sentence
“A spectacular debut from an impressive individual who has already been and will continue to be a force for the good and for the Republic. Republicans and Democrats alike can learn something from Zachary Wood’s story, and it may not be what you expect to learn. Mr. Wood, I suspect, would be more than happy with that.”—Allison Stanger, Russell J. Leng ’60 Professor of International Politics and Economics at Middlebury College
"Candid, passionate, disturbing, and judicious, Zachary Wood’s Uncensored traces a young man’s odyssey through the challenges and affirmations of family life, academic institutions, and campus controversies. Ambitious and altruistic, admired and maligned, driven yet self-reflective, Wood examines and celebrates the sense of calling that informs his prodigious energy and talent. Uncensored is an honest, compelling, and unforgettable book."
—David Lionel Smith, John W. Chandler Professor of English at Williams College
"There is nothing predictable or even familiar about this astonishing memoir by Zachary Wood, despite its components of race and class. It's a work alternately harrowing and exhilarating in its unflinching detail of survival—its picture of a child waking in daily fear wondering what the day with his mentally ill mother will bring. The exhilaration comes with Mr. Wood's sterling command of his narrative, which is impossible to put down once begun. Its author began reading at a very early age and never stopped. His story is, in addition to all else, profound and eloquent testimony to books and reading and their power to make a life."—Dorothy Rabinowitz, author of No Crueler Tyrannies
About the Author
Zachary R. Wood is a Columnist and Assistant Opinion Editor at The Guardian, a Robert L. Bartley Fellow at The Wall Street Journal, and a class of 2018 graduate of Williams College. His recent work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, HuffPost, The Nation, The Weekly Standard, Times Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed. A Washington, DC, native, Wood currently resides in New York City.
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His black parents divorced when he was very young, and he describes in frank detail his mother's mood swings and the mental and physical abuse he suffered.
His grandparents encouraged his love of learning, and books were his everyday (and late night) escape from the grim economic poverty of his home.
He managed to attend an elite private middle school in suburban Detroit, then escaped his mother (via Child Protective Services) to live with his father. He completed three years at an elite private high school that required a 4 hour daily commute from the barely-habitable small home that his father, other grandmother, uncle, and younger half-sister shared.
He sent emails to several classmates, impersonating college professors, and had to withdraw before his senior year. He found an online high school to complete his diploma, visited several colleges, applied early-decision to Williams, and enrolled in the fall.of 2014. Though a self-described progressive liberal, he loves spirited, informed debate. He took over the reins of the student group Uncomfortable Learning in his sophomore year, and sought to bring speakers with alternative views on sex and race to Williams. One speaker's visit was cancelled by the President of Williams, which brought Mr. Wood national attention.
He wraps up his story at the end of his sophomore year (5/2016), and I assume spent his junior year writing his autobiography, as it was published in the spring of 2018.
Mr. Wood is at his best describing the harrowing personal experiences with his mother, the challenges of "code-switching" between black "hood" culture and the homes and schools of his rich white private school classmates, and his hunger for knowledge and hard work.
I wish he had described more details of his interactions with friends, teachers, professors, and mentors -- most often, he instead describe these individuals with a handful of nice adjectives.
I also didn't understand how his family circumstances were so impoverished -- his dad was working 3 jobs for years -- but he manages to find money to jet around the country for summer schools and college visits.
I thought it was appropriate that Mr. Wood leaves the reader unsure of what Mr. Wood truly believes. Without saying so directly, we know that his search for truth and understanding is a journey, and the destination is uncertain.
I rate the book 5 stars for fearless bravery, but I deducted 1 star because I wanted more gritty details and insights on his interactions during college.