Maybe 4 1/2, but so good that I'm not going to begrudge it the extra half star. Honest, open, and beautifully written. She does not try to make hersel...moreMaybe 4 1/2, but so good that I'm not going to begrudge it the extra half star. Honest, open, and beautifully written. She does not try to make herself look good - she has blown up her life and has set out on a quest to face herself and rebuild. In a place with no distractions and no comfort, she just lets it flow. Her mother's death overturned her life and exposed all of the vulnerable places, as important deaths tend to do. Very real and very heartrending.(less)
I finished this book long ago, but I had not written a review because I was not sure of how to write it. This book is about my family. My Uncle Lonnie...moreI finished this book long ago, but I had not written a review because I was not sure of how to write it. This book is about my family. My Uncle Lonnie, my mother's brother, painstakingly researched our family history, going back eight generations. Having all of the stories and family lore that I had heard all my life coupled with new information that he was able to find is a tremendous gift. But I had to consider how someone who was not a part of my family would view it. I think that it would be interesting to anyone who has an interest in American History, particularly African American history. For each generation, Uncle Lonnie couples our family history with what was happening in the country as a whole. The main strength of this book in my opinion, however, is that it makes history personal. Reading this book, it is fascinating to see the variety of experiences that came together to form this particular family. Sometimes we have tendency to assume that all members of a group have similar experiences - the "one story" problem. While our story fits into the African American experience in general, the particular experiences of each generation of our family broaden and enrich the picture. I love this book and giving it fewer than 5 stars would not be honest.(less)
Heart-wrenching, especially since the week that I read it is one in which the perilousness of the lives of young black men is the topic of so much nat...moreHeart-wrenching, especially since the week that I read it is one in which the perilousness of the lives of young black men is the topic of so much national conversation. Undoubtedly the conversation will die down and some other topic will take its place, but this book stands as testimony to the loss to family and community of these young lives. Ward writes about 5 young black men, family and friends, who died within a few short years in her small, impoverished community for reasons that vary but which all come back to poverty and racism. What is particularly poignant is that Ward shows so clearly that those who died are only the tip of the iceberg. Men who continued to live tended to drift away, pushed by a lack of opportunity to do anything else. Lives that could have enriched the community just dry up and blow away. And Ward shows how deeply the women of the community are affected, women who lose the simple dreams of a good life and simply hold on for their families. Ward does not exempt herself by any means, medicating her own sense of loss and inferiority and inadequacy in alcohol and drugs like most others in her community. Ward writes beautifully as always. The structure of this book is a bit difficult, as Ward alternates between telling her our story chronologically and telling the stories of the 5 young men in reverse. The reason for this is clear - she wants to end the book with the event that was the cataclysmic event of her life - the death of her brother. Because this structure was a bit problematic for me, I might have given this book 4 stars on a different week. This week, for me, it is solidly 5 stars.(less)
What happens when a person's life is completely derailed by a poorly understood illness? How do you go on when the basics of a good life – a home , a...moreWhat happens when a person's life is completely derailed by a poorly understood illness? How do you go on when the basics of a good life – a home , a family, meaningful work – are suddenly beyond your grasp? Roger King, in what he describes as an “autobiographical novel”, moves from England to the United States hoping to build a life and instead is crushed by the devastating illness called by the totally inadequate name of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the United States, but known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis in much of the rest of the world. This book tells of his search for a life that he can manage in a painfully honest, touching, heartbreaking narrative.
This book attracted my attention because I share the same illness with the author and can certainly identify with his struggle. I also understand and appreciate the style he utilizes in telling his story. He combines memory, poetry, lists – a number of forms which may at first seem disjointed but which work very well in describing a life that has come loose at the hinges. Calling it an autobiographical novel works also – looking backward through the fog of illness, the details may be fuzzy, but the emotional truth of his story is powerful. King does not try to paint a pleasant picture of himself – he stumbles, wanders, makes missteps as he grasps at the life that is slipping through his fingers. He is much more charitable in describing those he meets and sometimes loves, and he has altered their names and details about them so that he can freely tell his story of wandering untethered from the west coast to the east, exhausted and ill, always searching for a way to continue to live, accompanied by the one unchanging figure in his life, his loyal dog.
In spite of King's struggles, this book is often very amusing and presents a captivating look at the United States from the point of view of an outsider. King's illness pushes him more deeply into the role of an observer, and his observations of American life are fascinating. Because this book is so beautifully written and King is such an accomplished chronicler of the telling details of life, I would recommend this book to a wide readership. The themes of loss and searching are certainly common to many lives. This is a very fine book.(less)
Warm, funny, heartrending, enlightening - the Delany sisters' book was just amazing. Because of their family and their own determination, these women...moreWarm, funny, heartrending, enlightening - the Delany sisters' book was just amazing. Because of their family and their own determination, these women personally experienced so much of the good and the bad of this country over a century of living. Reading about the Delany sisters and their family makes it impossible to jump to any quick conclusions about the experiences of African Americans. I would make this book required reading for all Americans.(less)
Interesting, but not earth-shaking. The author is the third of Malcolm X's 6 daughters and this book is simply her feelings growing up from her father...moreInteresting, but not earth-shaking. The author is the third of Malcolm X's 6 daughters and this book is simply her feelings growing up from her father's assassination until her mother's death from a fire in her home in the 1990's. To me, her life story didn't reveal anything unusual - she had a fairly privileged upbringing typical of African American upper-middle class families. She was, again typically, sheltered from the outside world by her mother, a very strong and determined woman. Many details are a bit sketchy and she tells almost nothing about her sisters' lives. I really didn't gain any insight from this book, but it was an OK read.(less)
A lovely, touching memoir which reaches far beyond the author's lifelong love of baseball. Her mother's long-term illness, her father's devotion, the...moreA lovely, touching memoir which reaches far beyond the author's lifelong love of baseball. Her mother's long-term illness, her father's devotion, the closeness of her 1950's suburban Long Island neighborhood, her Catholic roots, and her growing awareness of the changing world beyond the safety of her small world are beautifully framed by her love for her favorite team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. A very readable, enjoyable book.(less)