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American Skin

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  980 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
American Skin was first published in the United Kingdom to resounding acclaim after the author used his last seventy-five dollars to make an unsolicited submission to the publisher of the Scottish beats, whose work he admired. It is a timeless story about a young man's coming-of-age as well as a stunning portrait of the class and racial tensions that pervade our society.

Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 6th 2000 by Touchstone (first published January 1st 1998)
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Feb 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
I probably never would have read this book had a customer not left it opened on the bar at a restaurant I worked at, tempting me to read a page.
I went out and bought it and I must say I was impressed. It was incredibly well written and offered a glimpse into the life of Skinheads in America... not only that but I learned at not all skin heads are rascist, Jew-hating Nazis. Prior to reading this I must admit I hated any skinhead thinking they stood for everything I was so morally against, howeve
Lollipopwater Norton
Dec 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
Because the book is named "American Skin" and features a skinhead on the cover, I really thought the story was going to have at least some interesting references to the philosophy and music of the skin scene, while perhaps following the tale of some of the kids. Silly me.

No. It is a book featuring cliched dialogue, unlikable douche-bag characters, and a ridiculous storyline complete with an incestuous sublot. Throw in some random Buddhism, Ayn Rand and some bomber jackets, and you have "American
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ed Wagemann
Jul 08, 2010 rated it liked it
I went to grad school, had classes with and was tutored by Don De Grazia at Columbia College in the early 1990s. His talent was immeditately recognizable and his spirit was a true inspiration. I bought his book and read it quickly. It is a page turner, dealing with skin heads and others and set mostly in late 1980s Chicago, it was fun to read about locations that I had been to and characters I seemed to have known. After reading this book I became interested in reading more books set in Chicago ...more
Yosh Waters
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
I first read this in high school, back in probably 2002 or 2003. I was semi-obsessed with it for a little while, I can safely say. This is a great story for vicariously living a dangerous and exciting modern life that you're just too lucky to get stuck in. You know how you can sometimes imagine being a bum or something, and you think "hey, I could do whatever I want. The whole world would be my oyster, I don't have to just sit around panhandling!" and then you remember that actually, you would p ...more
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german-reads
Ich muss das erstmal sacken lassen... Dann Rezi, extra für meinen Bruder ^^
Janelle Corr
Mar 08, 2015 rated it did not like it
I feel like I just read an after school special from the 80s.
Jun 09, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this in college. We actually met the author and he explained how he used movies to help inspire him to write action scenes. I think he said Taxidriver was one of his influences and that he started the book in college as just short stories until he turned it into a book. It was interesting to learn his method.

The book was fine. It focuses on the character Alex. I do like how some action scenes are described such as chin hitting a pavement or an explosion. There is nice detail but I have t
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
'American Skin,' Don DeGrazia: Pretty good. Ulysses / Homer Iliad / Odyssey-type structure for coming of age story in unique setting of Chicago skinheads world. Their world and the action is located mainly in the runyonesque vortex within a couple blocks radially from the axis from Dunkin’ Donuts (Belmont Clark) to the old Medusa juice bar / club (School-Sheffield -- dubbed ‘Gorgon’ in the novel – see that?). Moves fast, interesting arc, with plenty of philosophical flights, including not least ...more
Nick Simmons
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book, not only because of the story contained within, but for the rare example of a story transcending its' own inherent limitations by pure effort. The beginning reads like a crude teenage daydream--you chuckle and pass it by, hoping for something more. And you find it. Alex Verdi's story is both artless in its' bonehead aimlessness and seeming disregard for the future, and propelled by a ruthless narrative engine. The dust-jacket comparisons to Homer ring true, but the more salient ...more
May 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I first read this book when it came out back in 1999 and just reread it for the first time in years a couple weeks ago. At the time I was an undergrad at Columbia College and Don De Grazia was definitely my favorite prof. I remember there was talk about American Skin being made into a movie, but I guess that never happened. I went drinking with Don a few times after class at George's and the South Loop Club near the Columbia campus. He was a good man who could hold his liquor and a conversation ...more
Mar 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
American Skin traces the young adulthood of Alex Verdi, as his path takes him from the son of "hippie" parents living in the woods, to runaway, to factory worker, to skinhead, to bootcamp, to a blown shot at redemption, then to prison and finally to what we are left to believe is a somewhat reformed life.

The story is a page-turner, no doubt, but the protagonist - through his various incarnations - did not seem genuine. The book also felt a little too familiar, as if I've read/seen elements of th
Apr 21, 2008 rated it liked it
This novel was better than I expected it would turn out. It is a contemporary coming-of-age book which follows a life lead by character Alex Verdi. Alex struggles to find a group that he can connect with after his parents are sent to jail and his little sister to a foster home. He wants to become a good man to impress his father, but finds himself resorting to violence and eventually getting into trouble. His journey takes him through many phases: being an anti-Nazi skinhead, fourth months in th ...more
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books of all time! Everyone can identify with the protagonist- self discovery, learning to grow up, falling in love, making bad (and sometimes good) choices. This really touched home and also spoke to a sub-cultural group that has never really had a voice. Growing up in a large metropolitan city and in the punk scene myself (a city w/plenty of neo-nazi skin violence no less), I disagree slightly w/the other reviewers that this is a Chicago book. Sure it is. But, it's also for ...more
Feb 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
A must read for any Chicago native old enough (and enough in the know) to remember Medusas and Punkin Donuts. This was a lot of fun to read because of this kind of thing - there is a scene in this book that takes place in an apartment building I used to live in! Aside from that, the book is amazingly well told, filled with interesting insights and lively, strong, believable characters. Falls short of five stars because it feels like some of the content belongs in another book - the narrator goes ...more
Abraham Thunderwolf
Apr 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Badass! It gets to the point with sparse movements that feel epic overall. One of my friends recomended this book to me a year ago and I stumbled upon it at the library a few weeks ago. This book collobarates with the old freaks that Belmont and Clark used to be crazy rather than the heavily scrubbed yuppie hot bed that it is today. Alex, the main character, goes through a hell of a lot in what seems like a few weeks! I know it's not a few weeks, but the book goes by so fast it's almost dizzying ...more
Sara Cutaia
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ccc-professors
Would have never picked this book up if the author hadn't been one of my grad professors, but holy hell am I glad I did. You hear 'skinhead' and you think lots of negative things. Well, think again. Protagonist Alex Verdi takes us through the intimate workings of the Skinhead lifestyle in Chicago in the 80s, and then to the Army, and Northwestern's campus, and eventually prison. Through all of these ups and downs, two things are certain: Don De Grazia can f*cking write, and this is a beautiful s ...more
Brandon Will
Feb 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Don't let the cover give you the wrong impression--this is far more insightful and humane than it is In-Your-Face. It reads sort of like a Dickens epic coming-of-age novel. DeGrazia chronicles the journey of a kid from a broken home who finds himself a factory worker in the big scary city (our big, scary city), and is then taken in by a nurturing (in their own way) "family" of non-racist yet non-non-violent skinheads. But that's only one section of his journey that leads him to the army, trying ...more
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This completely modern and raw coming-of-age story broke my heart. It's amazing how much I found myself rooting for Alex, the main character, despite his flaws, shortcomings and horrible decisions...or bad luck. American Skin reminded me how gritty literature could be and was completely unsympathetic to the reader's potentially weak stomach or low tolerance for harsh language. Beautiful in its realism- Read it, please!
Ashley Reiner
Oct 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wow did this book took me back to my punk rock days in Chicago in the mid-late 80s.

In a word FANTASTIC. Parents of punk rock teens should read this to get a clue about what is happening in their minds of their kids. There were some areas that I thought were a little off and I clearly liked the first part of the book best, but it was new and fresh and a take on teen angst that I could relate to. In fact, imho, the best take on teen angst since Holden Caulfield told his story...
Sep 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a novel about the American skinhead subculture and more generally the punk rock scene. They're not 'rascist' skinheads, but in fact get in fights with the rascist ones when they cross paths. It's a great coming-of-age book and it's very well written. For me it was a page-turner. It's a little like the punk rock version of 'Rule of the Bone.' As someone who knows very little about the whole punk scene (and nothing about Chicago) it was fun to 'learn' something about it.
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Muxacb by: rebecca

My friend Rebecca gave me a copy of this book and the entire time I read it, I felt like I was watching television - it flows so smoothly, it's almost like you're watching it happen.

A good story centered around the Chicago skinhead punk scene: black army boots, tattoos, 40's, and fisticuffs. This book has excellent language, too.

Slightly grimey and explicit in parts, so it's not exactly PG-13 (or even R), but worth a go!
Karen Backe
Feb 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Gritty slice of life/coming of age in the Chicago teenage punk scene of the late 80's/early 90's. More violent than I dig, and was hard for me to relate to most character choices, but I still found it to be a page-turner. And much of the story stuck with me for weeks after. If you were a local during this era, you'll recognize plenty -- which is fun. Never thought I'd read the word 'mulatto' so many times in one novel.
Jun 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: crap
About the time the author called The Business a racist/nazi band, I realized what I was reading: a pulp novel straining to be gritty lit, written by someone who observed the skinhead and punk scenes from the outside. As the main character got more and more self-centered, I became less and less interested. I'd rather just go to an oi show.
Nov 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The novel that made me think I could actually write the book in my head.
Chris C.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very good snapshot of the Northside punk sub-culture in the 1980s.
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it
I just couldn't get through this book. I made it about halfway and then I confess I skimmed through the rest. He's not a bad writer but his characters were walking cliches. At first I liked the mc as he was a young vulnerable guy who had some bad things happen to his family. I wanted to root for him, but he became more unlikable which wouldn't be a bad thing if the book was more interesting. I kept thinking the book would lead back to his family and some of the more interesting aspects of the st ...more
May 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Amy by: Yvonne
I wanted to like this book. I really did. But it is sorely lacking some character development. Because this book is so far removed from the life that I know, I found it hard to understand the characters' actions and motivations and almost impossible to relate to them. The book's only saving grace for me was its Chicago setting.
Stephan Dekkerd
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It tells the truth about real Skinhead culture and lays low the slanted portrayal by the media.
DeGrazia has done a workingclass sub-culture much justice with his work and is a talented Author.
I've given this book away thrice as a gift. Once to my Lil'sister. It has a great ability to solve much misunderstanding about something all too often totally misunderstood. Bullseye!A great tale!
Well crafted Solid Novel!
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
I was a young and angry 18-year-old punk rocker living in nola when I first read this book. It spoke to me on a visceral level, as I was experiencing a lot of the same things Alex was. I can't give this 5 stars, though... I don't think the ending really matched the rest of the book. It lost momentum, but it still spoke to the lost soul in me.
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“If everybody spent enough time worrying about their own goddamn selves, no one would have to worry about anyone else.” 16 likes
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