Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review of "BUCK: A Memoir" by M. K. Asante - A Remarkable and Compelling New Voice

"BUCK" is a remarkable memoir by a new voice.  Be aware that Mr. Asante speaks with a voice (w)rapped in a thick Philly Hip-Hop accent.  It took me a few pages to get into his rhythms and street nomenclature.  But it was well worth the effort, for he opens his soul in telling of his life on the means streets of North Philly and Germantown.

It is a jarring and moving story of survival against long odds.  Neighborhoods peopled with drug dealers and gang bangers.  An emotionally absent father who eventual left altogether, and who spent his time preaching Afrocentrism, but neglected his family.  A brother jailed for rape in Arizona.  A mother bouncing between home and psychiatric hospitals with bi-polar disorder.  Death of a best friend in a shooting.  Expulsion from a variety of schools.  A common tale - until a remarkable turn-around took place.

Asante describes the day that he arrived at an alternative school called Crefeld.  His teacher, Stacey, tells the students in the classroom to write.  At first, he sits paralyzed.  But eventually, he sees something new in that blank sheet of paper:.

"The blank page begs me to tell a story - dares me to tell one - one that's never been told before, and to tell it like it will never be told again.  The blank page lights up a room in my heart that I didn't know existed.  I'm standing outside of Crefeld when my purpose finds me.  

I hear Uncle Howard's voice in my head as I race through the hallway: 'Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.'

. . . I find Stacey in her classroom.  I declare it: 'I want to be a writer.'" (pages 224-5)

And what a writer he has become!  His style is fresh, raw, deep, descriptive, evocative and compelling.  I felt as if I had personally been invited to accompany Asante on a journey through the disparate chapters of his life as he wrestled with competing values, tribes, family dynamics and world views.  Born in Africa and raised in "Killadelphia," Asante sees himself and the world around him through a kaleidoscopic assortment of lenses.  His telling of his tale is both descriptive and prescriptive.  The moral of the story is right there: the right kind of teacher/mentor in the right kind of a nurturing environment pulled the fat out of the fire and saved a life that was destined for the slab or the slammer.

The author has a lot to say.  I look forward to him continuing to say it in his unique voice



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