I was excited to have the opportunity to preview Nelson George‘s latest book “City Kid” a memoir. I’ve recently began following his career more closely after learning about his involvement with Chris Rock‘s documentary “Good Hair” that won an award at Sundance. In this post, I’ve written a review of “City Kid” and am also including an interview between Nelson George and I in podcast format for you. Reading about and speaking to other writers is always a unique experience. It’s almost like turning the camera on the camera man. Nelson gave me a great interview but not without a few surprises and push back to keep me on my toes. “City Kid” is worth adding to your reading list. This post along with my others regarding this book should give you a introduction to Nelson George and what to expect as you read his memoir. I would love to hear from any of you who have picked up the book as well as any of you who have read or watched any of Nelson’s other works.
City Kid- A Review
In “City Kid,” Nelson writes of his life where “family and art intersect” as he describes in the Introduction. Ever present throughout is the influence of music on his life from the early days listening to his mother’s Motorola hi-fi to his writing career. Quick to refer to his family unit through often, and perhaps over, cited statistics on Black American families and broken homes, Nelson was no exception. He grew up in the Tilden projects in Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. His mother Arizona (nicknamed “Doll”) worked hard to make ends meet and his father, Nelson Elmer George was largely absent through Nelson’s life after being lured into the counterculture looming in New York City at the time. Nelson had one sibling, his sister Andrea who was a rebellious soul which extended to their relationship as brother and sister. It took Andrea cheating death when contracting and living with HIV to ultimately lead to a reconciliation amongst the siblings. The reconciliation occurred as a moment of truth as Andrea began to talk about her life with HIV. Nelson wrote and directed a screenplay based on Andrea’s life the was released through HBO Films entitled “Life Support.”
On the surface, I’d say “City Kid” is a “man book,” but there were elements that I was fond of and could identify with as a writer and music lover. Ladies, you can skim the parts about Nelson’s love for comic books, sports, and tales of man adolescence; however, there are still threads integral to his memoir that you’ll enjoy. For example, Nelson’s affection for his mother and longing for male role models are endearing and bring you closer to the man behind the mirror.
For aspiring and established writers, you’ll enjoy and likely identify with Nelson’s lifeblood as a writer. An avid reader from the time of his youth, Nelson shares that he was particularly fond of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Actually, one of the highlights of this memoir is the fantastic library of must read books interwoven throughout. I have generated quite a list in my notebook that maybe I’ll publish at a later time.
Perhaps the most poignant part of this book is the education you get from reading about the evolution of popular black music as it parallels then intersects with Nelson’s life. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in Brooklyn during the rise of hip hop and a bit of a “Harlem Renaissance” that occurred during Nelson’s twenties as the Ft. Greene neighborhood became a mecca for artists like now famous Spike Lee and Chris Rock.
My only criticism of “City Kid” is related to the style. What makes a book a great read for me is being able to get that contact high from just holding the book in your hands, inhaling every word. I had a hard time doing that completely with “City Kid.” I attribute it to Nelson’s largely journalistic style narrative of his own life that left me perched at a safe distance from Nelson’s authentic self. Personally, it’s most exciting to finish a memoir feeling that I really got to connect to the person in a way that would not have happened otherwise. I feel like I could recite Nelson’s life, but I don’t know his life.
If you’re interested in picking up a copy of “City Kid” I would suggest you check out the links I provided for you below the interview.
Interview with Nelson George about “City Kid”
Here’s the interview I conducted with Nelson George on April 9, 2009, a week after the release of “City Kid.” This is my first whirl at editing and posting a podcast, so bear with me and certainly let me know if you have any suggestions, feedback, or are experiencing technical difficulties. For you corporate types, this is my “development opportunity.”
*NOTE* actual interview ends at 19:56 (gotta work out why the dead air on the end, sorry).
Here are a few additional resources that are either mentioned during the interview or would be useful to you.
NY Times (Ft. Greene Blog) article– A WALK WITH NELSON GEORGE
HBO Films– LIFE SUPPORT (inspired by a true story)
Nelson George book– WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO? The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound
Time Out New York– BOOK REVIEW OF “CITY KID”
A Deeper Shade of Soul–
Nelson George official website– NELSONGEORGE.NET
Facebook Group– NELSON GEORGE: CITY KID
And like, duh! don’t forget my previous posts related to Nelson George…
Trailer for film “Life Support”
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Thanks to Maren at Viking for reaching out to me regarding Nelson’s book and helping to arrange this interview.
Thank you, Nelson George, for your time and insight.