This page-turner is really three books in one: a social commentary on how America's southern racism bathes northern cities; a true-crime story about a senseless neighborhood murder; and an intimate account of a young Black man trying his best to get his life back after nine years in prison. All this happens only a stone's throw from Yale's idyllic campus in New Haven, Connecticut. They say your zip code shouldn't decide your destiny. In this case, it's shocking what a difference a few streets can make.
Smedley Butler (1881-1940) was Zelig. He was on the battlefield during the Opium Wars, the Spanish American War, and World War I. He led military missions in Panama Canal, Guantanamo Bay, and Haiti. He was one of the most decorated Marines in American history. His story could make for a rich military history, but instead Katz delivers a fascinating analysis of the fairly open secret objective of America's foreign policy during the time, which was to establish a long-lasting economic empire across the globe. Recounted through the eyes of the guy who did it all, this is a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in American culture, history, and/or politics.
Far from the cliche memoir tracing the path of a kid with superhero powers who rises above troubles and challenges to become a successful and famous adult, Fiotzgerald's self-described "confessional" is different. Yes, he leads us through his personal story, from an undeniably difficult childhood into adulthood. But his main point is that he's no hero, he's just an ordinary person,one who, like the rest of us, has made his choices--some good, some bad, some cringeworthy, some celebratory, and some merely serendipitous. Like a Popeye without spinach, he's content to declare, "I am what I am."