Biographies: Black Celebrities Write
A few years ago, I attended a book release party for DMX’s autobiography E.A.R.L. I still recall grabbing the microphone for the Q&A session. When I asked what made his autobiography different from the rest of the celebrity reads published, DMX answered “HONESTY!” and moved on to the next question. I vowed that his one-word answer wasn’t worthy of my money or reading time. My older sister disagreed and provided me with the highlights of the book once she completed it. Lucky me. Crackhead biographies are always interesting, no? I know I enjoyed Cupcake Brown’s book.
Celebrities continue to publish books about some aspect of their life—and some of us keep buying and reading. This month, Isaiah Washington and Ice T take their place on bookshelves. And here are the excerpts to help you make those difficult ‘to read or not’ decisions:
A Man From Another Land: How Finding My Roots Changed My Life by Isiah Washington
CHAPTER 1 – “What Part of Africa Are You From?”
For most of my life I have walked the streets of cities such as New York, DC, Chicago, Houston, LA, and others. I have traveled around the world, spending time in countries such as Germany, the Philippines, Japan, England, Australia, Namibia, South Africa, France, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Sweden. Yet, while each of these places is very different, no matter where I traveled there was one thing that was always the same: everywhere I went, native Africans asked me, “What part of Africa are you from?” On buses, on planes, on the sets of my acting gigs, inevitably someone would stop and tell me I looked just like a close relative from West Africa.
I would reply as I always did, “I was born in Houston, Texas.” And each time they would look at me as if I were lying. After each encounter, I was always left with a feeling that these Africans knew something that I didn’t. I prayed that one day I would understand what it was they saw in me, what it was that made them believe I was from Africa.
“Gimme yo’ money, you punk-ass faggot! Whatchu got?” One of the Frazier sisters shoved me to the ground. I was six years old and had just started walking myself to school. My mother would give me an extra quarter to buy a snack to go with my lunch, and every day, without fail, one of the Frazier sisters would beat me up and take it away from me. (Read more . . . )
“It’s hell to be an orphan at an early age This impressionable stage No love breeds rage.” —“I Must Stand”
1. because I first made my name as a rapper claiming South Central L.A., people often assume I’m strictly a West Coast cat. But my family was actually from back East. I was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in Summit, an upscale town in north Jersey. There was this tiny area of Summit where most of the black families lived. My parents and I lived in a duplex house on Williams Street. And on the street right behind us—backyard to backyard—was my aunt, my father’s sister.
For my first few years, it was just a real middle-American life.
I don’t remember taking any trips or anything exciting. One thing I do remember, when my dad would take me places, he would get White Castle burgers and throw me in the backseat, and he expected me to eat my White Castles and be quiet. My dad and I spent a lot of time together not saying anything. I went to the YMCA, where I learned how to swim and do gymnastics. It was kind of a big deal to have a membership to the Y, because it meant your Pops had money to spend on you. I remember going from Pollywog to Dolphin, then graduating to Shark and Lifesaver, and I’m pretty proud of the fact that I learned to be a good swimmer.
There wasn’t any violence or trauma. It was quiet, simple, and suburban. An almost perfect childhood—except, for me, every couple years, losing a parent . . . (Read more . . .)
Should you decide these books aren’t worthy of your time, I’m sure more celebrities are ready to publish about their life’s dramas and triumphs in the near future. I’m always looking for black music biographies—DMX not included.
Happy reading, y’all!