Stand Tall: Fighting for My Life, Inside and Outside the Ring by Dewey Bozella with Tamara JonesConvicted of murder in 1983, amateur boxer Dewey Bozella spent 20 years in New York's Sing Sing prison. During those years, he refused to make an admission of guilt that would have secured him early release; meanwhile, he excelled as a boxer and worked towards earning a college degree. In Stand Tall, he relates his difficult early life in foster care and explains how a prominent law firm worked pro bono to overturn his conviction. Kirkus Reviews calls this account of a lifetime's fight against injustice "harrowing and inspiring."
Being Elvis: A Lonely Life by Ray ConnollyIn time for the 40th anniversary of rock icon Elvis Presley's untimely demise, British music critic Ray Connolly pens a biography that's both sympathetic and candid. From Presley's childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi through his sad and lonely death, Connolly discusses Presley's wildly successful early career and the reason why he never performed abroad. Being Elvis thoroughly examines Presley's drug abuse, sexual infidelities, and the isolation late in his life. Connolly also imagines the rock star's own perspective on his failures and flaws. This well-researched account offers an absorbing complement to other biographies (such as Peter Guralnick's Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love).
Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life by Philippe GirardBorn into slavery in 1743 on the Caribbean island of Saint-Domingue, Toussaint Louverture became a powerful leader in the French colony, leading African-descended slaves in a 1791 revolt and becoming governor of the newly created sovereign nation of Haiti. In this well documented biography, historian Philippe Gerard depicts mid-18th-century racial relations and the practice of slavery in Saint-Domingue. Explaining that Louverture saw himself as French (not African), Girard details his efforts to achieve education, amass land holdings, and negotiate local and international politics. This vividly described, insightful portrait will please biography readers and fans of colonial and Caribbean history.
When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve JonesIn When We Rise, LGBTQ activist Cleve Jones recounts his closeted childhood in Arizona, his enthusiastic participation in San Francisco's gay community life, and his leadership in response to the AIDS epidemic (he co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and led the inspiring success of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt). His account of the campaign for marriage equality crowns this inspiring autobiography. You might try David France's How to Survive a Plague for a history of LGBTQ activists' response to AIDS; a television miniseries with the same name is also based in part on Jones' book.
Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey by Nicola TallisAs recounted in Crown of Blood, King Edward VI's cousin Lady Jane Grey (whose great-grandfather was Henry VII) reigned over Britain for only nine days. In this well researched and engaging biography, historian Nicola Tallis not only relates the landmark events in the lives of Henry VIII and his children (important context to Lady Jane's life and death), but vividly depicts the young woman's intellect, skills, and especially her Protestant piety. According to Tallis, Jane made her mark on history by standing up for her religious beliefs in the face of deadly opposition. Women's history fans and Tudor buffs won't want to miss this accessible account.
African Americans' Biographies
Negroland: A Memoir by Margo JeffersonIn this "page-turning, provocative" (Library Journal) memoir, journalist Margo Jefferson explains that "Negroland" isn't a place, but rather a social category or class whose elite members enjoy significant advantages. Coming of age in the 1960s, Jefferson witnessed her parents' aspirations as they modeled the ideals of Negroland. However, the societal and political changes arising from feminism, black pride, and other movements of the era led her to question her parents, the ideals of Negroland, and herself. Candid and moving, this book offers an eye-opening consideration of the challenges facing African American women.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning MarableAlthough The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the product of an extensive collaboration between Malcolm and Alex Haley, appeared before Malcolm's 1965 assassination, the book was inaccurate and incomplete. In this updated biography, historian Manning Marable draws on materials that have become available since Malcolm's death and on interviews with people close to Malcolm. Marable's insightful narrative presents startling details of Malcolm's life and death and offers a keen analysis of the Civil Rights movement and the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X was a finalist for the 2011 NBCC award for biography.
Barack Obama: The Story by David MaranissIn this exhaustively researched, "authoritative" (Kirkus Reviews) account, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Maraniss explores the lives of Barack Obama's forebears and relates Obama's life up to age 27. Visiting Kansas, the home state of Obama's mother's family, and Kenya, his father's homeland, Maraniss sheds light on the influences that formed the man who became the 44th President of the U.S. Then he paints a vivid portrait of the young Obama's childhood, boarding school years in Hawaii, higher education, and community organizing work before entering law school. For a recent assessment of Obama's legacy as President, take a look at Jonathan Chait's Audacity.
Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington by Robert J. NorrellTuskegee Institute's founder Booker T. Washington has been dismissed as an Uncle Tom-style accommodationist who allowed his white supporters to constrain his efforts on behalf of African Americans. In this reassessment of Washington's legacy, historian Robert Norrell details his efforts to support black enfranchisement and encourage African American economic independence. Impressively detailing the risks Washington took as he toured the South promoting education, Norrell presents him as tirelessly advocating black self-determination -- the opposite of what his detractors claimed. In a starred review, Booklist calls Up from History an "engrossing portrait of a complex man."
The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne TheoharisThough her December 1, 1955 act of civil disobedience that sparked the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott is often presented as an ordinary incident with extraordinary consequences, Rosa Parks had been preparing for years for the moment when she refused to yield her seat on a bus to a white passenger. In The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, political scientist Jeanne Theoharis carefully documents the work Parks had already done as a Civil Rights activist and recounts her contributions to the movement after the bus boycott. Far from being an accidental heroine, Parks was in the forefront of the movement; Theoharis provides a fuller understanding of the changes Parks and other leaders brought to American society.
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