cover image City Kid: A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success

City Kid: A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success

Nelson George, . . Viking, $25.95 (248pp) ISBN 978-0-670-02036-2

In his vivid and charming memoir, novelist and screenwriter George (Hip Hop America ) recounts incidents from an eventful life that has ranged from a tough upbringing by his single mother in Brooklyn in the 1960s to a career of assorted writing gigs in music journalism, television and film. Early in the book, George captures the anxieties of an intelligent child in a dangerous neighborhood, finding solace in his mother's soul records, screenings of Planet of the Apes and Hemingway and Fitzgerald novels. Later, George provides a welcome and appropriately nerve-wracking portrait of a young New York writer, interning at the Amsterdam News and writing concert reviews for Billboard . Slowly, the mature writer and tastemaker emerges, witnessing and shepherding hip-hop's sometimes rocky transition into the mainstream pop-music world, as exemplified by a bizarre concert bill featuring the Commodores, Bob Marley and hip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blow. George's life has been blessed by the presences of an eclectic array of black entertainers, including a young Russell Simmons and a struggling Chris Rock, and he sketches these characters with affection, though at times the book feels more like a collection of anecdotes than a cohesive narrative. Nonetheless, George provides tempting glimpses of the vibrant New York of the recent past. (Apr.)