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I welcome responses and critique after reading the opening chapter of my new book 17 to Life: A Black Boy Memoir.

17 to Life tells my life story from age 9-17, those troubling years when so much can go wrong. Part coming-of-age story, part immigrant assimilation tome, part quest for meaning beyond the American dream, each chapter begs you, no matter your color, age or creed, to question your intentions, value your relationships, stock up on human goodness, be moved by love’s willing embrace and continually move to not merely change your life, but to transform your world for the better. A must read for anyone's who ever been 17 years old.

CHAPTER 1 (The New Immigrant) is attached.
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Replies to This Discussion

It's cool, and I enjoyed reading it. However, it's not my style.
what specifically, if anything, did you get from the chapter, J.R.? what was "cool" about it?
It's kind of a like a good scotch that is smooth and suttle, but still gives you that buzz. You do an excellent job of explaining the kids fustration, but there is always that glimmer of hope in his eyes, and I like that. It's also very descriptive and easy to follow, and i think anybody of any color could compare it to their own childhood, or atleast put themselves in that situation. Everyone's life is a cluster of random choices made by us and our parents (or grandparents) that effects us each and every day and you make the reader think about that. The only thing I didn't like is the open because It didn't bite me off the top,but as I kept reading it crept up on me like the scotch. Sorry for not being detailed I shouldn't waited until the morning to write it.
i was wondering about the pull-factor in the opening too. maybe i should start with "I HATE YOU ALL" and work backwards.
The book is fine with me, what it's about that is. I read the intro on the Lulu page and then went on to chapter 1, by the time I was on page 2 I started to get annoyed. I wanted some action and was tired of the frustration.

The story has a little humor to it, I don't know if that's your intention but when you described how there was no family-ing going on in the family room, I thought that was funny and could hear my son saying it. When you got to the part about the fear that you had in the basement I perked up. I started wondering what was feeding the fear.

I think the story could be better if you cut down on some of the describing. I have a short attention span so there were times while reading this where I wanted to run from this story and had to scroll heavily when it came to bits about football. If there was a little less describing of the emotion I could have dealt with the pigskin talk.

I think if nothing else you shouild cut things that don't move the story along. Early on, even with reading the intro, we gather that you were changing and noticing your environment and dealing with new feelings but I want to know what was happening around you, action. Day to day living. I want to be there with you. I want to be transported to that neighborhood, in that house in Jersey.

I hope that whatever was feeding the fear that you had while in the basement is revealed soon or your readers may find themselves heavily bored and irritated.

Otherwise I think that you have a good story here. I just don't need all of those details. But! I am not every reader.
thank you for the thoughts deidra. point taken. i'm considering that comment. remember at the beginning of the story, i am only 9 years old and new to a country where i'm not allowed to go very far up and down the street and i am extremely self conscious about who i am and what i have to offer the new world around me. my early actions in america took place in my head because i never went anywhere. the action you want comes in my story when i begin to feel more comfortable with the person sorting through all those emotions you reference. why go some place and do some thing if you're unsure of the person going, doing, being?

there is action in the book, much action, but the story's main focus is on the experience of becoming a human being and a black man in america. that was a very internal process for me. that process needs to be talked about and seen from the inside out. sometimes that process is boring and repetitive and drawn out and action-less. there's not a lot of action sitting in your room thinking about your life and why God damned you to it in america. but that reality of the room, your thoughts and how you are shaped is worthy of discussion. why? because you've been there, i've been there, most readers have been there. i'm just putting it to words.

deidra, thank you again. buy the 17 to Life. read it from beginning to end. you will see action.
I had the same thought that Deidrak had. In your chapter you don't have to describe everything unless it's very important to that person in your book. You can spread the detail through out the book especially if you are staying in American. I could not see what the different was between being in St.Vincent or living in America that you hated it so much, or why you hated your father for exposing you to a different enviroment. I want to feel what you feel so I can understand why you feel that way.
thank you melissa. remember you are reading an opening chapter of a 9 years old's perspective. if you were a 9 year old immigrant to America, wouldn't everything be new, and, by extension, wouldn't everything be important until you figured out what is really important? why wouldn't i want to describe everything so that it makes sense to me in some way? immigration is sensory overload. i'm, glad you and deidra picked up on that immigrant dilemma. would you expect a 9 year old to understand importance right away? some things i did see as important, most i did not. can you see the confusion that may cause? can you see how that distinction between what is and isn't important pushes young people into making awful choices?

in terms of the difference between st. vincent and america, there are over 200 other pages in the book to speak on that. for me, and i don't think i'm alone, i forgot st. vincent. there was too much important and not-important ideas/notion/people to make sense of in America, i buried st. vincent until i was about 17 years old. i think a lot of immigrants do that just to survive. if you went to a new place and the things from your old life didn't matter much in the new place, you would start to adapt, right? or would you die a little bit inside for the rest of your life?
Mr. Ash,

I really enjoyed your first chapter. It was somewhat familiar. Although I'm not an immigrant, I too experienced the "shock" of how other kids enjoyed a better life than my own. My sport was basketball and I too became a regular at teammates homes. Like you I was totally surprised at how much better they had it than me. They homes were better, their parents talked to one another and etc. One of my friends even had a weekly allowance of forty buck, twenty from each parent. Both of my parents worked but never did I have such fortune.
I thought this chapter was well written, visual, and clear. This is an autobiography, not a creative work so there isn't too much to critique. With the exceptions of a few run on sentences, this work was very easy to read. Also it was error free, with the exception of the run ons I mentioned.
Keep going and good luck Bro!
And oh yeah, if you thought Scotch Plains was bad, be glad you did land in my part of Jersey. "It's a real shit hole"(In my Coming to America" landlord voice!)
where was home for you?


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