A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success
Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670020362, 272pp.
Publication Date: April 2, 2009
A candid, colorful memoir about a nerd from the Brooklyn projects who made it big
Nelson George grew up in the Tilden housing project in the crime- and despair-ridden Brownsville section of Brooklyn during the 1960s and 70s. In this tough neighborhood, Nelson was the nerdy kid who, in between stickball and street games, devoured Captain America comics, Ernest Hemingway novels, and album liner notes.
City Kid introduces us to Nelson's family: his absent wanna-be-hustler father; his tough-minded sister, who is seduced by the streets; and his mother, who dreams of becoming a teacher and returning to the South. Amid the struggles of his family, Nelson finds himself drawn into the world of black pop culture, first as a writer and then as a filmmaker, eventually collaborating with some of the major figures of the era-Spike Lee, Russell Simmons, Chris Rock, and many others.
Nelson's story is ultimately one of triumph, but it is not saccharine, sentimental, or full of false inspiration. Seeking transcendence through art and loving New York City, Nelson creates an insightful portrait of the emergence of black artists in the 1980s and 90s and illuminates how the pain of life can be turned into thoughtful books and cinema.