Ace of Spades
By David Matthews
(Henry Holt and Co., Hardcover, 9780805081497, 320pp.)
Publication Date: February 6, 2007
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A take-no-prisoners tale of growing up without knowing who you are
When David Matthews's mother abandoned him as an infant, she left him with white skin and the rumor that he might be half Jewish. For the next twenty years, he would be torn between his actual life as a black boy in the ghetto of 1980s Baltimore and a largely imagined world of white privilege. While his father, a black activist who counted Malcolm X among his friends, worked long hours as managing editor at the Baltimore Afro-American, David spent his early years escaping wicked-stepmother types and nursing an eleven-hour-a-day TV habit alongside his grandmother in her old-folks-home apartment. In Reagan-era America, there was no box marked "Other," no multiculturalism or self-serving political correctness, only a young boy's need to make it in a clearly segregated world where white meant "have" and black meant "have not." Without particular allegiance to either, David careened in and out of community college, dead-end jobs, his father's life, and girls' pants. A bracing yet hilarious reinvention of the American story of passing, Ace of Spades marks the debut of an irresistible and fiercely original new voice.
David Matthews is a writer living in New York. He has appeared on The Tavis Smiley Show and the CBS Sunday Morning Show, and in People magazine.
"Ace of Spades by David Matthews is a memoir with lightning strikes of awareness and brilliant analyses of race in this country both as it was and is. The book is not possible to put down, a raging fire runs through it yet it is filled with pained humorous moments as this child of 'mixed' parentage makes his quivering yet always valiant way through his early years as child and young man."—Paula Fox, author of Borrowed Finery and The Coldest Winter "As honest as autobiography ever gets. The memoir has a long, heralded history in Baltimore, the coming-of-age tale in particular. Henry Mencken and Russell Baker pulled intimate classics from the same rowhouses and streets as David Matthews, but did so with a distinct advantage, knowing as they for the most part did, who they were and whereabouts they were going. Born a prisoner to our national pathology of race, Matthews has won his freedom and written a classic all his own, a story of a life lived in a later, different, but altogether American city."—David Simon, author of Homicide and The Corner
“Matthews writes with candor, anger and humor about what it means to be all mixed up. Like the best of this genre, Matthews’ memoir balances introspection with cultural commentary, using vivid scenes from hi life to illustrate the themes of the times.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
“What Ace of Spade” demonstrates so vividly is the conditional nature of racial identity….[Matthews’s] skill as a writer…is considerable.”—The New York Times Book Review
"It's a testament to [Matthews'] skillful writing that, despite a tortured life chronicled over 300 pages, we still want to know more."—Associated Press "A memoir with meaning, Ace of Spades is a story of self-depracation and, ultimately, self-empowerment."—USA Today