Tag: Civil War

NEW! A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball

Curtis R. Austin, Black Books and Reviews.com

A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball
by Dwyane Wade
William Morrow, Hardcover, 352 pp., $26.99

Basketball superstar Dwyane Wade’s autobiography “A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger than Basketball” is less a locker room peek at the inner world of professional basketball, as it is a touching glimpse at a poverty-stricken kid’s unshakeable faith in his drug addicted mother and how the kid-turned-dad wages an against-all-odds legal battle for the two sons he so adores. In his first literary outing, Wade delivers an emotionally thunderous slam dunk.

Wade, who was awarded 2006 Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated  and named the NBA Finals MVP after leading his Miami Heat to the first of their two NBA Championships that same year, uses basketball as a backdrop as he tells his story of growing up on the Southside of Chicago, arguably one of the toughest cities in America.

Wade, aka “D-Wade” or “Flash,” drafts veteran writer Mim Eichler Rivas help him tell his tale. Eichler was the ghost writer  on the New York Times’ bestsellers “The Pursuit  of Happyness ” with Chris Gardner that became a movie of the same name starring Will Smith; and “Finding Fish,”  with Antwone  Fisher, which was the basis of the Denzel Washington film “Antwone Fisher.”

Through Wade’s voice, Rivas is at the top of her game as the story begins to unfold as Wade, now an established NBA superstar, is at home resting in preparation for a playoff run after beating the Los Angeles Lakers the night before. At home, he receives a text message from his lawyer informing  him  that the judge has made a decision  in “the very public, drawn-out custody battle for my sons, nine-year-old Zaire and almost four-year-old Zion. ..  It’s over.”

The lawyer’s news that night in March 2011 triggers memories for Wade of his own hard scrabble youth: “I’m taken back to the memory of something that happened to another boy, age eight and a half, who – twenty years earlier – felt he also had been left on the doorstep of uncertainty. …. The year was 1990 … The place was the Southside of Chicago, on the corner of Fifty-Ninth and Prairie,  not the projects but a place hard-hit by poverty and drugs, where the sound of gunfire was more or less constant and knowing someone who died young was a reality. The boy I’m remembering is me.”

Fifty-Ninth and Prairie, if memory serves me correct, is in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, less than 20 blocks from the Windy City’s Bronzeville neighborhood, Chicago’s answer to New York City’s fabled Harlem. Like Harlem, Bronzeville is steeped in historical and cultural landmarks, a breathing monument to the generations of Blacks who migrated there from the South.  And just like Harlem, there is an undercurrent there: gangs, violence and drugs.
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The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln

Gary Rawlins, Black Books and Reviews.com

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln
by Stephen L. Carter
Knopf, Hardcover, 528 pp., $26.95

What if Abraham Lincoln had never been assassinated? It’s a pointless supposition. History is history — it is a progression of events chiseled into the granite of time. Historians can only piece together events and say as little about them as is needed to avoid inaccuracies. The writer can adorn and embellish.

Stephen Carter is both scholar and fiction writer, thus able to expertly trod the factual ground before crossing the frontier into fiction. Carter, a Yale University law professor, is the author of 11 books of fiction and nonfiction. In his latest novel, The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, Carter spins a tale for which he is well-suited as a legal scholar.

Lincoln is probably the most admired of all American presidents. But his cult status did not emerge until after his assassination. Indeed, Lincoln might never have been re-elected had Union General William Tecumseh Sherman failed to take Atlanta in the summer of 1864. In winning the war, Lincoln kept the country whole, securing a place in the presidential pantheon. Had it not been for him, perhaps the United States would be two, possibly three, nations.

By keeping the 16th president alive after John Wilkes Booth, Carter imagines a country in which Lincoln is no longer looked upon as a martyr for the cause of abolition and union. Carter extrapolates from the historical record, extending truths about the Lincoln presidency into the realm of alternate history.

What is true about Lincoln is that his enemies were not all Confederates. Hatred of Lincoln was not confined to the South. Animus ran deep in the North as well, particularly among opposition Democrats inflamed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Making slave liberation a war aim ignited an anti-war movement.

Lincoln’s way of prosecuting the war prompted accusations that he was a tyrant perverting the Constitution. Accusations set forth in Carter’s novel are nearly all matters of history. Lincoln arrested opposition spokesmen. He suspended habeas corpus and ignored court orders demanding the release of prisoners. He placed Northern cities under martial law.

Hard as Lincoln fought to knock out the Confederacy, zealous anti-slavery members of his own party accused him of pulling his punches. Waving the flag of abolition, Radical Republicans decried what they viewed as Lincoln’s timidity. To crusading abolitionists like Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner and Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (background characters in Carter’s book), Lincoln was no friend of the black man, slave or free. His early policy initiatives would almost invite this conclusion.

During the first year of the war, several generals with abolitionist sympathies advocated black enlistment. A few of them actually exceeded their authority and organized army regiments composed of African-Americans. Each time, Lincoln rebuffed their efforts. At a meeting with black leaders on August 14, 1862, Lincoln tried to persuade his listeners to establish a colony of free black people in Central America.

Lincoln’s hesitancy on racial matters and his apparent disregard for the Constitution forms the basis of Carter’s fictional foray into impeachment.

As the story begins, the year is 1867. Lincoln has returned to office, fully recovered from the assassination attempt by Booth. His legal team is preparing a defense of their client against a Radical Republican attempt to remove him from office. Included on the team is the fictional Abigail Canter, a 21-year-old black woman whose ambition is to be a lawyer. Abigail, a recent graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio, has been recommended to the firm by her college mentor.

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