Ghetto Celebrity

Alexander, Donnell. Ghetto Celebrity: Searching for my Father in Me. New York; Crown Publishers, 2003.

Looking at the blurbs on the back of Ghetto Celebrity, you know Alexander’s biography made the rounds at the office of McSweeney’s around the turn of the century.   With praise from Dave Eggers, Sarah Vowell, and Neal Pollack and a major publisher, Ghetto Celebrity is not your typical growing-up-in-Sandusky story.

For the most part, Ghetto Celebrity hits the mark as a biography and as a literary work of higher ambition.  Though there are several post-modern elements in Alexander’s storytelling — at one point, the story is told in crude comic book sketches — Ghetto Celebrity is for the most part a linear story, starting with his parents courtship and following his life and career.   The author is very frank about his life, mixing free-flowing street language with more conservative styles, in telling everything.  Alexander has broken his story into three acts.  And, I will give the author credit that each act has a distinct tone and feel.
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Getting Around Brown

Jacobs, Gregory S.  Getting Around Brown: Desegregation, Development, and the Columbus Public Schools.  Columbus, Ohio; Ohio State University Press, 1998.

As another school year approaches, I thought I would look at a education-related title.

Desegregation (and its aftermath) of Ohio’s large municipalities has not been one of the state’s prouder moments.  From the late sixties through the rest of the 20th Century, terms like “Busing” and “Neighborhood Schools” have developed racial undertones.  This is a very controversial issue with many nuanced arguments, which I do not want to touch at this time.  That said, integrating municipal schools is one of the most important stories in the history of Ohio cities over the last half century.  For better or worse, it led to the creation of Ohio as suburban state.  This can be seen in lopsided number of non-city residents in all of Ohio’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

With the case of Penick v. Columbus Board of Education, Columbus Public Schools were declared unconstitutional regarding separate and unequal schools.  The court took control of producing a remedy, which involved massive relocation of the student population.   Jacobs’ Getting Around Brown tells the integration story of the Columbus Public Schools.  What differentiates Getting Around Brown from other “busing” stories (there have been several written from different sides about Boston’s experience) is Jacobs’ focus on how the business community, city leaders, and the development of the city, from its beginning, made the Columbus story unique.

Getting Around Brown was published in the Urban Life and Urban Landscape Series through Ohio State University Press, a series that focuses on urban history and planning issue.  It is not popular non-fiction and Jacobs does not spend much time discussing the quality of education.
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