INNER CITY MIRACLE: A Memoir

Greg Mathis, Author . Ballantine/One World $23.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-345-44642-8

Underprivileged black boys desperate to rise above their circumstances can benefit greatly from such institutions as school, the army, government social programs and the judicial system as well as a knowledge of options, according to Mathis, himself a kid criminal and gangland thug growing up in Detroit's devastated projects. His turnaround came in 1977, when he heard Jesse Jackson speak. Mathis was 17 years old, and Jackson's advice struck a chord. "Your heart is in the right place, but to win young people's minds and souls, you've got to have ammunition," Jackson told him privately, after his speech. "A year from now, I want to hear what you've done to improve yourself.... We got a deal?" With the help of his single mother's Seventh Day Adventist discipline, his wife-to-be's book-hitting habits and many mentors, Mathis eventually studied his way into law school, passed the bar, toiled in Michigan politics, was elected a judge and landed a syndicated TV show, Judge Mathis. His membership in multiple social classes has helped him forge his practical insight into human nature into an organized story about a hero's trajectory. Mathis and coauthor Walker poetically render the rhythms of street language, at least to those who don't speak it, and fairly present Mathis's sometimes testosterone-driven male attitude, making this an honest feel-good story. Mathis's parable from the projects explores a world that will be crucially familiar to many and offers a way to reach poor teens who rightly feel misunderstood and underrepresented in the mainstream. Photos not seen by PW. (On sale Oct. 1)

Forecast:Advertising in African-American newspapers in major markets, an author tour and probable media plugs by Mathis will target educators and parents, but whether they'll be able to persuade their teens to read it is questionable. Mathis is working on an HBO movie based on his life, which might be a more direct way for him to reach young people.

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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