Long Road Outta Compton: Dr. Dre's Mom on Family, Fame and Terrible Tragedy
Verna Griffin. Da Capo Press, $24.95 (210pp) ISBN 978-1-56025-987-9
This memoir from Griffin, whose son became one of the driving forces behind ""gangsta"" rap, details the life of a single teenage mother in what might as well be the heart of the American poverty crisis, South Central L.A. Griffin gave birth to her first child, Andre, in February 1965, just four months before the Watts riots ""changed the world's perception of race relations in America,"" and her story takes readers on a ground-level tour through a troubling inversion of the modern American dream. Organized more or less chronologically, Griffin has a skill for introducing readers effortlessly into the unfamiliar era of her youth: ""Donald had a record player in his car, like most cool guys who had cars."" Throughout the story, Griffin's determination, spirituality and creative abilities triumph over the setbacks that poverty constantly throws up. Though there's much grief over constantly changing jobs and apartments, burglaries, drugs, drinking, violence and death-Griffin loses three of her five children-there's also the joy of record collections, occasional vacations and family, and of course the eventual success of Andre's music career. Unconcerned with prescriptive lessons or piercing insight, Griffin's well-crafted memoir is a graceful account of difficult times for a family and a nation.
Reviewed on: 03/31/2008