Thursday, January 7, 2016

Book Review: Living and Dying in Brick City by Sampson Davis

First off, I have to say that I hate people who damage an audio book from the library and then don't admit to it when they turn it in. That's super rude. The library isn't going to yell at you or likely even make you pay for it if you're apologetic and kind. But you will ruin it for the next person! As you can surmise, I did miss chunks of this audiobook due to skipping, but I pushed through as it was only 2 out of 7 discs that were damaged.

Dr. Davis and two friend previously wrote The Pact (which I have not read). These three young men grew up in inner-city Newark and made a pact to support each other and not only go to college, but go to med school (one of them ended up going to dental school instead.) This is Dr. Davis's second book, in which he does two things. It is in a lot of ways still a memoir (although it doesn't discuss much of his path to medical school as that's presumably covered in the first book and would be repetitive) but he also tackles many health concerns that are particular to or much more prevalent among African-Americans. He approaches each of these through a patient or a family member or friend who has the ailment, and then he ends the chapter with discussing why this health issue is a bigger concern for African-Americans than for other races, and he gives advice and resources for help. One down side to audiobooks is that it can be hard/impossible to skim material like this that I would normally skim in a print book but eventually we did start skipping when we got to the resources part of the chapter (although it is useful if you need it. For the chapter that deals with addiction, my husband, a social worker, took notes and rewound the resources section multiple times to be sure he'd written down all the websites and organizations.) We both preferred the more personal, more memoir-y parts of the book. I especially liked at the end when he talked about some of the hurdles he faced. You'd think that once he got to college, everything would have been smooth sailing but instead he failed his medical boards the first time, and then after dozens of interviews he was matched with no hospitals for his residency. Both of these problems were times other people would have given up, but he persevered (and with the second problem, he lucked out as a late spot opened up in his field in his hometown.)

I really did like the narrator. Because I mostly listen to nonfiction on audio, I haven't had much chance to hear narrators do different voices, and this narrator did a great job. He does have a quirk about being so careful to pronounce every word fully that if two subsequent words end/begin with the same sound (like "I'd do") he would take a pronounced pause between them. But I appreciate his attention to clarity and it didn't bother me.

As I said, I liked the more personal sections more, including his discussion of his sister, who had addiction issues and eventually developed AIDS. Also a couple of times friends from his childhood came in, shot. Those led to very visceral and emotional flashbacks to his growing up and were very effective. Dr. Davis is an impressive man and hopefully his book and his life are a great positive example to other inner-city minority kids who want to get out and then give back to their communities.

I checked this book out of the library.

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