4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones, written by Jorge P. Newbery, is a touching and inspirational autobiography that describes the diverse events that occurred in Mr. Newbery’s life which shaped his personality and gave him an understanding of how the world works. The richly layered book touches upon important personal themes like family bond and influence of parents, and also larger societal issues like racial discrimination and corruption in the governing system. A ‘burn zone’ basically means a small period where extreme effort is given to achieve something. Without this intense additional effort, the objective might not be attained. Thus this small duration defines the difference between a winner and a loser. While the term is used especially in cycling, it is applicable anywhere in any situation of life, as has been demonstrated by Mr. Newbery in the book. The term ‘burn zone’ should, therefore, be an eye-opener for the reader because it teaches something important about life and its many challenges.
From childhood, Mr. Newbery was highly eager to work. Even before reaching double digits in terms of age, he had attained his first job. Reading about this part of his life, the maturity of the young mind stunned me. Sometimes even people thrice the age of this child do not have a mind so purposeful and restrained. It was extremely clear that the young lad would go on to do something of high significance. The way he approached each new aspect of his life, focusing upon the details and working on them, is a joy to read. However, the work is never self-congratulatory, because it is not about what is being achieved, but how it is attained. Even when he is talking about the biggest setback of his life, the occurrences regarding Woodland Meadows, Mr. Newbery is not defending himself. Instead, he is placing the facts as they have unfolded. Through such, he indicates how vested interests have driven the outcome. All throughout the book, Mr. Newbery is pursuing clarity and therefore stressing upon the ‘how’.
Focusing upon this opens numerous layers that help the reader understand how the society operated in the seventies and eighties, and what has changed from then on. The philosophy behind ‘Youth Manifesto’, which had a perception different from that of the mainstream society, reveals the contradiction that characterizes urban regions. As Mr. Newbery puts in the book, the idea is not about establishing that the other voice as right, but ensuring that this other voice is heard. As I read the book I realized that for the major part of the community, hearing a contradictory voice equals encountering offense. The assassination of punk band members and black people by the police exposes the extent of violence that such limited mindsets can render. However, I also felt happy knowing that the mainstream culture is more inclusive now and factors like interracial marriage are no more considered a taboo.
That the book touches such sensitive issues and offers an understanding of them increases its significance as a social document. Simultaneously, the work also focuses on deeply personal aspects, like parents and family. Mr. Newbery’s expertise as a writer can also be realized by the nuanced manner in which he defines his relationships with his mother and his father. Like many other sons, his equation with his mother has spontaneous closeness. Contrastively, his relationship with his father has gray shades defined by conflicts of personal identity. Such tensions erode as with age Mr. Newbery develops a deeper understanding of his father. Through the author’s eyes, we see and understand the world around him.
Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. From my viewpoint, this book is an extremely significant work because it gives the reader a clear idea about how the society, the administrative bodies, and the police function. Simultaneously, the emotional depth that Mr. Newbery showcases while presenting the more personal aspects proves his expertise as an author. At many points of the book he has revealed that whenever he started something new, he would read as much as he could about it. It might be that he has read a lot of autobiographical books as he clearly understands how an author should approach an autobiographical work. I recommend this book to mature adults of all ages because it works at manifold levels.
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