4 out of 4 stars
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Burn zones is an autobiography by Jorge P. Newberry. The author is a real estate investor, endurance athlete and author. He was born in 1965 in Southern California, to an Argentinian father and British mother. As he was half-caste, he was slightly lighter than Hispanics and slightly darker than American Whites. Thus he found it hard to fit in, and consequently became a loner and a socially awkward kid. This book tells of the life and times of Jorge P Newberry warping up major achievements and failures, family, business, athletics and love.
At the age of 7, Jorge (or Jorgie as his dad fondly called him) got his first job as a newspaper boy. He supplied newspaper around his hood. At the age of 11 he started his first business as an icecream vendor. He left his icecream business and became a newspaper boy. A workaholic, for him work was play and play was work. At 16, he left school after his parents granted him permission to do so. He started his own record label, Youth Manifesto, that hosted shows for different performing artists like, The Clash, Killing Joke, 45 Grave, Monitor etc. He learnt crucial business skills very young; research, ask, negotiate, reason, interpret, calculate, visualize and create; and this made him successful in all his endeavours. Thirsty for a greater challenge, he embarked on bike racing. He researched about it and even began competing in major races up to the Olympics. He left professional bike racing after not clinching the position he wanted, and became a loan officer. Eventually, he was introduced to real estate by Cathy Hertz.
Real estate was the hallmark of his success as well as his failure. For more than a decade he successfully turned around troubled properties to self-sufficient assets, to amass a portfolio of 4,000 apartments in the U.S. He soared high in his career as a real estate developer, but it only took one ice storm for his empire to come crumbling down. Woodland Meadow had been his latest 'catch'. A complex of 255 apartments in Columbus,Ohio, it was a haven for crime, drug peddlers, prostitutes and ex-convicts. He transformed it into a self-sufficient asset. Little did he know that he had stepped on a live wire when he won the bid for that property, and his downfall was lurking nearby. What does one do when it is them against the authorities? He comes to realize there is no winning when the authorities are interested in your property. Plus not everyone is who they seem to be and you only got yourself.
I give the book a perfect score of 4 out of 4 stars. The story is very captivating and narrated in a way that is very engaging. I loved how the character was fleshed out and how the narrator was not shy to list his many attributes. The story had a number of layers and many twists that propelled the plot. The pace of the story was remarkable. Even though the story stretched out to a period of over 40 years, the story was not rushed but every milestone explicitly explained.
A number of themes arise from the story, but there were a few that caught my attention. First was the incredible work ethic that the author had. He writes, "I was reliable, on time, worked diligently and pitched in whenever I could... I demonstrated a work ethic that promptly offset any concerns about my age". The author also sheds light on Anti-Black racism. He touches on the story of Michael Brown and also mentions other young African -American men; Rodne King, Oscar Grant, Erick Gamer, Trayvon Maryin who died due to police brutality. I liked the detail he added when he tells us how in yester years, when his mother was still into performing arts, Blacks were not allowed to use the same theatre entrance as Whites, how awful. He also put an excerpt from an 1869 ruling of The Supreme Court of Georgia, which stated, "...moral or social equality between the different races...does not in fact exist and never can. The God of nature made it otherwise, and no human law can produce it, and no human tribunal can enforce it..." (how ridiculous!). The role of family and support system is clearly illustrated in this personal memoir. He came from a tight knit family of father, mother, two sisters and two brothers who were really instrumental in his business ventures.
The novel is a story of hope and resilience. I loved the character of Jorge that I became passive to his flaws. I loved that he owned up his mistakes, although 50% of his misfortunes were due to external factors. He was never one to back down, never ran out of ideas, a big risk-taker, an optimist and a family man full of compassion. His character is very relatable. At the lowest point of his life, he was maligned, financially gutted and publicly shamed especially by a journalist known as Barbara Carmen who was the embodiment of bad press. But he always had a way around a problem. And who does not file for bankruptcy when they are in financial ruin? Only Jorge P. Newberry. His lifestyle was impressive as he was not a spendthrift, he did not take alcohol nor did drugs. He believed in physical, emotional and mental purity.
There are zero aspects of the book that I did not like. The chapters had relevant headings and within the chapters were relevant subheadings. This made the story very easy to read. The author also treated us to a bit of poetry and lyrics of some beautiful songs. The book also had snippets of interviews on him by people who knew him; it also had extracts of newspaper articles that publicly mudded his name. To add on to that, there is a lot of namedropping of famous punk musicians and bands of back in the days. The book is also full of tips for successful businesses. The book was impeccably edited, proofread and typeset. I recommend the book to those in business, especially real estate and insurance. Those who are intrigued with characters that are strong willed and have resilience, this is the book for you.
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