4 out of 4 stars
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The book Burn Zones by Jorge P. Newbery is a nonfiction first-person narrative about successful, and some unsuccessful, aspects of Jorge’s life. The story starts off telling about his early childhood, and then leans into his life in the later years. In the beginning of the book, Jorge explains his success as a child: at age 7, in 1973, he was a paperboy; at age 11, he was an ice cream seller; at age 13, he was a busboy; at age 14, he was an interviewer for bands; at age 16, he was the creator of Youth Manifesto . Although Jorge is a shy individual and identifies himself as a loner, he does not let those qualities get in his way. Some examples include: he is not afraid to ask for what he wants, he likes challenges, he is a very hard worker, and he really cares about other people. Even though many adults doubt his abilities because he is so young, Jorge shows them all that he is willing to work. By the age of 14, Jorge had over a thousand dollars in the bank. Jorge was extremely smart, and he found school non-challenging, so he quit school in the 11th grade, at age 16, to explore the world.
Jorge thoroughly describes the tragic incidents that happened in his life as a late teenager, when he got involved in recording, including: muggings and vandalism at Happy Times during band performances, sunset riots with police, violent/deadly/unfair acts of racism, and early deaths of singers. Although he grew up in the ‘punk’ era, Jorge never participated in acts that involved drugs and alcohol, instead, he wanted a better life and better world. Jorge loved challenges, and each time a challenge would end, he would search for a new goal. Some of his goals included: interviewing, bike racing, and business (i.e., real estate broker, loan officer, manager, Sunset Mortgage owner).
Jorge was very successful with his recordings, bike races, business deals, and hotel renovations. However, all of his hard work on one challenging project gets destroyed, and a shockingly horrific event is to blame: an ice storm. He survived the charges against him (‘burn zones’) from the renovations of the Ford Hotel and Pickwick Plaza, but will he ever be able to physically and mentally overcome the negative outcomes that result after the renovations on Woodland Meadows (i.e., ice storm, debt, Woodland Meadows closing, failure)? Jorge spent 17 years on the Woodland Meadows project, but all of his hard work is demolished. Although Jorge regrets investing all of his money and hard work on Woodland Meadows, he gets a girlfriend, opens a company called American Homeowner Preservation that is successful because of the Woodland Meadows catastrophe, starts a new life in Cincinnati, and eventually gets married at age 46. Jorge’s success turns into failure, but he never stopped trying to do what he thought was right. Although he “wasted” his life on projects that were too much for him to handle, he had a happy ending: a wife, a successful company, and happiness.
The book Burn Zones by Jorge P. Newbery mainly focuses on Jorge’s successfulness and unsuccessfulness throughout his life, starting from his childhood. Since the book was a nonfiction narrative, the author used his first-person point of view as a way to teach and inspire his readers. He explained how life has up’s and down’s, how to get up when thrown down, how to keep on moving forward, how to reach your goals no matter how hard or long it takes to achieve them all, and to never give up. Since there are so many life lessons established in this book, it was most likely written to really inspire others by using real-life scenarios as examples for readers to learn by. It really took the author a lot of courage and strength to write about his depression, failures, mistakes, stress, regrets, etc., because not a lot of people are comfortable speaking up about their feelings and struggles. This book was truly an inspiration, and the reality of the story-line makes it easier to really understand and learn about the author’s life. Despite his many failures, Jorge tried his very best to stay positive, even in the most devastating parts of his life where most people would just give up, he never did. If that is not motivational, then what is!
Jorge worked alongside a lot of individuals, mostly the ‘outcasts’ who never fit in, just like himself, and even worked with several bands, some include, Social Distortion, Caustic Cause, and Bad Example. The individuals that many people thought were the worst people to associate with, Jorge saw them for who they really were and never discriminated against them. He started Youth Manifesto as a way to show the public what bands really thought of religion, government, politics, etc. There are a lot of examples that really showed what kind of person Jorge is, but some include: he lets bands stay at his home in order for them to save money on hotels, he never let anyone’s harsh words influence him, he treats everyone the way he wanted to be treated regardless of race, he gives everyone a chance, he values family, he fixes run-down living spaces for people to have better lives, he is very confident, he always keeps looking forward, and he motivates others. Jorge cared more about other people rather than himself. Although caring for others is a great trait to have, he should have taken better care of himself. His health was at stake from all the stress he experienced from the Woodland Meadows tragedy: he gritted his teeth which caused damage, he gained weight by eating more, he worked out less, his confidence was ruined, and he developed depression and PTSD. Why did he take on so many challenges that he knew would be difficult to overcome?
When Jorge saw an opportunity to take a challenge, he took it, not thinking of what consequences could happen. Even though he knew some challenges would be difficult, he truly wanted to help individuals who were living in poor minority areas, and he never wanted to give up on them. It is ironic how a selfless, courageous, caring, and hard-working man is crumbled to pieces from the debt that was the effect from trying to help others. After all of the chaos that unraveled before him was over, Jorge used his experience from the Woodland Meadows project to help individuals who could not afford their own mortgages. Success was everything to Jorge, and most of the book is based on his accomplishments. There is not much discussed about his personal life, but there are some events that the author explains in depth that show the reader what kind of person he really is. Learning more about who the author is was actually more interesting than reading about his career paths.
Despite the tragic horror story that the author had to live through, he knew how to appropriately incorporate humor into the story. An example of humor is in chapter 1 of the scene where Jorge is driving the band The Vandals to their shows, and a piece of the stage falls off the back of the vehicle, onto the street. Jorge was worried someone was going to hit it and wreck, and he would be reliable. One of the members of the band said: “Don’t worry,” said the Vandal. “If someone hits it, the damage will be more like Vandalism.”
Jorge done everything that he could in order to learn more about the challenges that he was going to face and developed many skills: he learned how to listen, negotiate, reason, research, etc., in order to successfully interview bands; he read books about bike racing in order to be a professional cyclist; and he read books about real estate in order to be the number one housing and urban development broker in the country. His parents raised Jorge to be a good person, and they even supported him in everything that he wanted to accomplish. His parents were really significant role models that shaped Jorge into the person that he is: they opened their home up to band members (the “punk hotel”), they encouraged him to chase his dreams, they were loose and lenient (“hippies”), and they treated others like they wanted to be treated. His father was Hispanic, and his mom was White, so he was raised inside of an interracial family which helped him treat others as he wants to be treated, regardless of race.
Jorge regretted buying Woodland Meadows, an 1,100-unit apartment complex in Columbus, Ohio, and he even said that it gave him the most heartache, even though he tries his best to look forward. I have a lot to say about that! He should not regret reviving the complex because he saved many lives, he helped people get their lives back on track by giving them jobs (especially African Americans), he made a new family (the TEACH program), he made the place livable before the storm, he decreased vandalism, prostitution, thieves, etc., and he got rid of nuisance with the police. Natural disasters cannot be controlled. He done everything that he could to save the complex and those living there. He accomplished a great thing by helping others and giving colored people a chance to right their wrongs and make their life right again. He even said that he learned more from his losses than his successes. If he had not worked on the Woodland Meadows project, he would not have met his wife. What would his life be like if he had not invested hard work and many years on the complex? Would have the people he helped survived living there? Would he be married? Would he have given people chances to correct their mistakes? Yes, he was in a hell-deep hole of debt and suffered alongside with the complex after the storm, but there were so many positive effects that happened as well.
There are so many elements in this book that I liked! I really enjoyed the author’s use of similes. An example includes: “We once had an independent record company producer from San Francisco named Michael stay at our home for two weeks straight. He was probably in his late 20s, tall and lanky with a Mohawk. We met when I sold my records to a store he managed. He was learning the L.A. punk scene and we went to several shows together. He was a nice guy, but he smoked incessantly. He partook outdoors, but wherever he walked there was a haze that followed him—like Pigpen in Charlie Brown.” The photos were a great touch! The photos in the book helped the reader really see the reality of the author’s life and picture what his life must have been like. My favorite photo was the one of Jorge’s “Renta de nostros” T-shirts with the caption: “Rent from Us” T-shirts—part of our early marketing efforts to attract some of Columbus’ booming Hispanic population. My father later advised me that my Spanish translation was incorrect . That was very humorous, but I wondered: “Why didn’t his father teach him how to speak Spanish?”
I really liked how the author incorporated lyrics from real bands into his book. Some of the songs are very motivational, and I feel like that was a huge part of his life that really got him through the tough times. I really like how he speaks of band members and the lives they had to live: violence, diseases, drugs/alcohol, hard times, etc. A lot of band members were shot by police, including John Macias of Circle One. He was spreading words about God and was seen as the “bad” person because of his skin color. He had a mental illness that no one noticed until he was dead. I loved the symbolism, an example includes: “The jersey would be a wearable emblem of my triumph.” Learning about real-life facts were very interesting: the movie “United 93” used a white man for the character of LeRoy Wilson Homer Jr. who was an African American, police were the bad guys because they harassed colored individuals, hard times really destroyed lives (even innocent lives), and racism was a very big issue back then as it is now.
I have so many elements that I enjoyed reading in the book, but I cannot list every single detail because my review will be too long, but I will list just a few more things. I already had to delete so much because I did not want the review to be extremely long. The descriptions of places were very extravagant, and they really showed the realistic part of life that not many people mention when describing such places. An example includes: “Buenos Aires is a glorious city, but poorly maintained and crumbling. As we walked the sidewalks, we tried to avoid the ruts and holes in the pavement, along with the dog excrement that appeared to be everywhere. Argentine pet owners had apparently not yet discovered pooper-scoopers.”
To conclude the elements that I liked, I will share the scene that I just absolutely loved: “Let him pick them up,” said Ricky, as he eyed the crowd. I bolted to my truck and pulled another burlap bag from the back. Once I returned, I dropped to my knees to pick up the coins from this sidewalk in a very hardscrabble section of South Central. I was guarded not by the police, but by a frequent target of the police. “Thanks,” I said to Ricky, shaking his hand when I was done as the crowd dissipated. “I really appreciate that.” “No problem, Jorge,” he said, appearing to enjoy doing something good. The warmth of our friendly exchanges heightened after this incident. This was proof that people typically treat you the way you treat them—it’s human nature, good human nature. The police generally did not treat Ricky and other toughs very well. Hence, these guys reciprocated by blasting NWA’s song “f**k tha Police.”
The element that I liked the most was that despite how others treated certain races, Jorge treated everyone with respect.
There are only a few things that I did not like about the book. The element that I disliked the most was that there was not much personal information about the author, and I wished there had been more about him specifically instead of his success. However, I know he was trying to provide a life lesson for readers to learn by. One term that I disliked in the book was: “baby daddies” referring to absentee fathers. I just do not like that term being used. I wished the author would have said something better, such as “deadbeat dads” or “absentee fathers” because “baby daddies” is just inappropriate, in my opinion. Besides those two dislikes, there is not much else that I disliked about the book. The book was very inspirational and I loved reading it.
I rate the book Burn Zones by Jorge Newbery a 4 out of 4 stars because the author explained so many situations that people need to know about. There was so much history discussed such as the acts of racism, police harassment, young deaths, riots, and just so many acts of violence and hatred that still continue to haunt the world. There were not any errors, and his words flowed so charismatically like a jazz symphony, so the book did not deserve a 1, 2, or 3. He really knew how to lure his readers in with the right words and the thorough descriptions. I absolutely enjoyed this piece of literature!
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves learning about history, reality, success, hard times, family, friends, life lessons, motivation, and so on, because the book has a little bit of everything that people really need to learn about. The book was very inspirational and educational. It was like an inspirational book and history book mixed into one, very aspirational! For those who do not wish to learn about real-life situations, rough times, motivation, etc., then do not read the book. However, I really recommend the book to anyone because it was such an amazing book to read.
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