4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands is an autobiographical account by Mr Jorge P. Newbery. This is not a rags-to-riches story, but rather one in which the author experiences numerous challenges or titular burn zones throughout his life.
This work reads more like a novel than a memoir. The events and dialogue are reminiscent of fiction rather than someone recounting his life. There are attempts at humour that seem almost sitcom-like, for example, every time Jorge corrected his father’s referral of him as Jorgie. Newspaper excerpts, song lyrics, sometimes even movie dialogue, and a full letter are included throughout the work. In the case of the letter, maybe it would be better served in an Appendix to avoid interrupting the narrative. The use of photographs and memorabilia from Mr Newbery’s jobs, however, was a nice touch. It helps readers connect with him on a more intimate level.
The writing throughout the memoir changes depending on the situation. In some cases, the writing is very conversational, as with most first-person narratives. A few of the emotional scenes contain run-on sentences which give the impression that Mr Newbery is reliving the incidents. The writing sometimes switches to reflective and pensive as well, where he compares a situation to a quote or lesson learned by inspirational figures like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Other times, the writing is almost poetic.
While the objective of this memoir is to give an account of the author’s experiences, it also gives an interesting historical view of the period. There are descriptions of the relationship minorities have with the police, as well as issues involving general stereotyping and racism. The author compares the situation in his past with present-day America, where the reality of police shootings against unarmed African American men are juxtaposed with the actual reports. Mr Newbery also presents an interesting self-reflective view of racism. He notes that his skin colour saved him on more than once occasion from the racist treatments received by others.
This was an inspirational and enlightening autobiography, which would appeal to anyone experiencing challenges in life. It is not told linearly. The author does not go through trials and then gain fame and riches at the end. There are ups and downs and the challenges faced are presented in a raw way. I would give it four out of four stars. It was well edited, save for only a couple of minor errors. This work is especially inspirational to people of colour, given that Mr Newbery rose above his challenges as a Hispanic American.
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