American Skin

American Skin

4.6 27
by Don De Grazia, Don De Grazia

View All Available Formats & Editions

American Skin was first published in the United Kingdom to resounding acclaim after the author used his last seventy-five dollars to make an unsolicited submission to the publisher of the Scottish beats, whose work he admired. It is a timeless story about a young man's coming-of-age as well as a stunning portrait of the class and racial tensions that pervade


American Skin was first published in the United Kingdom to resounding acclaim after the author used his last seventy-five dollars to make an unsolicited submission to the publisher of the Scottish beats, whose work he admired. It is a timeless story about a young man's coming-of-age as well as a stunning portrait of the class and racial tensions that pervade our society.
Alex Verdi is on the lam, fleeing from the police who have arrested his parents on drug charges and want him for questioning. Traveling to Chicago, he joins a multiracial group of anti-Nazi skinheads and embarks on an odyssey that takes him from the city's embattled streets to an Army boot camp to Northwestern's plush campus, and finally lands him amid the horrors of maximum-security prison.
In this intense and gripping debut, Don De Grazia confirms his stature as a young writer of uncommon seriousness and consummate artistry.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Hubert Selby Jr. author of Last Exit to Brooklyn It's a terrific book and De Grazia is a wonderful writer....Beautifully narrated....perfectly balanced.

Carolyn Chute author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine It is the American story American literature is not complete without. In fact, without Alex Verdi's story, American literature is a lie.

Jim Carroll author of The Basketball Diaries This book deals with a particularly American subject in a manner that has not been done before. The writing is fast, tough and beautiful.

Laurence O'Toole London Independent ("Independent Choice" top recommendation) At first sight De Grazia's novel seems inspired by gang movies like The Wild One to Rumblefish. Thoughts of Huckleberry Finn soon arise; also, far deeper links to the epics of Homer.

Maggie Estep author of Soft Maniacs Don De Grazia writes like a lyrical bulldozer, relentless and gorgeous at once.

Andrew Vachss author of Choice of Evil A powerful debut....Get your bets down now.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
De Grazia's powerful debut fearlessly explores racism, adolescent rage and terrifyingly violent youth movements; its adolescent hero is a skinhead, getting into trouble in Chicago's late '80s scene. Intense, unsparing and fueled by a desperate energy, this graphically violent novel will not be to every taste, but it rings true with poignant clarity. Alex Verdi, a daydreaming 17-year-old, leaves home--an Illinois farmhouse--when his parents are busted for selling marijuana, and hitches a ride to the Windy City. There, he lives at the Y and gets a job in an electroplating plant, where he earns the nickname "Degreaser." He's also mugged and beaten by hoods, so when he joins a group of multiracial "anti-Nazi" skinheads, it's partly for protection, partly for a sense of belonging. Strongman leader Timmy Penn quickly becomes Alex's surrogate big brother and role model, but Alex also falls under the spell of a "straightedge" skinhead girl, Marie. Donning the group's image, he manages to get along bruisingly, until a violent encounter with a rival, "white power" skinhead faction, followed by a fight in a nightclub, finds Alex and Tim facing serious police charges. After family intervention, the pair are sent to the army reserves in Fort Benning instead of prison. Once the two youths are discharged, their paths split: Tim goes off to become a drug dealer and Alex tries to clean up his act by moving to Evanstown, a tony suburb--but even there, his ugly past catches up with him. Rights sold in Canada and France; film rights to Frederick Levy Productions. (Apr.) FYI: Written as De Grazia's M.A. thesis, American Skin was rejected by numerous U.S. publishers. Alerted to the success of working-class fiction in England, De Grazia sent his manuscript to Jonathan Cape in London, which published the novel in 1998. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 5.25(h) x 0.69(d)

Meet the Author

Don De Grazia, a former factory worker, bouncer and soldier, is a professor of Creative Writing at Columbia College in Chicago and the editor of F Literary Magazine, a journal devoted to new fiction. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

American Skin 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like Life there are no happy endings when it comes to this book. I recommend to anyone who's ever had to struggle through life and came out of it as neither a better person or a worse person they just came out of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've reread this book about five times and every time I enjoy it like it was the first time. American Skin takes a ton of turns and twists, some of which are shockingly smooth. I can forgive the parts that are less smooth, or even feel less honest to the characters, because the imagery and plot remain continuously exciting. Unfortunately, I can't get over the disappointingly coincidental ending. I accept most of the book's irony for the 'fun to read' factor but I just can't forgive the ending (which is all fluff and seems tacked on). Still, it is a great first novel and I hope to see more of what De Grazia is capable of as he grows as an author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i enjoyed this book. it was very enlightening to see how 'skinheads' catorgorize them selves and how the young boy could survive the city by hiimself not knowing what became of his family. very very amazing to read!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amazing book, i couldn't put it down. Pop culture at it's finest, i only wish i could write something as good as this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book several times, and live In Chicago, the events in this book are based off factual evrnts that happened here, the Dunkin Donuts is still sitting there on the corner of Belmont and Clark (though with tons more private security) and The Gorgon (Medusa's in real life) the building is still there, right next to the EL tracks which still bare some burn call it non-factual , then come to that area of Chicago and re-think that.
Guest More than 1 year ago
great book. it's nice to have someone write about topics that we want to discuss, but don't.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book captured my imagination, and led me to want a whole new life. you'll want your life to transform just like alex's, and your dreams will become his own. amazingly written, vivid and realistic. truly wonderful
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I've ever read,(works by Tolstoy, Hemingway, and Dickens included). The story is absolutely riveting - it's a rare occurence that a novel can keep me interested enough to read in one sitting, but this one did it. It also helps living in Chicago, because places are described so specifically I can see the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was incredible. It was reallly well written. It didn't seem fiction it seemed like it was something that actually happened b/c it was so greatly written. Ot was so hard to put down. I recommend everyone to read it : ) Melissa*
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is incredibly well written. i literally couldnt put it down. i often found myself rushing through pages just to get to the next one. it is nonstop excitement from one page to the next. i really started to feel for alex after the first twenty pages. i also enjoyed his portrayal of skinheads and the way that it all started. most other works focus on the neo-nazi skinheads while de grazia focuses on the real skins. this book is wonderful and i recommend it to everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first saw this book I thought that is would be about stuff that I really didn't want to hear or read about. 'Another Racist Book' popped into my mind. Then I read it and now I love it! It tells the story of a guy whos life changed when he meets new people and what happens to him because he had to leave his home. It explains what 'skinheads' were before they supposedly turned racist. Which most aren't these days. But I just recommend reading this book because I never put it down!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was great. I was born and raised around Chicago so I knew all the places they were talking about. It was well written and just kicked A$$!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a excellent book, despite what some people comment on it, I think it was a great piece of work. Sure it wasn't accuate, but it was a great book and I've already recommended to a bunch of my friends. I live in Chicago, and have experienced similar things that Don De Grazia wrote.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I've read in a long, long time. However, if you are looking to have your own political ideals affirmed by this book you will be very disappointed. This is a true work of art, and filled with hard truths many won't be able to swallow. People who aren't used to having their beliefs challenged may find American Skin downright infuriating. To these self-satisfied sorts I have two words: Ha ha.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don Degrazia's debut while containing seeds of compelling drama fails to probe the social issues well enough. It was a highly overated novel, and not quite above the level of subpar.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so great-- the story of a kid whose licked before he even gets out of the gate-- and how he's fighting to change his lot in life-- Jack London wrote this book called Martin Eden about a sailor who wants to become a writer and get educated. I thought about this tragic story while I read De Grazia's novel. They are both about the struggle to move out of your class-- yeah we have classes in America. And how some people want to keep you down-- sometimes the people on top of you and sometimes even your own people. It gave me a real sense of hope that people can pull themselves up-- even without a home or a family--just by sheer determination. This book is an epic tale like reviews called it-- a great journey.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was very well written. It wasnt very factual, but it potrayed the life of a skin head very well...It is a very good book..
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a skinhead myself and I thought this was an interesting book. It wasn't very factual, in fact I was very diappointed with the information and history given. If I was to write a book,I would research the topic to the fullest extent that I could. Beyond that, it is an entertaining book. It offers a lot in symbolism, but yet, I'm still angry about the way skinheads are portrayed. He doesn't show history. He shows them as a bunch of dirty low-lives. I'm not saying skinheads are angels(if anything they are far from it), but we dress for the occassion, we have morals, respect, honor, and a code for a life. He also points to the fact that skinhead, is only something we are as teenagers, which isn't true. Skinhead, is what we are for our lives to our death. It is a way of life. He also shows that skinheads can't be anything but low life working class jokes, which is nonsense. Yes, Skinheads are working -class (I am a freaking bus boy/dishwaher) but to say they can't make the best of their lives is nonsense. That isn't Skinhead. Skinhead is about standing tall with your head held high and not standing down no matter what the circumstance, having comraderie with your mates, being loyal, honest, working for everything you have, in whatever aspect of life you are in. That is what skinhead is (that and being able to drink down a gallon of a beer and keep on going). But at least, he didn't portray them as a bunch of Nazis.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because my brother was a skinhead-- just like Alex was. This book made me weep for all the kids I knew growing up that had nothing and nobody. Don De Grazia captured the exquisite pain of lonliness and hopelessness on the page with a rare beauty. And then the triumph of bulldozing your way into a life you can hold your head up about-- to not give up-- even in the depthes of prison and loss and killing-- well i won't give it away but this book slayed me-- i love timmy penn and alex too-- why did this book have to end?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although not an entirely accurate, American Skin will certainly appeal to people who have no idea as to what skinheads are, and Skinheads themselves. The title of the book is somewhat misleading, as American Skin goes much deeper then just youth Subculture (skinhead-ism). It's a coming-of-age story that is set in Chicago with a 'twist', so to speak. One other thing that caught my attention was the detail in which the book was written; the places, events, streets, and even some of the people are not fictitious, and did exist in Chicago in the 80s and even now. I do recommend this book, however, people should not use it for a 'manual' on skinheads or any other youth subculture. For reading on the accurate history of Skinheads, check out The Spirit of '69 by George Marshall.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is the best book i have ever read. taken from a 17 yr old punks point this book is true.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an swesome book. Even the way they talked was realistic. I've never seen a black girl with a chelsea though, I must be deprived. I read this book in one day, I couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an American Skinhead myself, and I haven't seen a book which describes us so accuratley since books published in the eighties. The history and the story behind this book tell it how it really is. This is someone who was either in it, or highly reaserched in it. The author captures true life in a youth cult which is once again, gaining memebers all over the world. I think this exposes the truth and the way it should be...