In this profound memoir, reformed skinhead Meeink, with assistance from academic and activist Roy (Love to Hate: America's Obsession with Hatred and Violence), recounts his former life as a Neo-Nazi. Told with passion and clarity, Meeink's story begins with neglectful parents and an abusive, junkie stepfather, who sowed the anger and hatred that would make him a prime candidate for the Neo-Nazi movement that exploded in Philadelphia through the late 1980s and '90s. Before long, Meeink's mutual embrace with the National Alliance led him to his own gang of recruits and a (largely random) "holy war" that would end up haunting him: "How many of my victims had wished for death while I brutalized them?" In federal prison at age 17, surrounded by cons of all races and creeds, Meeink first began to question what he'd been taught about the "elite" Aryan race; the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing would complete his transformation, leading him to seek out the feds for confession. A brutal tour of modern American racism at its worst, a case study of traumatized youth and drug addiction, and a stark reminder of the human capacity for redemption, Meeink and Roy's account is a shocking but ultimately reaffirming read.
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Meeink, a south Philadelphia child of an alcoholic father and drug-dealing mother, spent over a dozen years as a minor celebrity among the neo-Nazi-skinhead fraternity. At various times he was actively addicted to alcohol, prescription narcotics, and heroin, but at its core Meeink's graphic narrative documents the relative ease through which he reached sobriety from his addiction to hatred and blinding, ultraviolent rage, most decisively by means of playing football with blacks and Latinos in prison. He writes of using his love of sports to found and run an ice hockey program (sponsored by the Philadelphia Flyers and Anti-Defamation League) that brings together youth across racial lines. Meeink's multiple addictions coexist with his multiple recoveries. Even as he builds a career as an inspirational speaker against White Power violence, he is descending into full-blown junkie status. Those familiar with 12-step programs will recognize themes in Meeink's experience: the secret life, extended abstinences, spectacular relapses. The book ends hopefully, with Meeink finishing his story—undertaken, incidentally, as his "fourth step" moral inventory—roughly one-year sober. VERDICT For those inspired by redemption, this quick-paced, sometimes nasty memoir will uplift.—Scott H. Silverman, Earlham Coll. Lib., Richmond, IN
Intensely raw memoir of a reformed Neo-Nazi. Meeink spent most of his childhood being knocked around in South Philly by his stepfather and running from gangs between his bus stop and his grade school. By age 20, the author was the leader of Strike Force, a local chapter of the Aryan Nation. "I felt the rage boiling inside me until I thought I was going to puke or scream or die . . . We are footsoldiers in God's army. Right. Left. We are the enforcers of God's law. Right. Left. Our race is our fucking religion," he writes. He had already had his own cable-access show, escaped from a mental institution, been to prison and attempted suicide on more than one occasion. Since skinheads associate drug use-not including alcohol-with minorities, Meeink was vehemently opposed to using drugs. However, as soon as he left the "movement," without the Neo-Nazi ethos and peer pressure to keep him in check, Meeink floundered into a daily drug habit, supplied at first by his addled mother. He is now a recovering skinhead and a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. His debut is a boot-stamping march through desperation, hate, violence and salvation, covering his rise to skinhead stardom and his eventual recovery from his destructive vices. Since 1995, the author has been teaching children and young adults about the consequences of conformity and the regrets of a misspent youth. He runs Harmony through Hockey, a community-outreach program endorsed by the Philadelphia Flyers that teaches children the values of unity and equality. It is through his organization that Meeink's gentler side takes over, demonstrating how much a strong will can be misdirected with hatred and how difficult it can be to redirect itwith love. Indelicate and harsh, but never preachy or whiny, this is an intimate, uncompromising memoir. Though it hits some predictable notes-mostly because of Edward Norton's familiar character in American History X-it speaks forcefully from experience. Fearless, enduring story of human fragility and strength.