“Ghetto Celebrity is a funny, funky, surprising journey inside the wild mind of a hip-hop generation brother trying to figure out himself and his ghetto world.” —Touré
“To be a son or daughter is to be a detective. This is one poetic whopper, a book for anyone who ever tried to solve that mystery named Dad.” —Sarah Vowell
“If Eazy-E had written Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, it would have been this book. Watch out for Donnell Alexander—this is a great book.” —Neal Pollack
“Donnell Alexander is a streetdog writer, a gangsta Nelson Algren, an important new voice.” —Dale Maharidge
“Ghetto Celebrity is a memoir that reads like bold, unadulterated fiction, leaving the reader gasping who the f—k is Donnell Alexander? A writer!” —Jervey Tervalon
“I got paid for being dope,” brags Donnell Alexander, a veteran hip-hop journalist who was tapped by ESPN: The Magazine to provide street cred in its coverage of African-American athletes, only to find his prose chipped at by uncomprehending white editors.
He counts among his talents “consuming the stranger dimensions of popular culture and then talking about it” and “[getting] tore-down drunk and [writing] about the emotions I experienced at their most raw.” Both are on display in this dizzying memoir, which shifts seamlessly from one literary style to the next, even turning briefly into a graphic novel in a scene depicting Alexander’s first breakdancing lesson and subsequent concussion.
From a whirlwind tour of Alexander’s escape from Sandusky, Ohio, to start a career as a reporter, and of bouts of sex and drug use that repeatedly bring him to the brink of mental collapse, his father, Delbert, flits through the narrative. Although Alexander’s mother called her son’s wild temper “the Delbert in him,” the memoir eventually identifies that quality as his unrelenting desire to reinvent himself, to hustle the system even when he hurts those closest to him and grinds himself down in the process. Few writers would possess the willingness to confront their disintegrating marriage with the brutal honesty shown here; fewer still would admit so readily to their own culpability.
Alexander has given his inner demons a powerful voice, only to shout them down and prove himself at the top of his game.
Forecast: Those who have read Alexander’s work in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, L.A. Weekly, McSweeney’s, Vibe and Honey will gravitate to this, and an author tour and print ads in literary and black magazines should stoke interest further.
Donnell Alexander was born and raised in Ohio, where he was a member of the state champion 1982 Sandusky Blue Streaks cross-country team. He attended Sacramento City College and Fresno State University for higher learning and did mad journalism all up and down the great West Coast. After a hot minute in New York, he’s back in Los Angeles, working as much as he can stand to. Dude is thinking about maybe going to film school. And he parties like a champ.