Book Review: Inner City Miracle
by Greg Mathis
Publication Date: Oct 01, 2002
List Price: $24.95
Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
Imprint: One World/Ballantine
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Book Reviewed by Thumper
Judge Greg Mathis makes his debut on the literary stage
with his autobiography, Inner City Miracle: A Memoir. Mathis is the star of the
popular The Judge Greg Mathis Show, a syndicated court show that features
litigants who have filed a small claim case, and want the matter settled in
Judge Mathis' TV court. In the book Judge Mathis lays open his life, from his
days as a juvenile delinquent, his college and law school years, his lawsuit
against the Michigan State Bar Association to obtain his license to practice
law, and, finally, starring in his own television show. There were elements of
the book that I enjoyed, and a few that I didn't. Weighing the pluses and
minuses, Inner City Miracle is a highly readable book. I enjoyed it.
Before I continue the review, I have to be upfront; I love The Judge Greg Mathis Show! I watch it everyday. If I'm not home to view it, I tape it. When folks come on the show acting a fool, I call my mother or my friend Steve, giggling, saying, "I saw your niece on Judge Mathis today, wearing her pink, 5 feet tall Cindy Lou-who do. I don't see why your sister didn't raise her kids. And then have the nerve to let 'em go on national TV." Needless to say, when Judge Mathis' autobiography crossed my desk, I couldn't wait to read it.
Initially, I wondered if Judge Mathis was going to recount his life in his regular voice or "clean it up" by using the King's English. I'm not implying that anyone shouldn't achieve proficiency in his or her native tongue. But my impression of Judge Mathis is that he's down to earth, and would talk to me like a big brother, and not as if he's presenting his Ph.D. dissertation. Fortunately, he wrote in the same voice and style with which he speaks on his show. Once I discovered that fact, I laid back and got comfortable.
My favorite part of the book was the first half, when Judge Mathis' mother was still alive, and, as the old folks would say, Judge Mathis was acting "mannish". Here, the book truly opened up and blossomed and I was glued to the pages as he recalled his trouble in school, the absence of a relationship with his father, and the heartache he caused his mother. I once read that the more disturbing and dysfunctional a person's childhood was, the more interesting their book will be. This turned out to be true with Mathis, and although I know it sounds cold, I was enthralled by the first half of Inner City Miracle, and couldn't tear myself away.
Inner City Miracle was hollow at times and read as if it was little more than an outline. There were sections of the book that I wish were richer in details; for example the final chapter that focused on his TV show. The book does not possess the novel-like rhythm or seductive narrative of Albert Sample's Racehoss: Big Emma's Boy; Claude Brown's Manchild In The Promised Land; Iceberg Slim's Pimp; or, the crown jewel of all autobiographies, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Inner City Miracle does possess an endearing quality that makes it highly readable.
Unlike other autobiographies written today that capitalize on the crimes and violence of the protagonist's past life in order to reach the inevitable "How-I-Found-Jesus" conclusion, Inner City Miracle is the real thing. It is the life story of how one man came from humble beginning to become a man of principle. By sharing his story, Judge Mathis will inspire others to reach a little higher.
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