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Boyz N the Void: A Mixtape to My Brother

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Writing to his brother, G'Ra Asim reflects on building his own identity while navigating Blackness, masculinity, and young adulthood--all through wry social commentary and music/pop culture critique How does one approach Blackness, masculinity, otherness, and the perils of young adulthood? For G'Ra Asim, punk music offers an outlet to express himself freely. As his younger Writing to his brother, G'Ra Asim reflects on building his own identity while navigating Blackness, masculinity, and young adulthood--all through wry social commentary and music/pop culture critique How does one approach Blackness, masculinity, otherness, and the perils of young adulthood? For G'Ra Asim, punk music offers an outlet to express himself freely. As his younger brother, Gyasi, grapples with finding his footing in the world, G'Ra gifts him with a survival guide for tackling the sometimes treacherous cultural terrain particular to being young, Black, brainy, and weird in the form of a mixtape. Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother blends music and cultural criticism and personal essay to explore race, gender, class, and sexuality as they pertain to punk rock and straight edge culture. Using totemic punk rock songs on a mixtape to anchor each chapter, the book documents an intergenerational conversation between a Millennial in his 30s and his Generation Z teenage brother. Author, punk musician, and straight edge kid, G'Ra Asim weaves together memoir and cultural commentary, diving into the depths of everything from theory to comic strips, to poetry to pizza commercials to mapping the predicament of the Black creative intellectual. With each chapter dedicated to a particular song and placed within the context of a fraternal bond, Asim presents his brother with a roadmap to self-actualization in the form of a Doc Martened foot to the behind and a sweaty, circle-pit-side-armed hug.


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Writing to his brother, G'Ra Asim reflects on building his own identity while navigating Blackness, masculinity, and young adulthood--all through wry social commentary and music/pop culture critique How does one approach Blackness, masculinity, otherness, and the perils of young adulthood? For G'Ra Asim, punk music offers an outlet to express himself freely. As his younger Writing to his brother, G'Ra Asim reflects on building his own identity while navigating Blackness, masculinity, and young adulthood--all through wry social commentary and music/pop culture critique How does one approach Blackness, masculinity, otherness, and the perils of young adulthood? For G'Ra Asim, punk music offers an outlet to express himself freely. As his younger brother, Gyasi, grapples with finding his footing in the world, G'Ra gifts him with a survival guide for tackling the sometimes treacherous cultural terrain particular to being young, Black, brainy, and weird in the form of a mixtape. Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother blends music and cultural criticism and personal essay to explore race, gender, class, and sexuality as they pertain to punk rock and straight edge culture. Using totemic punk rock songs on a mixtape to anchor each chapter, the book documents an intergenerational conversation between a Millennial in his 30s and his Generation Z teenage brother. Author, punk musician, and straight edge kid, G'Ra Asim weaves together memoir and cultural commentary, diving into the depths of everything from theory to comic strips, to poetry to pizza commercials to mapping the predicament of the Black creative intellectual. With each chapter dedicated to a particular song and placed within the context of a fraternal bond, Asim presents his brother with a roadmap to self-actualization in the form of a Doc Martened foot to the behind and a sweaty, circle-pit-side-armed hug.

46 review for Boyz N the Void: A Mixtape to My Brother

  1. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    This book is ostensibly written by the 30 something G'Ra Asim to his teenaged brother Gyasi. The intention is to explore the “.....chasm between the value system of the house we grew up in and the broader culture in which we reside.” It is partly autobiographical (my favorite part) and partly a sociological exploration of race, gender, identity and cultural norms. G'Ra is a writing professor and punk musician and a lot of this book is about punk. I doubt that I have ever heard a punk song and I This book is ostensibly written by the 30 something G'Ra Asim to his teenaged brother Gyasi. The intention is to explore the “.....chasm between the value system of the house we grew up in and the broader culture in which we reside.” It is partly autobiographical (my favorite part) and partly a sociological exploration of race, gender, identity and cultural norms. G'Ra is a writing professor and punk musician and a lot of this book is about punk. I doubt that I have ever heard a punk song and I didn’t even recognize the names of any of the punk groups that the author references, so I guess that I am not the target audience for this book. However, if the author wants to grab the attention of teenagers he should use fewer sentences like this: “Post-conventional identity is what I see as a kind of practical triangulation between Charles Cooley’s looking-glass self, Lawrence Kohlberg’s post-conventional morality and W.E.B. DuBois’s double consciousness.” Or this: “Between being raised in a poor, black, bohemian family of quixotic values and answering to an ambiguously ethnic, unpronounceable name, I felt keenly an irreducible otherness that I thought would always exclude me from the normative ideals of society.” I found parts of this book interesting but parts seemed a little pompous. 3.5 stars I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Josh Brynildsen

    Might first thought was, “You got all of that out of an Anti-Flag song?” My last thought was, “Oh yeah, of course, Bad Brains contains multitudes!” Mostly, though, the punk rock was shoehorned into the woke-ness, which itself was shoehorned into the bio stuff - the best part (and plenty woke unto itself) Or at least, it spoke to me. I was a young man in the DC suburbs listening to these same bands at the turn of the century, too. So it was fun, kinda catching the nostalgia. And while, ultimately, I Might first thought was, “You got all of that out of an Anti-Flag song?” My last thought was, “Oh yeah, of course, Bad Brains contains multitudes!” Mostly, though, the punk rock was shoehorned into the woke-ness, which itself was shoehorned into the bio stuff - the best part (and plenty woke unto itself) Or at least, it spoke to me. I was a young man in the DC suburbs listening to these same bands at the turn of the century, too. So it was fun, kinda catching the nostalgia. And while, ultimately, I enjoyed Boyz in the Void, I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anyone beyond my main man Ali.

  3. 4 out of 5

    lisa

    This book is a bit of a mash-up of Between the World and Me, and Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes on A Tribe Called Quest. However, while it was well written, and interesting, it didn't have the spark of either of the aforementioned books. G'Ra Asim is making a mixtape for his little brother Gyasi, and has written essays describing his choices. He is eager to impart on his brother his hard won lessons of life, framed through his love of punk, his love of words and learning, and his love of their famil This book is a bit of a mash-up of Between the World and Me, and Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes on A Tribe Called Quest. However, while it was well written, and interesting, it didn't have the spark of either of the aforementioned books. G'Ra Asim is making a mixtape for his little brother Gyasi, and has written essays describing his choices. He is eager to impart on his brother his hard won lessons of life, framed through his love of punk, his love of words and learning, and his love of their family. The essays are pretty good, and when they hit a certain stride they are great. For me this would have worked better as a memoir because I was riveted when Asim described scenes from his life. As a highly intelligent (it seems to run in the family; the author Jabari Asim is G'Ra and Gyasi's father) young man chafing against the typical stereotypes handed off to black men, G'Ra is compelling. He loves punk music, and finds comfort in its philosophy. He went from being the kid of working class parents in gang riddled St. Louis, to being the child of more affluent intellectuals in Balitmore. Along the way he talks sibling rivalry, issues with teachers and classmates, working and playing music, and the day when his mother had to carry his bicycle home with gang members shooting their guns around her. (She made G'Ra and his brother run ahead of her, and the guilt he felt leaving her behind, even at her insistence, is palpable.) When G'Ra is not talking about memories of his life, he is talking a lot about the history of punk, which didn't interest me at all. The punk angle may be a draw for some people, but punk music has never been my jam, so I wasn't that interested in reading about it. I went to high school in Northern California where all the white boys were obsessed with idiotic bands like Blink-182, NOFX, Ten Foot Pole, etc. He also goes on long tangents about his own takes on life, and these sections got so wordy I ended up skimming them just to get the basic idea. The point that was buried in these long paragraphs was often interesting, but I felt like I was digging up boulders to get to them. In my opinion, Go Ahead in the Rain is a much more deftly crafted book, but then, I am huge fan of hip hop, so take that statement with a lump of salt. Boyz in the Void is a pretty good book, one that would appeal to punk fans, but it didn't have enough of a heart. Most of the time it felt like reading a textbook except for moments when the author managed to show a moment of soaring spirit. The rest of it was bogged down with words.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    When I began reading 'Boyz N the Void' I didn't know what to expect. What I found was an incredibly insightful, heartfelt, and well thought out book that read like an introspective journal. As a white, 38yr old mama of three I'm sure I'm not the target audience for this memoir/letter to the author's younger brother, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to read this. Punk rock has never been high on my list of listening preferences (which has always contained everything from rock to pop to R&B to When I began reading 'Boyz N the Void' I didn't know what to expect. What I found was an incredibly insightful, heartfelt, and well thought out book that read like an introspective journal. As a white, 38yr old mama of three I'm sure I'm not the target audience for this memoir/letter to the author's younger brother, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to read this. Punk rock has never been high on my list of listening preferences (which has always contained everything from rock to pop to R&B to classical to hip hop to rap to alternative) so the majority of the playlist contained within was new to me. As an activist from the age of fifteen onward I was able to appreciate G'Ra's lifelong quest for knowledge and revolutionary ideals found outside the inane regurgitation of thought which runs so prominently throughout the masses. While I may not understand what it's like to be a young, black man I can fully relate on some levels. The broken and corrupt systems which run this country (and the world at large really) have never treated everyone equally, and until freedom and equality are applied to everyone, no matter their pigmentation or financial situation, true freedom and equality will not exist. Until and unless racism becomes nothing more than an archaic evil of the past we all need to do better, stand together, and fight for a better future. We owe it to not only to our children, the generations yet to come but those who came long before us. I hope that the author's brother appreciates the insight bestowed upon him and I really hope that this book will help to bridge some gaps of understanding. Thank you to Shelf Awareness and Beacon Press for the opportunity to read an ARC of this book!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linda Bond

    Brilliant! This is personal communication with insight, shared with the public. Asim writes for and to his brother, about Blackness, culture and coming of age amidst the turmoil. A punk rocker and writing professor with ideas to share, Asim is amazing, as is his book. I met this book at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, WA Brilliant! This is personal communication with insight, shared with the public. Asim writes for and to his brother, about Blackness, culture and coming of age amidst the turmoil. A punk rocker and writing professor with ideas to share, Asim is amazing, as is his book. I met this book at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, WA

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    3.5 stars

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jim Schebek

    this book covers a lot of topics and ranks as the book where i had to look up the most words. part dissertation, autobiography and social commentary. good music choices too

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kimberley

    I waited to write this review because I wasn’t altogether certain how to write a review about a book that, on the surface, held promise but, in reality, missed the mark. At least for me. People have compared this to Between the World and Me—a book I loved and still adore to this day—but it lacked the gravitas of Coates’s work; I simply couldn’t connect with G’Ra Asim’s experience, and it had nothing to do with his inability to convey the difficulties he faced, bleh does that very well, but he spe I waited to write this review because I wasn’t altogether certain how to write a review about a book that, on the surface, held promise but, in reality, missed the mark. At least for me. People have compared this to Between the World and Me—a book I loved and still adore to this day—but it lacked the gravitas of Coates’s work; I simply couldn’t connect with G’Ra Asim’s experience, and it had nothing to do with his inability to convey the difficulties he faced, bleh does that very well, but he spends so much time speaking about the music that you lose the thread of the matter. I know more about the bands Asim loves, and why, than I do about how those bands led him to something greater within himself as a man; a something that led him to being the kind of older brother capable of assisting his younger one in navigating his own otherness. What I did understand is Asim loves punk music but he wishes a genre built on non-conformity wasn’t still so annoyingly centered in conformist ideals—particularly as they relate to race, sex, and gender. I got that in spades ...and every now and then Asim would seemingly remember this was supposed to be about his brother and he’d try to tie it altogether. Perhaps, and I can’t say this enough, this simply wasn’t a book meant for me. It certainly has its high-points but they don’t stick in my mind long enough to give them mention. In the end, the book fell flat for me. Thanks to Edelweiss+ for the ARC. Opinion is my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Neil

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lindsy

  11. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Coyle

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mara

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  15. 5 out of 5

    Z.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Feigh

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessie McMains

  18. 4 out of 5

    Vapafe

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brett Montegny

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dosoem

  21. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

  22. 4 out of 5

    Avi Woontner

  23. 4 out of 5

    Towandajane

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marisa Repin

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nichole

  26. 5 out of 5

    Keeley

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jill Reads

  28. 4 out of 5

    Leo

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  30. 5 out of 5

    Fareeda

  31. 5 out of 5

    Tzipora

  32. 5 out of 5

    Frank Nolan

  33. 4 out of 5

    Kaila

  34. 5 out of 5

    Jaymi The OC Book Girl

  35. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Bianchi

  36. 5 out of 5

    Zaspana

  37. 4 out of 5

    Akim St.Omer

  38. 5 out of 5

    Chacha

  39. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  40. 5 out of 5

    Patti Webb

  41. 4 out of 5

    Laci | literature.and.lace

  42. 5 out of 5

    chinchil1in

  43. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  44. 5 out of 5

    Laureen Pew

  45. 5 out of 5

    Bre

  46. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

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