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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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    3.5 stars

  4. 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  6. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

  7. 5 out of 5

    Faith

  8. 5 out of 5

    Avi Woontner

  9. 4 out of 5

    Towandajane

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marisa Repin

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nichole

  12. 5 out of 5

    Keeley

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jill Reads

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leo

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  16. 4 out of 5

    Fareeda

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tzipora

  18. 4 out of 5

    Frank Nolan

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kaila

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jaymi The OC Book Girl

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Bianchi

  22. 5 out of 5

    Zaspana

  23. 4 out of 5

    Akim St.Omer

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chacha

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  26. 4 out of 5

    Patti Webb

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laci | literature.and.lace

  28. 5 out of 5

    chinchil1in

  29. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jmgrey

  31. 4 out of 5

    Laureen Pew

  32. 5 out of 5

    Bre

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