Man in Motion: The singer Bobby Brown has a memoir on this week’s hardcover nonfiction list — “Every Little Step,” co-written with Nick Chiles, debuts at No. 9. Brown rose to fame with New Edition in the 1980s before drug problems and a turbulent marriage to Whitney Houston made him a mainstay of police blotters, cementing his tabloid reputation as “the bad boy of R&B.” Those days are behind him now, according to the memoir, but Brown is still willing to share the wild details. Among frank passages about liaisons with Madonna, Janet Jackson and an entertainer at his bachelor party (“Let me say the night with the midget blew my mind”), Brown casually announces he’s also had a close encounter of the paranormal kind: “One memorable night, one of the ghosts descended from the ceiling and had sex with me. . . . And let me add this: This was before I ever touched any drug besides weed and alcohol.” The book isn’t all sex and drugs, though. There’s plenty of rock ’n’ roll, too. “My God, funk was everything to me,” Brown says of his listening habits when he was growing up in Boston. “When I put on the funk, I’d start the dancing.” He adds that, in the rough projects where he lived, his sense of rhythm offered him a kind of protection. “Although violence was always around us, one of the main ways I battled back then was not with my fists — it was with my dance moves. I wasn’t necessarily confident about my singing yet, but I knew I could whup anybody’s ass in a dance battle. . . . Break dancing, pop locking — man, I was unbelievable.”
“Every Little Step” debuted on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction list at no. 9! In addition, the book also appeared at no. 4 on the Washington Post list, and no. 9 on the Wall Street Journal list, which is derived from Neilsen’s BookScan. In other words, the book is a hit! This makes my 3rd NY Times bestseller—the others were “The Blueprint” with Kirk Franklin and “The Rejected Stone” with Rev. Al Sharpton.
A piece I wrote last year for the Hechinger Report, which is devoted to exposing inequity and innovation in education, has gotten some shine. The story below was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists as a first-place winner for Public Affairs Reporting / Non-Dailies in its 66th annual Green Eyeshades Awards, given to the best journalism in the Southeastern U.S. Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the Pulitzer I won with my colleagues at NY Newsday. Glad to show this old dog still has some magic in his fingertips.
What an incredible emotional roller-coaster it’s been working on this book with Bobby Brown. We started two years ago, when Bobby was in Atlanta for several weeks preparing to go on tour with New Edition. I spent time with him and the entire group and felt like he was in a very good place. But just as we were about to really dive deep into the conversations, he got the horrible news that his daughter was in a coma. So for months I had to watch with everyone else as he suffered through that grueling ordeal. When he was ready to begin work again on the book, I think we were both surprised that he found it helpful and therapeutic to talk about his unbelievable life—the joys and the tragedies. I am pleased to see that the public is responding well to the book, and the raw honesty that Bobby pours into the pages.
Here’s my latest feature on education in Mississippi, focusing on the state’s initiative to make third graders repeat third grade if they fail a standardized reading test. After decades of severe underfunding of schools, this is one of the cruelest uses of a standardized “gates” test in recent education history. Produced for the Hechinger Report, it also appeared in the Jackson Free Press.