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.
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.
More than two years ago, I began talking with Atlanta attorney Robbin Shipp about how we might create in book form some kind of guide to help Black males deal with all-too-frequent harrowing encounters with law enforcement and provide them ways to avoid being devoured by the voracious prison industrial complex. After the heartbreak of Trayvon Martin’s tragic encounter with George Zimmerman, we sat down and started writing. The result is Justice While Black: Helping African-American Families Navigate and Survive the Criminal Justice System.
Released by Agate Publishing, it will be available on October 14. While I am proud of the finished product, I am so distraught that with each passing day the book feels even more relevant and necessary. Justice While Black delves into racial profiling, the traps of the traffic stop, the motivations of the police, the proper mindset when in the back of a police car, the tricks of the plea bargain system, the systemic racism and brutality of the prison industrial complex—in addition to tracing how the modern American police force, particularly in the South, grew directly out of slave patrols and the KKK. It is a crucial book for anybody raising a Black child in America or anybody who cares how our nation locks up Black men and women to feed a multi-billion-dollar business and employment system.
When the Hechinger Report asked me to go to Mississippi to start chronicling the educational and societal woes of Black boys in the state, I jumped at the chance. This is my first dispatch. There will be others to follow.
I am pleased to announce that “The Rejected Stone” debutsat # 4 on the hardcover non-fiction list for Fall 2013.
The Power List is a quarterly compilation of best-selling books written or read by African Americans. The Power List is a joint project of AALBC.com, Cushcity.com and Mosaicbooks.com, three Web sites which have promoted African-American literature for more than a decade.
The Power List is compiled by collecting data from online book sellers, random samples on relevant Facebook pages, and a quarterly survey of 1,200 African-American book clubs. The list is released on the fourth Monday in the month following each calendar quarter.