Cuz
Michael Alexander Allen, the baby cousin of an extended family, was first arrested at fifteen for an attempted carjacking. Tried as an adult and sentenced to thirteen years, Michael served eleven. Three years after his release, he was shot and killed. Why? Why did this gifted young man, who dreamed of being a firefighter and a writer, end up dead? Why did he languish in prison? And why at fifteen was he in an alley in South Central LA, holding a gun while trying to steal someone’s car? Cuz means both “cousin” and “because.” Danielle Allen grew up with Michael and, in 2006 when Michael got out of prison, was cousin-on-duty, shouldering the responsibility to support his fresh start while juggling the demands of her own promising academic career. In this Ellisonian story of a young African-American man’s coming-of-age in late twentieth-century America, and of the family who will always love Michael, we learn how we lost a generation.

Cuz Details

TitleCuz
Author
ReleaseSep 5th, 2017
PublisherLiveright
ISBN-139781631493119
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography

Cuz Review

  • Ted
    January 1, 1970
    P-review (ie, Preview)The July 24 issue of the New Yorker contains an excerpt from this non-fiction work, out in a few weeks: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201...The magazine's Contributors page says that the author, Danielle Allen, "is a political theorist and the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard."In this memoir of her relation with a younger cousin, Allen relates the love she had for Michael, and the way that she took it upon herself to help him in his younger years. His P-review (ie, Preview)The July 24 issue of the New Yorker contains an excerpt from this non-fiction work, out in a few weeks: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201...The magazine's Contributors page says that the author, Danielle Allen, "is a political theorist and the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard."In this memoir of her relation with a younger cousin, Allen relates the love she had for Michael, and the way that she took it upon herself to help him in his younger years. His mother, her mother's sister, had made an unfortunate marriage to a man with a criminal record, who soon became abusive, causing the family to flee LA for Georgia for a few years, then return when Michael got in trouble as a youngster in south Georgia. He wound up in prison from the time he was fifteen (in California). He and Danielle corresponded frequently over the next several years, she encouraging him to get as much education as he could in prison (which he wanted to and did). Some of the article quotes things that he wrote (without details as to when he wrote them), as here.We, who are in prison,had to answer for our sins and out lives were taken from us. Our bodies became the property of the state of California. We are reduced to numbers and stripped of out identity. To the state of California I am not Michael Alexander Allen, I am K-10033. When they want to know anything about me they do not type my last name in the computer but it is my number that is inputted. My number is my name ... Dante was not in hell due to a fatal sin but somewhere in his life he strayed onto the path of error, away from his true self. I, K-10033, strayed away from my true self: Michael Alexander AllenAllen herself says this.The years between the ages of fifteen and twenty-six are punctuated by familiar milestones: high school, driver's license, college, first love, first job, first serious relationship, perhaps marriage, possibly a child. For those who pass adolescence in prison, some of these rites disappear; the ones that occur take on a distorted shape. And extra milestones get added. First long-term separation from family. First racial melee. First time in solitary, formally known as "administrative segregation". First time sodomized.The nine page excerpt does not seem to indicate that this is just another book about the hard facts that define life as a black in America. These hard facts are sometimes mentioned, and are of course implicit. But it seems to be more a story of one person who cared very much for another, but who over a course of years realizes that she only partially understood him, and never realized till after the fact that there were decisions made on his part that she never realized and would never have understood.
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  • Meg
    January 1, 1970
    This was such an intensely sad -true- story of a life wasted and lost that I cannot say I "loved" it, but is was brilliantly told. When Danielle Allen's "baby" cousin, Michael, was arrested at 15 for an attempted carjacking, he was tried as an adult and sentenced to 13 years. Michael served 11. Three years after his release, he was shot and killed. Why?Why did he end up dead? Why did he waste away in prison? And why at 15 did he threaten someone with a gun and attempt to steal his car in the fir This was such an intensely sad -true- story of a life wasted and lost that I cannot say I "loved" it, but is was brilliantly told. When Danielle Allen's "baby" cousin, Michael, was arrested at 15 for an attempted carjacking, he was tried as an adult and sentenced to 13 years. Michael served 11. Three years after his release, he was shot and killed. Why?Why did he end up dead? Why did he waste away in prison? And why at 15 did he threaten someone with a gun and attempt to steal his car in the first place? Danielle Allen searches for answers to these question and for the keys to his real story. Why is the question. Read "Cuz" to find the answers.
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  • Andre
    January 1, 1970
    A professor in political theory tries to make sense of her cousin's life and death through the examination of mass incarceration, penal and public policy. Her cousin Michael was first incarcerated at age fifteen for an attempted car jacking, of which the details are a little murky. Danielle Allen is the professor and author of this look at her cousin's life. Her intention here is to examine what went wrong after Michael's release and his death, three years later. Some of her writing has a showy A professor in political theory tries to make sense of her cousin's life and death through the examination of mass incarceration, penal and public policy. Her cousin Michael was first incarcerated at age fifteen for an attempted car jacking, of which the details are a little murky. Danielle Allen is the professor and author of this look at her cousin's life. Her intention here is to examine what went wrong after Michael's release and his death, three years later. Some of her writing has a showy feel to it especially when discussing her role in trying to rebuild Michael's life. She says about her role, "Not mine alone, no, but mine consistently—day-after-day as the cousin-on-duty, the one with resources, the one whose parents had been to college, and who was expected to go to college, and who had done so, and who had turned into a professional." Okay. And her descriptions of Michael's mother, her aunt, were sometimes unpleasant and unnecessary, making this reader wonder how that added value to the text. Laying aside the personal and focusing on how little things can conspire to thwart a life focused on redemption is where this book becomes readable and utilizable. "From here, any number of possible endings are still imaginable. But however broad the horizon of the imagination may be, events themselves unfold along a single track. Life may be a choose-your-own-adventure game, but we can live but one life. As we go, we shed all the other lives that might have been. From fourteen, Michael’s path ran from a broad horizon up and through difficult and merciless terrain."She examines the changes in California law, where Michael was living at the time and how those changes and the increase in violence in the cities impacted sentencing, "They were designing sentences not for people but for a thing: the aggregate level of crime. They wanted to reduce the totality of crime; they didn’t have any interest in justice for any individual person, whether victim or perpetrator." Danielle laments the missed signs and signals from Michael's early years that, in hindsight perhaps family intervention would have played a role in changing the trajectory of Michael's life. She tried upon his release and reentry to really make his second chance fruitful. She helped him obtain employment, housing and his drivers license, but she couldn't keep him from making poor relationship choices that ultimately led to his early death. Finally , an unfortunate and sad tale of a life wasted but as Danielle reminds readers Michael is but, "one of so many millions gone."As Danielle asks, "what went wrong" perhaps readers can find something in her questioning and in Micheal's brief live that serve as educational and cautionary to save a life and spare another family from the millions gone. Thanks to Netgalley and W.W. Norton for an advanced ecopy. Book publishes Sept. 5, 2017
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  • Kay
    January 1, 1970
    A family's love for their cousin, son, brother. Sad but so telling.
  • Birdie Wilson
    January 1, 1970
    The New York Times got it right-a sad story terribly overwritten to the point of being unreadable.Hard to believe that a woman with the awards that Allen has received penned the obtuse, run-on sentences which fill the narrative--to the point of casting doubt upon the merit of those awards. As to the substance of the book - it basically reveals that Allen failed in her mission to save her cousin from a life of crime--not pretty.
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  • Donna Tedford
    January 1, 1970
    After reading this thought provoking book, I came away with a greater understanding of gangs, drug issues, prisons and judicial system, and most of all, racial issues and the economically disenfranchised people of today. I live in a suburb far away from these mostly urban problems. It was portrayed so well in this book that I could really see these problems from another perspective. I will be thinking about these topics for a long time. My one complaint of the book is that the author did not go After reading this thought provoking book, I came away with a greater understanding of gangs, drug issues, prisons and judicial system, and most of all, racial issues and the economically disenfranchised people of today. I live in a suburb far away from these mostly urban problems. It was portrayed so well in this book that I could really see these problems from another perspective. I will be thinking about these topics for a long time. My one complaint of the book is that the author did not go into much of an explanation or details of Michaels death. A sad ending to a very promising life. It makes me wonder if people/judges were tougher with him after his first thefts if it may have made a difference. By tougher I don't mean a criminal record or violence, I mean some type of repayment or community service. I do agree with some of the authors conclusions of the drug problem. I also admire the Allen family's love and support for each other.
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  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    Danielle S. Allen takes a family tragedy and presents her heartbreak to readers, showing the personal side of her cousin's incarceration and death shortly after release, and inviting her audience to contemplate the bigger picture of what is broken in our society and with our current penal system.Cuz exposes Michael's full character- the bad choices as well as the good intentions, and presents a three dimensional picture of him as a person and as a symbol of the young men who fall through the cra Danielle S. Allen takes a family tragedy and presents her heartbreak to readers, showing the personal side of her cousin's incarceration and death shortly after release, and inviting her audience to contemplate the bigger picture of what is broken in our society and with our current penal system.Cuz exposes Michael's full character- the bad choices as well as the good intentions, and presents a three dimensional picture of him as a person and as a symbol of the young men who fall through the cracks, who are let down by our communities even when they have the love and support of family and friends. Sometimes it is just not enough. While I found the back-and-forth timeline a bit jarring, Allen has undeniably created a thought provoking work that shines with honesty and sounds out a cry for change.Thank you to Liveright and W.W. Norton for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • kelly
    January 1, 1970
    “Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A” is the true life story of the author’s younger cousin Michael, who was arrested at the age of 15 in Los Angeles for the crime of attempted carjacking. He was charged as an adult, served eleven years in prison, and was released in 2009. Three years later, his body was discovered in his vehicle, riddled with bullets.Danielle Allen, an academic at Harvard University, peels away the layers of Michael’s troubled personal and family life and attempts to find an a “Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A” is the true life story of the author’s younger cousin Michael, who was arrested at the age of 15 in Los Angeles for the crime of attempted carjacking. He was charged as an adult, served eleven years in prison, and was released in 2009. Three years later, his body was discovered in his vehicle, riddled with bullets.Danielle Allen, an academic at Harvard University, peels away the layers of Michael’s troubled personal and family life and attempts to find an answer for why her cousin’s life came to such a tragic and violent end. She manages to write a really good background sociological perspective of Los Angeles, with its gangs, segregated neighborhoods, and history of mass incarceration that was very relevant to the discussion of the personal facts she presents. All in all, a very solid work that anyone who is interested in urban sociology would appreciate. [Note: A free digital copy of this book was given to me by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
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  • Barbara Tsipouras
    January 1, 1970
    This is the author's academic approach to understand why her cousin and millions of other (mainly Black or Latin) young men end in jail or get killed. She obviously feels guilty because she didn't recognise the signs along the road. Of course she examines the difficult family situation without a father but with many supportive relatives, the role of police and the changing role of gangs, the inapproriate sentencing for minor (mostly drug-related) offences, the justice system and the so-called wa This is the author's academic approach to understand why her cousin and millions of other (mainly Black or Latin) young men end in jail or get killed. She obviously feels guilty because she didn't recognise the signs along the road. Of course she examines the difficult family situation without a father but with many supportive relatives, the role of police and the changing role of gangs, the inapproriate sentencing for minor (mostly drug-related) offences, the justice system and the so-called war against drugs.Her conclusions aren't wrong, but the way she tells the story is too confuse and often redundant. I don't doubt that society, the place where you live, the justice system and unjust laws play a major role in this tragedy, but I couldn't get rid of the feeling that she's trying to find a way to deal with her and her family's guilt. They didn't do much to help him when he was arrested, nor did the help they offered when he was released change things drastically.
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  • Carrolet
    January 1, 1970
    Combination memoir and commentary on mass incarceration, the author shares the story of her cousin's short life and how the criminalization of drugs impacts millions of black and brown people, especially men, in America . I wanted to know more about Michael's story but with almost half of his life spent in prison, it was probably hard for anyone to know him well. The author seemed part guilty and part determined to let the reader know how different her own life was/is. That was a distraction for Combination memoir and commentary on mass incarceration, the author shares the story of her cousin's short life and how the criminalization of drugs impacts millions of black and brown people, especially men, in America . I wanted to know more about Michael's story but with almost half of his life spent in prison, it was probably hard for anyone to know him well. The author seemed part guilty and part determined to let the reader know how different her own life was/is. That was a distraction for me. The final chapter "What Next?" does a good job of bringing Michael and the issues of illegal drugs together.
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  • Christine
    January 1, 1970
    Couldn't put it down.I read this book in less than a day; I truly could not put it down. The author pays tribute to her baby cousin with heart and introspection. She criticises the war on drugs and gangs without denying the serious nature of Michael's crimes. Her prosaic narrative explores the impact of Michael's personal choices, family circumstances, as well as the political and social climate of South Central LA in the 1990s. As the mother of a young son, I consider this book a must-read.
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  • Gerald Logan
    January 1, 1970
    This made for TV biography - B list - serves only to make the reader gag at the excessive self-recrimination of the author for failing to save her cousin from his life of crime resulting in his death. Of course if the author really set out to save her "cuz" (ugh!) she might have spent less time advancing her career through various universities across the country and more time saving. The "faux" guilt is too much!
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  • Mell
    January 1, 1970
    I read an ARC/Galley copy of this book. This is both memoir of a beloved cousin and an analysis of criminal justice policy. The memoir sections are heartfelt, moving, beautifully crafted. The analysis sections are very academic and reflect the author's expertise. I really enjoyed the personal chapters. The analysis is important for understanding both why this happened to Michael and why the system is perpetuating racism and mass incarceration.
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  • Richard Williams
    January 1, 1970
    This book is amazing! A searing tale of our unjust criminal system that kills both physically and mentally, young boys and men at astonishing rates. I read this book in a day and a half, and will reread it soon. A must have.
  • Tara
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 Stars
  • Krystal
    January 1, 1970
    Everyone needs to read this insightful book! It provides a personal but critical understanding of the oppressive factors that resulted in this young black man's untimely undeserved death. As a society, we owe a great deal to Professor Danielle Allen for writing this.
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  • Brita
    January 1, 1970
    Allen's memoir about her cousin Michael tells a far too familiar story - as she writes again and again, he is "one of so many millions gone." I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her to turn the analytical gaze of her academic training to the life of a dear family member. The ethicist's perspective is illuminating, but in the end, her personal connection to the story - to the *person* - shines stronger. I was particularly struck by the first section, in which the narrative alte Allen's memoir about her cousin Michael tells a far too familiar story - as she writes again and again, he is "one of so many millions gone." I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her to turn the analytical gaze of her academic training to the life of a dear family member. The ethicist's perspective is illuminating, but in the end, her personal connection to the story - to the *person* - shines stronger. I was particularly struck by the first section, in which the narrative alternates between Michael's release from prison and his murder. It's an intentionally jarring contrast that illustrates the injustice of his experience in the criminal "justice" system as well as anything.
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