Vanessa V. Friedman
March 18, 1994 AT 05:00 AM EST

Parallel Time

Current Status
In Season
Brent Staples
Memoir, Pop Culture

We gave it a B+

The author becomes a member of the editorial board of The New York Times; one of his younger brothers becomes a drug dealer and is shot to death at 22. How it is that two members of the same family can end up leading such different lives — the flukes, wrong turns, and chance encounters that can radically change a life — is the underlying subject of Staples’ compelling memoir. The second child of nine in a poor black family, Staples was well on his way to a future in ”the commercial arts” as a clerk or secretary when he met a man who persuaded him go to college. He went on to get a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and became a reporter. Meanwhile, his old neighborhood was turning from industry to drugs. A painfully honest account of the conflicts and choices caused by growing up and away from one’s roots, Parallel Time is less an autobiography than a meditation on a universal question: What makes us what we are? B+

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