I was 100% attracted to this book because of the sub-title: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl. The effect of music, particularly in the age of vinyl, holds a lot of interest to me. What I was expecting, then, was a memoir addressing the role music played in the life and growth of Rashod Ollison … whoever he is.
After reading the book I did a little research and even checked out some of the other book reviews (I rarely do that). Mr. Ollison, it appears, was a respected music critic and journalist who wrote for magazines and papers such as Dallas Morning News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Journal News (Westchester, New York), Baltimore Sun, and Virginian-Pilot. These are not papers that I read and I think that perhaps the book would be much more interesting to someone who knows who Rashod Ollison is. Or was. Unfortunately, he has passed away since the publication of this book.
The book is much more an exploration of of Ollison’s homosexuality – at least more-so this than the influence of music in his life. Growing up Black and gay is surely challenging and Ollison didn’t have it easy. But he persisted, and found his niche – writing – with great thanks to a teacher who saw, if not talent, an interest that could be cultivated.
These are great stories. How many of us can look back and think of one or more teachers who were influential to us during formative years?
But for a man who spent his career writing, this book just never grabs the reader or delivers a punch worth remembering.
The description of the book talks a lot about music and its influence on a boy growing up in Arkansas and I won’t say that this isn’t there, but it’s definitely not the strength of the book. Things perked up in the last quarter of the book and honestly, if I had started with that, I might have had a more enjoyable read throughout (it’s a memoir … you can write things out of timeline order!).
Looking for a good book? Soul Serenade by Rashod Ollison is a memoir/biography supposedly using the background of music to identify the author’s growth and chosen moments, but for someone who has no idea who the author is, there’s not enough here to appeal.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl
author: Rashod Ollison
publisher: Beacon Press
hardcover, 240 pages