I'm not sure whether to class this book as memoir or essays. It's a series of essays about the author's family and about herself. It's person-focused, rather than linear. Normally I'm wary of that sort of thing, but I didn't mind it here. Njeri is a journalist, so each piece could appear by itself in a magazine. With the context of all of the other pieces, though, you get a more complete picture of the author than you would otherwise. Her family is huge, and she has a lot of facets to her own personality to explore. Still, there are some commonalities. Njeri is full of heart, also moxie. She is not uncritical of her family and herself, but she also shows a lot of love and understanding, even for the broken parts of her family and herself.
Some of the deets: Njeri was born Jill Moreland into an extended family that traded its kids back and forth (in a good way, I think). Getting some time away from her alcoholic father was definitely a good thing, but unfortunately he wasn't the only person in the family suffering from that disease. A gifted singer, Njeri made her living as a musician for a while, but ultimately preferred writing as a creative outlet. One essay reveals her experience with Amiri Baraka, who gave her the name Itabari, and the Congress of African People, and another addresses the highs and lows of her singing career, including attending the High School of Music and Art, gaining rare approval from her father for the "celestial vibration" of her voice, and examining race and the traditional musical canon ("You would give up the chance of an opera career to sing jazz, that junk that anybody off the street can do?").