My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love

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“I love the way Dessa puts words together. In her songs, in her poetry, in her short stories, and now in this beautiful and candid memoir.  Wanna be an artist? Get this book.”
--Lin-Manuel Miranda

"Dessa writes beautifully about a wide range of topics, including science, music, and the pain that comes with being in love; it's a surprising and generous memoir by a singular voice."
--NPR, Best Books of 2018


Dessa defies category--she is an intellectual with an international rap career and an inhaler in her backpack; a creative writer fascinated by philosophy and behavioral science; and a funny, charismatic performer dogged by blue moods and heartache. She's ferocious on stage and endearingly neurotic in the tour van. Her stunning literary debut memoir stitches together poignant insights on love, science, and language--a demonstration of just how far the mind can travel while the body is on a six-hour ride to the next gig.

In "The Fool That Bets Against Me," Dessa writes to Geico to request a commercial insurance policy for the broken heart that's helped her write so many sad songs. "A Ringing in the Ears" tells the story of her father building a wooden airplane in their backyard garage. In "'Congratulations,'" she describes the challenge of recording a song for The Hamilton Mixtape in a Minneapolis basement, straining for a high note and hoping for a break. "Call Off Your Ghost" chronicles the fascinating project she undertook with a team of neuroscientists to try to clinically excise romantic feelings for an old flame. Her writing is infused with scientific research, dry wit, a philosophical perspective, and an abiding tenderness for the people she tours with and the people she leaves behind to be on the road.

My Own Devices is an uncompromising and candid account of a life in motion, in music, and in love. Dessa is as compelling on the page as she is onstage, making My Own Devices the debut of a unique and deft literary voice.
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About the author

Dessa is a rapper, a singer, an essayist, and a proud member of the Doomtree hip-hop crew. She's performed around the world at opera houses and rock clubs and while standing on barroom tables. She's landed on the Billboard Top 200 list as a solo artist (Parts of SpeechChime), as a Doomtree member (All Hands), and as a contributor to The Hamilton Mixtape. As a writer, she's contributed to the New York Times Magazine, Minnesota Public Radio, the Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Minnesota Monthly, literary journals across the country, and has published two short collections of poetry and essays. She now splits her time between Manhattan, Minneapolis, and a tour van cruising at six miles per hour above the posted limit.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Sep 18, 2018
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781524742300
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Music
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Literary Collections / Essays
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Although he's a showbiz lifer, Billy Vera is cut from a wholly different cloth than his peers. If an artist is measured by their devotion to their craft, Harlem to Hollywood may be the purest treatise on the subject ever produced. All the better, it's also an astounding story.

Born into a white, suburban family, Vera fell for black music as a child and started down a winding performer's path that would buoy him the rest of his life. In the sixties, Vera paid his bills by songwriting (for other artists) through the day and playing mobbed up clubs at night. By 1967, as Newark burned on the other side of the Hudson, he and gospel singer Judy Clay, the first interracial duet to perform at the Apollo, tore the house down with a little ditty he wrote for himself: “Storybook Children ” a commercial hit produced by Atlantic Records. Through the seventies, popular taste shifted drastically. As blue-eyed soul went out of fashion, Vera, like many other musicians, found himself scrounging for survival gigs, but one crucial difference set him apart: he abstained from the drugs and drink that fueled – and eventually claimed – so many of his contemporaries. As that decade sputtered to a close, a woman by the name of Dolly Parton recorded Vera's “I Really Got the Feeling” and hit number one on the charts. Riding the tide of this unexpected attention, Vera hightailed it to Los Angeles, formed a new band, Billy and the Beaters, and charted twice before the close of 1981 with songs from their eponymous album recorded live at the Roxy. Five years later, one of these minor hits, “At This Moment ” was featured in several episodes of NBC's Family Ties. The song rocketed up the charts and a 42-year-old Vera found himself with his very own number one single. Nine visits to Carson and an American Bandstand appearance later, Vera tasted many other flavors of success: acting both on- and off-camera, producing records, and reissuing his own work. Today, with a star on the Hollywood Walk and Fame and a Grammy in tow, he's finally prepared to share his journey (did we mention that he's also a photographer and music historian who documented every step of career?).

To sit down with Billy Vera is to take a personalized tour through nearly fifty years of entertainment history. Won't you come along for the ride?
Chely Wright, singer, songwriter, country music star, writes in this moving, telling memoir about her life and her career; about growing up in America’s heartland, the youngest of three children; about barely remembering a time when she didn’t know she was different.
 
She writes about her parents, putting down roots in their twenties in the farming town of Wellsville, Kansas, Old Glory flying atop the poles on the town’s manicured lawns, and being raised to believe that hard work, honesty, and determination would take her far.
 
She writes of making up her mind at a young age to become a country music star, knowing then that her feelings and crushes on girls were “sinful” and hoping and praying that she would somehow be “fixed.” (“Dear God, please don’t let me be gay. I promise not to lie. I promise not to steal. I promise to always believe in you . . . Please take it away.”)
 
We see her, high school homecoming queen, heading out on her own at seventeen and landing a job as a featured vocalist on the Ozark Jubilee (the show that started Brenda Lee, Red Foley, and Porter Wagoner), being cast in Country Music U.S.A., doing four live shows a day, and—after only a few months in Nashville—her dream coming true, performing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry . . .
 
She describes writing and singing her own songs for producers who’d discovered and recorded the likes of Reba McEntire, Shania Twain, and Toby Keith, who heard in her music something special and signed her to a record contract, releasing her first album and sending her out on the road on her first bus tour . . . She writes of sacrificing all for a shot at success that would come a couple of years later with her first hit single, “Shut Up And Drive” . . . her songs (from her fourth album, Single White Female) climbing the Billboard chart for twenty-nine weeks, hitting the #1 spot . . . 
 
She writes about the friends she made along the way—Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, and others—writing songs, recording and touring together, some of the friendships developing into romantic attachments that did not end happily . . . Keeping the truth of who she was clutched deep inside, trying to ignore it in a world she longed to be a part of—and now was—a world in which country music stars had never been, could not be, openly gay . . .
 
She writes of the very real prospect of losing everything she’d worked so hard to create . . . doing her best to have a real life—her best not good enough . . .
 
And in the face of everything she did to keep herself afloat, she writes about how the vortex of success and hiding who she was took its toll: her life, a tangled mess she didn’t see coming, didn’t want to; and, finally, finding the guts to untangle herself from the image of the country music star she’d become, an image steeped in long-standing ideals and notions about who—and what—a country artist is, and what their fans expect them to be . . .
 
I am a songwriter,” she writes. “I am a singer of my songs—and I have a story to tell. As I’ve traveled this path that has delivered me to where I am today, my monument of thanks, paying honor to God, remains. I will do all I can with what I have been given . . .”
 
Like Me is fearless, inspiring, true.
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning comes a “groundbreaking” (Time) approach to understanding and uprooting racism and inequality in our society—and in ourselves.

“The most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind.”—The New York Times

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Washington Post • Shelf Awareness • Library Journal • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At it's core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilites—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their posionous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

Praise for How to Be an Antiracist

“Ibram X. Kendi’s new book, How to Be an Antiracist, couldn’t come at a better time. . . . Kendi has gifted us with a book that is not only an essential instruction manual but also a memoir of the author’s own path from anti-black racism to anti-white racism and, finally, to antiracism. . . .  How to Be an Antiracist gives us a clear and compelling way to approach, as Kendi puts it in his introduction, ‘the basic struggle we’re all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see that others are fully human.’ ”—NPR

“Kendi dissects why in a society where so few people consider themselves to be racist the divisions and inequalities of racism remain so prevalent. How to Be an Antiracist punctures the myths of a post-racial America, examining what racism really is—and what we should do about it.”—Time
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A panoramic experience that tells the story of Beastie Boys, a book as unique as the band itself—by band members ADROCK and Mike D, with contributions from Amy Poehler, Colson Whitehead, Wes Anderson, Luc Sante, and more.
 

The inspiration for the Spike Jonze “live documentary” Beastie Boys Story, now streaming on Apple TV+
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Rolling Stone • The Guardian • Paste  

Formed as a New York City hardcore band in 1981, Beastie Boys struck an unlikely path to global hip hop superstardom. Here is their story, told for the first time in the words of the band. Adam “ADROCK” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond offer revealing and very funny accounts of their transition from teenage punks to budding rappers; their early collaboration with Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin; the debut album that became the first hip hop record ever to hit #1, Licensed to Ill—and the album’s messy fallout as the band broke with Def Jam; their move to Los Angeles and rebirth with the genre-defying masterpiece Paul’s Boutique; their evolution as musicians and social activists over the course of the classic albums Check Your Head, Ill Communication, and Hello Nasty and the Tibetan Freedom Concert benefits conceived by the late Adam “MCA” Yauch; and more. For more than thirty years, this band has had an inescapable and indelible influence on popular culture.
 
With a style as distinctive and eclectic as a Beastie Boys album, Beastie Boys Book upends the typical music memoir. Alongside the band narrative you will find rare photos, original illustrations, a cookbook by chef Roy Choi, a graphic novel, a map of Beastie Boys’ New York, mixtape playlists, pieces by guest contributors, and many more surprises.

Praise for Beastie Boys Book

“A fascinating, generous book with portraits and detail that float by in bursts of color . . . As with [the band’s] records, the book’s structure is a lyrical three-man weave. . . . Diamond’s voice is lapidary, droll. Horovitz comes on like a borscht belt comedian, but beneath that he is urgent, incredulous, kind of vulnerable. . . . Friendship is the book’s subject as much as music, fame and New York.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Wild, moving . . . resembles a Beastie Boys LP in its wild variety of styles.”—Rolling Stone
The New York Times Bestseller!

After decades of silence, Robyn Crawford, close friend, collaborator, and confidante of Whitney Houston, shares her story.

Whitney Houston is as big a superstar as the music business has ever known. She exploded on the scene in 1985 with her debut album and spent the next two decades dominating the charts and capturing the hearts of fans around the world. One person was there by her side through it all—her best friend, Robyn Crawford.

Since Whitney’s death in 2012, Robyn has stayed out of the limelight and held the great joys, wild adventures, and hard truths of her life with Whitney close to her heart. Now, for the first time ever, Crawford opens up in her memoir, A Song for You.

With warmth, candor, and an impressive recall of detail, Robyn describes the two meeting as teenagers in the 1980s, and how their lives and friendship evolved as Whitney recorded her first album and Robyn pursued her promising Division I basketball career. Together during countless sold-out world tours, behind the scenes as hit after hit was recorded, through Whitney’s marriage and the birth of her daughter, the two navigated often challenging families, great loves, and painful losses, always supporting each other with laughter and friendship.
 
Deeply personal and heartfelt, A Song for You is the vital, honest, and previously untold story that provides an understanding of the complex life of Whitney Houston. Finally, the person who knew her best sets the record straight.
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