Makes Me Wanna Holler

In MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER, Nathan McCall, a reporter for THE WASHINGTON POST, offers a compelling, sometimes disturbing, account of a life still in process. McCall refuses to impose premature closure on this process. There is neither a neat tying up of loose ends nor a comfortable summing up.

This book works most powerfully as a personal story. Before making it as a journalist, McCall served time for armed robbery. Before that, he had shot a man. These are climactic events in a story that includes gang violence, random beating of white boys simply because they were white boys, gang rapes of black girls simply because they were vulnerable. In depicting these horrors, McCall makes a bold stylistic choice. Apart from a few incidental comments that suggest a more mature perspective, McCall stays close to the perceptions of the troubled boy he was: Gang rapes are a form of male bonding, blacks must stick together, whites never give you a chance. McCall’s choice may prove troubling to some readers, who will infer that the mature McCall endorses the actions and attitudes of the boy he used to be.

To the attentive reader, however, it will be clear that McCall is being true to his subject, the process of growth. The style becomes more reflective as the protagonist matures, and the mature McCall looks back with growing lucidity at his earlier self.

McCall’s family background and home environment were more stable than those one typically associates with a pattern of violent and criminal behavior. In addition, convicted felons do not typically go on to successful careers in journalism and to the authorship of best selling books. What this book fails to illuminate is just what explains its author’s deviations—destructive at first, creative at last—from the norm. At this stage, it seems, McCall sees himself as an example, as a young black man in America; he has not yet come completely to terms with himself as an individual. The process continues.