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Nathan McCall Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America : (Vintage Press 1995)  

From Subject
Ashaki Baker Review of McCall's MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER (BAKER)
Hurtado review: MAKES ME WANNA... (Hurtado)
"David G.Lewis" <dglewis@ilstu.edu>  Review of McCall, MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER (Lewis)
Johnna Jackson <jmjacks@ilstu.edu> McCall Review (Jackson)
marji <maswans@ilstu.edu>  Review of McCall, MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER (Swanson)

Date: Thu, 13 Apr 1995 10:32:54 -0500 
From: Ashaki Baker 
Subject: Review of McCall's MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER (BAKER) 


Reviewed by Ashaki Baker Illinois State University

African American males needed a modern day voice besides the climbing and overwhelming statistics about crime and incarceration rates of African American males. Now African American males have that modern day voice. Nathan Mccall's MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER expresses the paranoia, frustration and fear that accompanies the plight of the African American male in the 1990's. McCall provides a view to some of the problems tormenting African American males. McCall examines situations like dealing with fatherhood and the responsibilities that result from becoming an father, the negative treatment of Black women, lack or adequate black male role models, unemployment, incarceration, racism, and discrimination on the job.

McCall perpetuates the negative stereotypes by unconsciously contributing to the demise of African American women. McCall disrespect's the African American women he comes in contact with, he does however love, respect, and admire both his mother and his grandmother. Because of his paranoia, insecurity, and frustration he can not function as a giving, sharing, and normal contributing person in society. McCall's problems with women stem from a need to fit in. African-American males can relate to this struggle. African American men feel tremendous pressure from their peers, parents, and from society to sink or swim. Learning from books is viewed as dorky or uncool so African American men receive their education from the streets of ghettos, peers, and yes more often than not jail or prison cells. African American women are treated as objects of pleasure and support and to be further victimized and trampled up on, rather than uplifted and upheld. During his youth McCall recalls how he and his homeboys watched trains being run on girls and later even participated in such activities. Example of how one of the victims was convinced have sex with her.

Look baby if you let one of us do it then the rest of them will be satisfied and they'll let you go. But if you do not let at least one of us do it then them other dudes gon' get mad and they ain't gonna wanna let you leave.. p 46. The idea of running a train on girls, McCall points out had nothing really to do with sex. Even though it involved sex it did not seem to be about sex at all. McCall explains his rational in the book in the following way: It was a macho thing using a member of one of the most vulnerable groups of human beings on the face of the earth -Black females- it was another way for a guy to show the other fellas how cold and hard he was.. p 50.

African American women have been victimized by African American men sexually, emotionally, and physically for decades. McCall comments on how the struggle to treat African American women approximately loses out to wanting to belong and being macho. Often African American males involved in trains are faced with the decision joining in or saving the female. Unfortunately for McCall can relate to this dilemma and describes his struggle before the first train he participated in. Something in me wanted to reach out and do what I knew was right-- do what we all instinctively knew was right: lean down grab Vanessa's hand and lead her from that room and out of the house: walk her home and apologize for our temporary lapse of sanity: tell her, "Try as best as possible to forget any of this ever happened" p 47.

The struggle between making ethical decisions above giving into peer pressure often results in the reign of peer pressure. It is not that African American youth are not taught right from wrong or that McCall's step father was not providing an appropriate example. The lucrative scenes and activities of friends and the streets weight heavier on African American adolescents minds than ethical behavior. African American American adolescents struggle with the tremendous frustration of trying to gain respect. The struggle to gain respect more often than not leads to a life of crime and violence. Black men often choose street life over legitimate work for the immediate gratification it provides and respect they imagine they gain.

The activities that occur in the streets provide immediate gratification that hard, honest, and legitimate work can not provide. The proverb "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence" is a guiding force that pushes African American men to illegitimate means to support themselves. The frustration of discrimination, along with pressure of peers leads otherwise rational, clear thinking, and functional African American men to choose a life of crime. African American men often see their parent(s) struggling trying to make ends meet with legitimate jobs. The glamour of the streets and its activities calls to the adolescents. The temptation of being able to have whatever you want without waiting seems to convince African American men that illegitimate work is more rewarding than hard honest work. For McCall the idea of honest work provided him with two different philosophies. McCall struggled through his youth to cope with the injustices, frustrations, and lack of immediate rewards of legitimate work. I wanted badly to prove with that job that I wasn't scared of work, but it required painful psychic sacrifices to remain employed. It required me to take humiliation daily from a supervisor who seemed to think he'd been a slave master in another life... p 89.

On another note McCall struggled with the idea that by taking these orders and holding his tongue his homeboys would probably view him as losing respect. The idea that hard and respected individuals do not take and crap from anyone, especially the white man, conflicts with the idea that African Americans must be "PASSIVE" or "GOOD NIGGERS" to accomplishes anything in today's society. For McCall this ideology is real, The construction job forced me to develop two personalities that kept me in conflict with myself: Away from work I was the baad-assed nigger who demanded respect: on the job I was a passive Negro who let the white man push him around. The suppression of my pride tore me up inside and messed with my head in a big way. p 89

McCall's early experiences with work made him bitter and also was a guiding force that drove him to a life of crime. The time in prison convinced him that the work ethic his parents tried to instill in him was correct. This can be evidence by look at an excerpt from his book. I'd realized during my time in prison that a lot of the lessons he'd tried to teach my brothers am me-especially lessons about the dignity of work-- work were on the money. Sitting there, I wanted to let him know that I was beginning to see life differently and tell him I better understood where he was coming from. p 211

McCall never really recovers from his feeling of inadequacy towards whites. he also has tremendous amount of insecurity, can not coping with standards of socialization set by his employers, has problems and adapting to interacting with coworkers, other black professionals, with members of different races (especially whites). These problems are a result of earlier experience both in school and on the job. People did not realize how traumatic childhood experiences especially those that involved abuse or racial issues.

African American adolescents, like most adolescent have a sense of immorality. McCall describes this concept in his book in the following excerpt: Everytime I went out on a job I told myself it would be the last. And each time often that I found a reason to go out one more time...p 138. McCall further illustrates this idea about immorality African American men feel when talks his about time prison and his life after ward. McCall comments on how brothers have a "revolving door" out look because they each either the lack family support are married to the high, or because they are again lured into the streets by fantasies and riches of quick and easy money. For McCall it is not such a hard struggle because he has the drive and the family support, but every but everyone he encounters this is not the true. McCall illustrates this point in a passage from his book: "Cause, man, I'm a junkie."... It's like a woman. knows is no good for her, but who makes love to her so well that she can't let him go even if he drags her into the gutter that her-ron make love to me man and I can't let it go p 155. The character was explaining why even though he has some knowledge of how the system works and education to sustain that knowledge his addiction pulls more weight that his longing to go legitimate.

The idea of fatherhood is scary to most stable and rational men, but for African American men it is a very frightening and disturbing concept. These anxieties more often than not result from lack of a father figure, insecurities, and immaturity. For McCall the idea of fatherhood is a very foreign and scary situation to face. McCall's is uncomfortable with the idea of fatherhood and is unsure of what that responsibility entails. For most African American men the lack of an adequate father figure or the absence of the biological father imposes self-doubt and insecurity. McCall youth was filled with turmoil, fear, and uncertainty; from his story one can ascertain that early in his youth he was afraid of life outside the safe boundaries of high school. McCall explains his lack of emotional ties and worries after the birth of both of his sons:  

I didn't feel the joy I thought fathers were supposed to feel. If anything, I felt fear "How was I going to guide a new life when I couldn't even direct my own?" "What could one child do for another child.... p 114

McCall's books does not glorify the choices he made nor does he excuse or absolve himself for his treatment of people. McCall's book simply explains his philosophies. Even though these philosophies may seem radical or even racial to some they are his views of life and his experiences. McCall does not offer solutions to the problems discussed in his book, he only tells his story and how he overcame the odds. His book is both informative and thought provoking, he really captures the plight of the African American male in the 1990's. Although his book in no way excuses the behavior it provides insight into how youth disappear into the ranks of gangs and clutches of drugs, and violence.  

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Date: Mon, 17 Apr 1995 10:12:18 -0500 
From: Marilyn Hurtado
Subject: review: MAKES ME WANNA... (Hurtado) 

Review: Makes Me Wanna Holler

By: Marilyn Hurtado  

Conflict with whitestream America is the focus of Nathan McCalls' book. But the underlying tone of his conflict is with himself and the way he projects his generalizations on whites, bourgeoisie blacks, and low-income blacks. Throughout the book Nathan refers everything to life as being resulted by white racists and black injustice. He states that most black men in America feel this hatred towards the 'American system'. Nathan writes an autobiography of his life and reflects certain periods which affect his character today. He reverently admits to hating whites and illustrates it with bold grammer as though he's yelling out loud in his frustration. His honest and sincere thoughts permeate throughout the book which reflect his anger and paranoia. His crimes are not justified by his honesty, but they explain what a criminal can be thinking and maybe why he did such crimes.

This book delivers a peephole into low-middleclass black America. I believe it can change the perception or at least give an introductory insight of what most black men go through; instead of a polished television series like, "What's Happening". Most of his encounters with white society were negative and humiliating which can be somewhat be justified in his opinion and views.

Facing these situations of reality for most black men can be trifling for anyone in the world. Nathan discusses his upbringing and socialization as some type of an enclave in America, only occasionally interupted by whites: Whom created and presently are directing this enclave. Later through his life experiencing prison, religion, relationships (women), and working with whitestream America; he presents a type of sadness and fear that depicts his life as well as blacks in general. He believes that prison taught him to appreciate life and quench his thirst for knowledge: As well as his struggle with religion being a dichotomy that fueled his fire. McCall addresses the influence of certain individuals in prison, such as Mo Battle from the Norfolk jail to Jim from the Southampton penitentiary; whom he says opened his eyes to the truth. McCall applies Mo Battle's principle of consequences: Mo said that life was like chess and there are consequences for every move. He also writes how Christianity is the white mans' religion to control and steer blacks. He was told by Jim, a respected inmate at Southampton; that the prison administration was supportive of the Christian fellowship group, but often suspended rules for the Muslims: This sealed McCalls' split from Christianity. These lessons or ideas learned and applied by Nathan McCall, shows that prison life is able to rehabilitate individuals. It takes the courage and willingness of the individual to combat several obstacles that stand in the path of freedom and success.

Stories of women presented in his life tend to be somewhat biased because we only know one side of the story, which anyone can relate to in their life. His professional career was as complex as his relationships; he seemed that he couldn't trust anyone and at times was highly paranoid. He felt caught in the middle between working with whites and hanging with the homies or assimilating with the bourgeoisie blacks. Later in life he deals with confronting these stereotypes or generalizations about whites or bourgeoisie blacks. He mentions in one chapter, Danny, a liberal jewish white man who McCall learns to trust and respect; but he also believes that Danny is not your average white man.

Nathan McCalls' memoir dealt with conflictions of a black man in America and his belief of whitestream America; which most black men tend to share. His book, simple and powerful illustrate his triumph over most battles dealt with respect, dignity, and power. This book is very controversial in that much of what I read can clearly be understood, but other actions, such as trains (rape), B&Es (breaking and entering), and stick-ups (armed robbery) are not excusable because racism exists. This bluntly cannot be tolerated. Nathan McCall considers himself an average low- middleclass blackman; whom has beaten the system to a degree.

-- Marilyn Hurtado Political Science Dept. Illinois State University

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Date: Mon, 17 Apr 1995 10:13:56 -0500 
From: "David G.Lewis" <dglewis@ilstu.edu> 
Subject: Review of McCall, MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER (Lewis) 

Reviewed By: David G. Lewis Illinois State University March 25, 1995

Life isn't easy, however for a black man in America, life is a continuos journey of frustration and oppression. In recounting his story Nathan McCall talks about the lack of respect that black men face on a day to day basis. McCall attempts to go deep into the psychic of the black male and show that the easy answers-unemployment, single parent household, lack of education-do not always explain the demise of the black male.

According to McCall, black males have always had a major concern with the issue of respect. Blacks have been disrespected by whites for such a long time that they protect what little amount of self-respect they have remaining by whatever means necessary. This accounts for the high levels of violence experienced among black males. This lack of respect leads to major struggles for (relatively minor amounts of) power. This power struggle takes place in the streets.

As a young man entering the work force, McCall experiences the dual life-style that so many black males struggle with. On the streets he was considered a "baad- assed nigger who demanded respect;" on the job he was a "passive Negro who let the white man push him around". This is a major issue that black males struggle with upon entering the work force. On the streets physical aggressiveness is an attribute that one has to have in order to be respected, however this same trait is not tolerated in the work force. McCall experiences this in the summer of 1971, when at age sixteen he gets a job as a helper at a construction site. He clashes with the supervisor almost immediately and ends up in a verbal confrontation with him. In McCall's attempt to defend his manhood he is fired. This enhances his hatred for whites. McCall, like many other black males used this treatment by whites as a justification for earning money through criminal activity.

McCall's attempt to survive outside mainstream society is brought to an end by a prison sentence handed down to him for robbing a McDonald's restaurant. This sentence is looked on as another racist judgment by McCall, who had shot a black male previously (the bullet barely missed the guy's heart) and received a three hundred dollar fine, one year probation and a thirty-day jail sentence. The robbery of a white business (in which no physical harm took place) nets him a twelve year prison sentence.

While serving time in prison McCall reads Richard Wright's book Native Son. For the first time in his life he actually confronts his feelings of restless anger, hopelessness and his deep-seated fear of whites. This deep- seated fear of whites never really leaves McCall and resurfaces as paranoia later on in his professional life at the Washington Post, where he believes that all whites are out to get him. The power issue resurfaces once again with McCall while in prison. McCall first looked towards Christianity to find himself however he later meets a Muslim brother who teaches him that whites have used Christianity to control blacks for many years. The Muslim faith becomes very attractive to McCall because it builds off his existing dislike for whites. McCall is attracted to the Muslim faith for the same reason so many blacks today are attracted to the faith. The message of economic empowerment, the realistic approach to racial issues, and the willingness of the nation to try different approaches to age old problems appealed to McCall. He continued to practice the Muslim faith while incarcerated, however discontinued his fellowship with the faith due to restrictions on his personal freedom placed on him in which he had conflicts with.

The seeds of distrust for white people was planted in McCall during his childhood experiences in Jr. High and further enhanced during his period of incarceration. These seeds however really begin to bloom during his journalism career. His deep-seated fear of whites manifest itself in the paranoia he experiences at his first professional job as a journalist with the "Virginian Pilot-Ledger Star.". He distrusts his co-workers and views their invitations to social gatherings with skepticism. This leads to a state of confusion with McCall because he can't relate to whites and the blacks he runs into don't relate to him. This is a dilemma that many middle class blacks deal with. Ellis Cose talks about this in his book The Rage Of A Privileged Class, the feeling has been described as one of voidness, a vacuity if you will. McCall likens his adapting to the white mainstream a lot like his learning to survive in prison: "You had to go in and check out the lay of the land. You had to identify the vipers and the cutthroats and play the game by rules that are alien to nature and foreign to any civilized society." McCall states that prison prepared him for that challenge.

McCall touches on some very emotional issues that attempt to explain how black men feel and why they do some of the things in which they do. I think he gets his point across in a pain stakingly honest manner. I don't think he is trying to make an excuse for his behavior or looking for forgiveness from his readers. He sums up how he feels about being a black man in America with the title of the book (which comes from a Marvin Gaye record) "Makes me wanna Holler." I like McCall wish that brothers everywhere would reach deep down inside them and summon the will to overcome the inner hatred driving them to self destruct.

David G. Lewis Illinois State University dglewis@ilstu.edu    

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Date: Mon, 11 Mar 1996 10:12:41 -0600 
From: Johnna Jackson <jmjacks@ilstu.edu> 
Subject: McCall Review (Jackson) 

Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America By: Nathan McCall

Reviewed by: Johnna Jackson 3-11-96  

Anger and Confusion. These two small words make up large proportions of Nathan McCall's life. When you first meet Nathan he is attacking a white boy with his friends just because the white boy happened to be riding his bicycle through their neighborhood (He's about seventeen or so about this point.). In his mind beating up those white boys was like "beating all white people on behalf of blacks". This was him and his friends way of "getting some get back", (regardless of whether or not they are getting it from the right person) for all of the things white people had done to him. Throughout the book he continually "attacks" other people, whether they deserve it or not, because of the anger he has inside. These attacks aren't limited to white boys either. They apply to almost everyone around him: his parents, women, poor people, etc. The attacks aren't always physical, but they carry the same weight.

Nathan grew up in a large middle to working-class neighborhood in Portsmouth, Virginia with a loving mother, a stepfather (the only father he has ever really known), and four brothers. The neighborhood was christened Cavalier Manor and in Nathan's own words, was filled with surrogate parents. The feeling I got was that everyone was looking out for everyone else, like a close knit family.

Race has always been prominent in Nathan's life. Even as a small boy of seven or eight he realized that whites were the favored race and that his skin color would be a burden to him. At first he was obsessed with the differences, but then he begins to resent it. When his mother made him and his brothers dress meticulously and remain quiet in public places with whites, there was a confusion because white children were running wild. But if Nathan even started to get out of line his mother would sternly tell him "to stop acting like a nigger". I would think that this would build resentment.

When Nathan turned thirteen he was finally allowed to go with his stepfather and brothers to work in Sterling Point, a wealthy, white neighborhood. His stepfather did gardening work for different families in the neighborhood and this is where Nathan got his first glimpse of how people can humiliate and downgrade each other. His stepfathers clients talked down to him as if he were a child and worst of all, referred to him by his first name. While his stepfather used his clients last name (Mrs. Davis), she referred to him as Bonnie. It was as if he weren't an adult or not as important. After being so excited about finally being allowed to go, Nathan resented the interactions of his stepfather and the whites that the money was no longer longed for. More resentment set in.

For a short time in 1966 Nathan attended an all-white junior high school, called Alfred J. Mapp. At first he felt special and smarter than his brothers who would be attending all-black schools, but soon, after many racial slurs and slights the allure wore off. When he couldn't take anymore abuse his parents finally transferred him to W.E. Waters, an all-black school. Nathan couldn't understand how whites could hate him just for his color, but he soon learned to hate just as much as them.

Life was easier at W.E. Waters, but Nathan quickly went from having good grades and liking school to hanging out with friends and skipping school just to be cool. Being the sharpest dressed or the best joner became more important than straight A's. Looking up to older guys, mostly thugs, may have been the beginning of Nathan's troubles. After a while Nathan had a close knit set of friends, a camaraderie he had never known. This camaraderie led him to stealing, riding in stolen cars, trains, and eventually much, much more.

After watching older guys run trains (several men raping one woman successively) on different women, Nathan and his buddies decided they should give it a try. After the first one Nathan describes feeling sick and not wanting to do it, but they didn't stop at that first one and he never apologized to those women, not even when he ran into some of them later in his life. He says that he always wondered what they were thinking, but common sense tells you that they were terrified and humiliated. They treated those girls like some white people had treated them, only ten times worse. They destroyed the very women they were supposed to love.

Not long after the trains began, Nathan and his buddies started to get into bigger things from robbing people at gun point in the lower income housing areas, breaking and entering houses in their own neighborhood, to Nathan shooting another black man for "disrespecting" his girlfriend. For this he got thirty days in jail for assault, a $300 fine for possession of a firearm and one years probation. All of this was happening while he began attending college and becoming a father for the first time.

College lost its shine after a while and Nathan went back to the same old thing. Only now it included selling drugs, too (though unsuccessfully). Eventually, Nathan gets busted for sticking up a McDonald's and this time he gets twelve years, but ends up serving three. While in prison Nathan goes through a lot of changes. He makes the big step of deciding to make it on his own instead of hooking up with his old partners in jail. He also chose to educate himself.

Nathan is eventually released from prison back into the world to realize how hard getting a job would be, but he starts college again at Norfolk State and this time really gives it a chance. After having taken a printing program in prison he headed in the direction of journalism at Norfolk. He eventually began working for his hometown paper, The Virginian Pilot-Ledger Star. He discusses the culture shock of working amongst so many whites and how he felt that he had to change his mannerisms (the way he talks, walks, what he wears) and that he always felt like they were staring at him. He also had to deal with his old friends from the neighborhood. Many looked upon him as a traitor or an Uncle Tom because he was working for the white man.

Over the years Nathan moves up the ranks as a journalist and eventually works for the Journal-Constitution in Atlanta, Georgia and then for the Washington Post in D.C. Along the way he marries a woman he doesn't love (Debbie) so that he can do what is right for the two children he has by this woman because he doesn't want to be seen as one of those black men who go around having babies with a bunch of women. Which is ironic considering he has a child by Liz, two children by Debbie, and possibly more considering he ignored the women who said they were pregnant by him when he was younger. He and Debbie do end up divorcing and Nathan feels he is given an unjustlyhigh amount of child support to pay since he has this cycle of legal fees to pay, too. Once again he is thinking about himself instead of who he should be considering, his kids.

Throughout the book he considers all whites to be racist and the root cause of all of his problems, but near the end he realizes that not all white people are out to get him and it is even possible to be friends with them. In my opinion, Nathan McCall went from being a mischievous little boy, to an awful, gang-banging teenager and young adult, but then he begins to evolve and get past the point of always going along with your buddies, no matter what. I don't know why he took the path in life that he did. I know he has a lot of rage, but he can't fall back on a single-parent family or an unloving community to blame his troubles on. Most of all this book drives me crazy because he disrespects women throughout and then points out how wrong other people are for the things they do to women. Nathan does admit how wrong he is for hurting his mother by getting into so much trouble and how his stepfather always tried to keep him on the straight and narrow. Also, he finally confesses that he respects his stepfather for all of the work he did for his family and how much crap he took on those jobs. Much of the book talks about the bad things that happened to Nathan (and a lot of bad things did happen), but I think he needs to think more about all of the innocent people he hurt and disrespected and how that might make them wanna holler!!

-- Johnna Jackson JMJACKS@ilstu.edu

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Date: Mon, 11 Mar 1996 10:23:48 -0600 
From: Marji Swanson <maswans@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Review of McCall, MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER (Swanson) 

removed per request of student

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