Review: Un-Ashamed

“I started spending time in the library, researching books on religion and philosophy.” page 56

Un-Ashamed by Lecrae Moore, with Jonathan Merritt.
B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2016.
Autobiography, 204 pages including notes (211 pages including blank note space).

The autobiography of a “Christian rapper” who successfully transitioned to general rap spaces and overcame many personal challenges.

Un-Ashamed Lecrae resized
Un-Ashamed by Lecrae.

This one is from the library.  I knew it was somewhat religious, but didn’t realize just how Christian it was.  There definitely were points that could apply to everyone, but it also was very heavy on religion.  For example, his conversion experience takes up most of a chapter, while other aspects of his life are given much less detail.  Lecrae sees his life through the filter of Christianity and views everything with God’s purpose in mind.

I’ve reviewed other books that deal with religion: with a religious main character, attempting to educate others about a misunderstood religion, a character discovering their religious identity, and even tackling a non-fiction topic from a religious perspective.  After some debate, I elected to review this book, since I did finish it, and it fits the main objective of my blog (to review books by/about marginalized groups).

Despite his grandmother’s staunch religion, Lecrae was the last person you’d expect to grow up and become a Christian rapper.  In early childhood, he had many painful experiences having no connection with his biological father or any surrogate father figure.  His passages about how his lack of a father led him to act out might seem overwrought, but actually encapsulate the pain I’ve witnessed.  These were among the most moving in the book for me personally.  In the later half of the book, he talks a lot about his struggles as a husband who never had a successful relationship modeled for him as a child.

I was shocked at how honest this book was.   He lays his life bare including drug use, dealing, womanizing, stealing, and violence.  However, he doesn’t glorify these and provides a counterpoint with his hopes and dreams of a better life.  The dichotomy between his artistic self (that had to be denied to fit the black male stereotype) and his cultural and familial self (where he’s most comfortable) was fascinating.

Lecrae also delves into a struggle that I’ve read about before.  Having literally no male role models who were successful past their 20s, when he finally achieves the dream and gets a full ride to college on a scholarship, he finds himself completely adrift and at a loss as to who he is or what to do with his life, so he returns to the familiar old life for answers.  Some might read this thinking that he squandered amazing opportunities, and Lecrae himself agrees in the text.  But there also is the reality that he was entering an entirely foreign culture that was trying to negate all the signposts for black masculinity he’d followed so far in his life.  It’s great that he got a scholarship, but quite frankly, he needed more help.

However, Lecrae has a vision of his journey.  He talks about needing to learn to walk in his new life, recognizing that he would fall as he learned and that he needed helping hands there to get back on his feet and try walking again.  Definitely there were points where his imagery could be helpful to a teen or young adult walking the same road.

One interesting aspect of this book was little handwritten pages scanned into the book at various points.  Most were drafts of lyrics, while a few were journal entries.  Each chapter also starts off with a quotation from one of his songs.  The chapter titles may have had musical references as well, but I’m not familiar with his music enough to tell.  There are also two sections of full-color photographs with captions.  They are printed on the regular paper, not photo paper, but were very clear and visible.

Trigger warnings for sexual abuse of children and adults, drug use, abortion, domestic violence, gun violence, and heavy evangelical Christianity.

Not quite what I was looking for.  I liked the inspiration and appreciated how honest Lecrae was about his struggles, depression, and difficult times.  But this also showed the fallacy in choosing books just because they have a black author or main character – sometimes I unexpectedly love them and other times I’m underwhelmed.

However, I do think that a young man from a Christian family or seeking religion could potentially find answers, or a role model, in this book.  It also could be of use for those of you interested in reading conversion stories, or people who like Lecrae’s music.  I’ll tentatively recommend it to people who fit those categories.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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