Authors Showcase: Forgery of the Month Club by Keith L. T. Alexander
November 8, 2014
The Book: Forgery of the Month Club
The Author: Keith L. T. Alexander
The Story: Keith Alexander’s mother was a Jewish woman from the Midwest who taught him early on that getting a job was not necessary. His father, a married African-American lawyer who was born in Mississippi, was cold and unapproachable. As Keith grew up, he and his sister watched their mother prove her point about making a living on the fringes of society. A single parent, Anita Alexander supported her two biracial children by stealing and forging.
The story is set in Chicago – but far from the South Side which had so many black residents that it was commonly known as Bronzeville. Keith was raised a Jew in a white, liberal community and, until he was a teenager, had few relationships with black people.
Considered intelligent but undisciplined by school officials, Keith nevertheless made good grades. However, by the age of eight years old, he had also become a thief. Over the next dozen years, Keith shirked opportunities in the square world, and instead tried to follow in his mother’s footsteps even as his sister, Lin, moved further away from both of them.
Eventually, Lin is accepted into the University of Chicago which leaves Keith alone with his mom. The two of them work together in schemes that range from eccentric (a castle built in their backyard and a human powered flying machine) to felonious (buying houses by giving the bank forged documents).
In the end, however, Keith falls in love and, rather than lose his future wife, he decides to go straight.
About Keith Alexander:
Keith L T Alexander has worked as a ghost writer and has taught writing at the University of Michigan. He has an MFA from University of California at San Diego and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He holds US Patent 5,349,470 and has served under Michigan Governors Engler and Granholm. Alexander was Pardoned by Illinois Governor in 2011. Alexander lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his daughter, Hannah.
He enjoys rainy weather, warm climates, writing, friends, home, maps, animals, art, water, nature, bicycles, real estate, family history, Judaica, swimming and heist movies. He is currently adapting this memoir into a screenplay.
Review by Rapid Reader Reviewer: This is an exceptionally well-written book that kept me turning the pages feverishly. And it’s all true, according to the author. Though he positions it as being about his mother, it’s as much about him as her. I’d classify this as a “coming of age” memoir which reads like a well-crafted novel.
Typical of this genre, you’ll feel as if there is a little bit of everyone in Keith Alexander, the author and the main protagonist. Few of us, though, have had his experiences, just perhaps his emotions, which run furiously as he witnesses scheme after scheme that his mother pulls off to feed her family, not to mention avoiding the work-a-day life she abhors and passes this sentiment off to her son too.
Not the best example for her children, this off-beat Jewish matriarch who raised two “black children” (they’re actually one-half Jewish, but dark complected) is amazing in her brazenness and cavalier attitude toward conventional life and basic honesty. Being raised by a professional thief was not easy, but it sure wasn’t boring, nor is this book. You’ve probably never known people like the true-to-life characters between the pages. That’s what make it so interesting. And you’d never imagine that someone growing up in this depraved and deprived environment would wind up with several university degrees as the author eventually did; his sister too.
Honest about his own rage, you can feel his pain when he looks back on some of dubious things he did growing up. Some of it is pathetic, some dramatic, some understandable and some of it is just hilarious,like when he tried (and was successful) at being discharged from the Navy by feigning lunacy. What makes the few funny parts so amusing is the author doesn’t try his hand at comedy, it’s just naturally funny the way he boldly tells the truth, no matter how bad is sounds.
I can’t imagine that anyone growing up in the 20th century won’t like this book. It has everything–including some typos and awkward grammar, but just here and there. Generally it read pretty good! This guy knows how to write! Don’t miss it if you like to learn about life and be entertained, amused, spell-bound, outraged, and maybe even grateful…that you didn’t have to grow up in his household. But you can be there, through this book, which is a life experience unto itself.
Review by Siobhen Whellens: Forgery of the Month Club, by Keith L.T. Alexander, is a both a moving coming of age memoir and a story of his eccentric, creative and thoroughly unique mother, Anita.
Through Anita’s bohemian lifestyle, young Keith is accustomed to mingling with social misfits whose morality is elastic when it comes to making a buck. It seems inevitable, therefore, that when Anita is strapped for cash, she refuses to consider ordinary drudge work, opting instead for the quick returns of thieving to make ends meet. Eventually, she decides to employ her artistic brilliance in forging artworks, with young Keith acting as her reluctant Artful Dodger.Told through the eyes of Keith as a little boy, ‘Forgery of the Month Club – a memoir’ recalls Keith’s hatred of poverty, and struggles to come to terms with his mother’s criminal activity.
It’s hard to say which is more impressive – Anita’s brilliant ways of obtaining purchases without actually parting from her money, or the audacity she shows to become such a successful thief.
Adding to Keith’s discomfort are his youthful feelings of anger and alienation as a mixed-race boy within a white community and his longing for a connection with his emotionally distant father. Forgery of the Month Club is a compelling memoir, as the reader accompanies him on his life journey from self-conscious little boy into the successful and responsible father he is today.
I couldn’t put this book down! Keith Alexander’s writing technique draws the reader in, and our emotional connection with young Keith strengthens with every page. A fantastic read!