PERSONAL: Married Amy Osburn (divorced); children: Forrest and Wyatt. Education: Attended Sacramento City College and Fresno State University.
CAREER: Author and journalist. Has written for Might, L.A. Weekly, and ESPN: The Magazine.
Ghetto Celebrity: Searching for My Father in Me (memoir), Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to Jointz, Source, and the Los Angeles Times.
WORK IN PROGRESS: "Fiction about a three-tool punter who transforms pro football."
SIDELIGHTS: Donnell Alexander was raised in Sandusky, Ohio, where his petty-criminal father, Delbert, abandoned his family early on. Alexander left Ohio and attended college in California. He made his way to Los Angeles, where he built a freelance writing career covering popular culture and sports. Eventually, Alexander's talents took him to ESPN: The Magazine and brought him within reach of the New York publishing world.
Alexander's memoir Ghetto Celebrity: Searching for the Delbert in Me covers his entire life, from Sandusky, through college and his now-defunct marriage, to the birth and raising of his two children, his freelance and magazine jobs and the lifestyle he enjoyed as a result of them. Throughout it all weaves the presence of his father, Delbert, whom Alexander seeks out when he is in his thirties. Ghetto Celebrity becomes Alexander's discovery of how much of Delbert is in him and how that reconciles with how he sees himself and his own young family. Carina Chocano, writing for Entertainment Weekly, found this to be the strength of the book, in that Alexander is most "effective exploring his conflicted feelings about his background, his interracial marriage, and the legacy of his father."
Reviewing the book for Library Journal, Bill Piekarski praised the author's "rhythmic, inventive, liquid prose." Andy Battaglia of the Onion A.V. Club noted, "The book mines interesting racial terrain in accounts of articles on ghettoized figures like basketball player Latrell Sprewell and rap group The Pharcyde, but Alexander's self-regard makes the story more about him than his work." However, Battaglia found that while "the manic mix makes for more slop than it should . . . when its heart takes the stage, Ghetto Celebrity filters the blood of family down to a healing tonic." Darryl Lorenzo Wellington of American Journalism Review felt that the book was "an intermittently enjoyable read—by an author with a smart style and interesting, if self-indulgent, observations." While Wellington felt that Alexander was "too much the braggart, and too defensive regarding his ghetto identity," he also praised his "real gift for quick-witted writing, loaded with stinging phrases." A reviewer for Kirkus Reviews took a similar tack, put off by Alexander's "increasingly wearying" placement of his persona at the center of "the cultural milieu he loves." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly, was impressed by the "dizzying memoir, which shifts seamlessly from one literary style to the next," and felt that "Alexander has given his inner demons a powerful voice, only to shout them down and prove himself at the top of his game."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Journalism Review, October-November, 2003, Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, review of Ghetto Celebrity: Searching for My Father in Me, p.87.
Booklist, May 1, 2003, John Green, review of GhettoCelebrity, p. 1567.
Entertainment Weekly, June 20, 2003, Carina Chocano, review of Ghetto Celebrity, p. 76.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of GhettoCelebrity, p. 579.
Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Bill Piekarski, review of Ghetto Celebrity, p. 128.
Publishers Weekly, May 5, 2003, review of GhettoCelebrity, p. 212.
Baltimore City Paper,http://www.citypaper.com/ (July 2-July 8, 2003), Patrick Sullivan, review of Ghetto Celebrity.
Boston Phoenix,http://www.bostonphoenix.com/ (May 28, 2004), Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, review of Ghetto Celebrity.
Donnell Alexander Home Page,http://www.ghettocelebrity.com/ (March 6, 2003).
New York Press,http://www.nypress.com/ (March 6, 2003), Andy Wang, review of Ghetto Celebrity.
Onion A.V. Club,http://www.theonionavclub.com/ (July 9, 2003), Andy Battaglia, review of Ghetto Celebrity.
Star Tribune,http://www.startribune.com/ (June 29, 2003), Emily Carter, review of Ghetto Celebrity.