Matthews, David 1967(?)- (David Ralph Matthews)

views updated

Matthews, David 1967(?)- (David Ralph Matthews)


Born c. 1967; son of Ralph Matthews, Jr. (a journalist and activist).


Writer and memoirist. Guest on television programs, including the Tavis Smiley Show and the CBS Sunday Morning Show.


Ace of Spades: A Memoir, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2007.


Author and memoirist David Matthews explores timeless issues of race, poverty, and the search for individual identity in Ace of Spades: A Memoir, his chronicle of growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, during the 1970s and 1980s. Matthews, the son of an African American father and a Jewish mother, faced his early life without his mother; schizophrenic, she abandoned him and disappeared shortly after his birth. His father, a prominent black journalist and activist who was friends with such prominent black figures as Malcolm X and Miles Davis, worked to raise him, sometimes helped, sometimes hindered by the other women in his life. At least one of his father's girlfriends was kind and nurturing, but others were indifferent at best, and viciously abusive at worst. Within this turbulent atmosphere, Matthews confronted issues of being racially mixed early in his life. He was born light-skinned, and his skin tone and features allowed him to pass as white. When pressed about his racial heritage by curious and menacing classmates at a new school, Matthews declared to them that he was white. After experiencing violence and robberies committed against him by blacks, he denied the African American elements of his background, much to his father's anger. As he grew and matured, the young Matthews increasingly considered himself to be white, both as his individual identity and as a defense against the hostile world around him. Difficulties with school ensued, and Matthews eventually became involved with drugs and petty crime. However, the influence of his kindly grandmother, who helped raise him, helped keep him centered. Through it all, he remained curious about his absent mother, but few answers were forthcoming.

Though he dropped out of high school, Matthews remained a constant reader, intellectually curious despite his surroundings. He finally obtained a GED and attended college. Eventually, he located some of his mother's family members, who told him about her life and history of mental illness. Tragically, they also informed him that she had died. As unanswered questions about his family's past were resolved, Matthews developed a new appreciation for his father and the hardships that the man endured while raising his son. Matthews's own struggles eventually illuminate his concepts of race and help him come to terms with who he is. "In this stylish, astute, often frustrating memoir, Matthews examines the zigzags in his path between black and white identities before finally settling somewhere in between," observed New York Times Book Review critic Bliss Broyard.

Booklist reviewer Vernon Ford called the book a "loving portrait of a close relationship between a father and son" that was "slightly delayed by the fog of race." Coloradoan reviewer Erin Texiera noted that Matthews's memoir "is not a happy read. Yet Matthews' admirable honesty and mostly fluid writing are enticing—and he doesn't bother with blame or self-pity. Instead, the memoir comes off as an important primary source about the tortured byways of racial integration in the 1970s, especially as lived by one lonely, confused child," Texiera concluded. "The journey of Ace of Spades is one every high school student ought to read, as it is a discussion of race that's candid, complicated and, most of all, necessary," commented John Stoehr in the Savannah Morning News. A Kirkus Reviews critic remarked that Matthews "shows remarkable energy and imagination, as well as appealing self-deprecation, in his tale of success erected on a foundation of failure."



Matthews, David, Ace of Spades: A Memoir, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2007.


Baltimore Sun, March 1, 2007, Philana Patterson, "Hiding in Plain Sight," review of Ace of Spades.

Booklist, October 1, 2006, review of Ace of Spades, p. 22.

Coloradoan (Ft. Collins, CO), April 2, 2007, Erin Texiera, "Memoir a Haunting Tale of Biracial Angst," review of Ace of Spades.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2006, review of Ace of Spades, p. 1001.

Library Journal, October 1, 2006, "Prepub Alert," review of Ace of Spades, p. 48.

New York Times Book Review, February 11, 2007, Bliss Broyard, "Half and Half," review of Ace of Spades, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, October 23, 2006, review of Ace of Spades, p. 41.

Savannah Morning News, January 14, 2007, John Stoehr, "The Passing of David Matthews," review of Ace of Spades.


Henry Holt Web site, (April 2, 2007), biography of David Matthews.

Memoirville, (February 7, 2007), Rachel Kramer Bussel, interview with David Matthews.

About this article

Matthews, David 1967(?)- (David Ralph Matthews)

Updated About content Print Article