Soledad O’Brien — An Afro-Latina by Birth and Journalist by Choice – Book Review

Soledad O'Brien The Next Big Story

Originally written some time in 2011.

Book review:

Soledad O’Brien, CNN anchor and special correspondent, shares her life story and behind-the-scenes career experiences in her book “The Next Big Story,” co-written with Rose Marie Arce.

The book, published by Celebra, begins with her childhood in Smithtown, Long Island (a predominantly white suburb of New York City) growing up as a biracial child — half Afro-Cuban and half Australian.

The daughter of a mechanical engineering professor and a French and English teacher, O’Brien, the fifth of sixth children, followed her siblings to Harvard. In the midst of her pre-med studies, O’Brien discovered journalism — and fell in love with it.

She took a semester off from school to intern her junior year at WBZ-TV. When she returned to Harvard, she switched her major to journalism and never looked back.

Yet, reflecting on her childhood growing up in a white suburb as a biracial child in the 1970s causes O’Brien to view life and approach her work from a different perspective.

For example, O’Brien confesses how her parents taught her to identify herself as “black.” As a result, she saw and experienced life as a black/Latina. It was a perspective that she felt compelled to share when she decided to take the “crazy mission to tell the story of what it is means to be Black in America” and decided to film a documentary about it along with a crew from CNN.

After releasing “Black in America,” O’Brien decided to make her next documentary “Latino in America” because, as she states, “We are the majority minority now. All minorities combined will comprise the majority in 2032.”

Being a reporter for a national news organization like CNN affords O’Brien the opportunity to travel across the country to cover stories destined to be in the history books. Hurricane Katrina was one of those stories.

According to O’Brien, when she arrived at New Orleans, four days had passed since Hurricane Katrina hit. Nothing looked as if it had been left untouched. O’Brien said she felt as if she was in another country. During her coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s impact on the city, O’Brien was troubled to see that New Orleans was receiving no help from the government.

Residents had to fix the damages to their homes with their own money, mainly because most of them didn’t have home insurance. This is what O’Brien had to say about that: “The situation in New Orleans is unacceptable, ridiculous. Every reporter is screaming that into microphones, yet no one seems to be listening. The city is nearly 70 percent African-American, and the images of chaos can’t be separated logically from the government response, yet class is the biggest divider around us.”

Though the massive earthquake in Haiti was the kind of story every journalist wanted to cover, CNN didn’t first assign O’Brien to it. Instead, her colleagues, medical journalist Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper, were told to report from the ravaged island but O’Brien fought to be included on the assignment.

“I’m a journalist. I have a perspective on how to tell the human story that is unique,” O’Brien told her bosses. In the end, they relented and she posted several reports from the devastated island.

O’Brien’s journey as a journalist has had its twists and turns but it’s clear from her book that she has always and continues to keep the desire to use her voice — to tell the stories of people — in the forefront of a life that is in “perpetual motion” looking for the next big story.


Ricky Martin: A Humble Artist with a Passion for Music – Book Review

Ricky Martin Me

Originally written some time in 2011.

Book review:

Enrique Martin Morales or Ricky Martin, as most of us know him, has always been a very private man. Constantly battling rumors that he was gay, he would always respond with a “no comment” when posed the question.

If pressed, he would simply say it was a private matter. The public was left to draw its own conclusions. Yet, in the new autobiography, “Me” written by Ricky Martin and published by Celebra, the singer doesn’t keep his fans guessing anymore.

Ricky Martin finally reveals that he is indeed gay, as well as, answering many other questions that have followed him throughout his long career. He starts off by talking about his childhood, which is where everything started.

He joined the Hispanic boy band Menudo where he was a regular for five years. Needing a break from the group, Martin took a year off and moved to New York City. It was there that he decided to become a solo artist and where he first learned some hard lessons of the music business. For instance, he was so excited about the prospect of cutting his first solo album that he signed the contract without consulting his lawyer first. It was a mistake he never repeated again.

Ricky went on to make more albums but it wasn’t until he made some albums in English that he became one of the most successful Latino crossover artists in the business. He toured all over the world. It was during one of his tours in India that he witnessed human trafficking.

Disgusted by what he saw, he knew he had to do something about it. So he started the Ricky Martin Foundation to help advocate for the well-being of children. The organization’s main project is People for Children, which helps educate the public about human trafficking.

Experiencing burnout from years of touring, Martin eventually settled down at his parents’ home in Puerto Rico, the place where he grew up and felt so much love in his childhood. During this time, he decided he was ready for fatherhood.

Not having a partner, Martin chose to have a baby on his own using the surrogate method. Twin boys, Valentino and Matteo, were born in early August 2008. Though he mostly cares for the boys on his own, his parents help out since they all live together in Puerto Rico.

Anyone who has grown up with Ricky Martin’s music, or has at least heard of him in some way, will likely enjoy “Me” since readers are given a front row seat to a life made famous living “La Vida Loca.”