Scars of the Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don't Have Bruises by Miles Marshall Lewis Akashic Books, October 2004 $14.95, ISBN 1-888-45171-8
This debut book is the latest installment of note in the effort to chronicle and legitimize hip-hop music and culture. Lewis, a former editor at Vibe and XXL (his work has also appeared in publications ranging from The Nation in Rolling, Stone), is one of the more important critics and observers of the genre. He demonstrates beyond a doubt with this work that he is a very talented writer. His prose is lucid, engaging and at times, approaching the poetic. Yet his book functions better as separate pieces than as a coherent whole, perhaps because it was written around three stories that had appeared in print in some form previously.
Part memoir, part chronicle and part celebration of a culture that still must defend its existence, or at least not its commercial appeal, Lewis's book weaves the story of a boy born in the Bronx in 1970 with the music that grew and spread from that same borough nearly contemporaneously. Lewis begins with the widely trumpeted belief of late that hip-hop, as a dynamic art form and a force for change, is dead, then reveals how the process of writing the book changed his mind about it.