Books

Fight the (White) Power

Fourth Stepping with Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead

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IN THE END materials for Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story, Meeink and his co-writer Jody M. Roy (the book is credited as an "as told to") address the likelihood that, in a post-James Frey world, a memoir as sensational as Autobiography might face some scrutiny from skeptical fans.

Roy answers the question with a reference to double- and triple-checking the facts, but it's Meeink's response that's curiously reassuring.

"If I have a big, pure glass of milk sitting in front of me and I'm dying of thirst, but you put one little drop of poison into that, I'm not going to drink the glass at all. I don't want there to be one little drop of lie in this book; I want the milk to be okay."

Autobiography (published by local press Hawthorne Books) chronicles Meeink's journey from the type of guy who talks about racial purity to the type of guy who talks about dairy-product purity. And while a behind-the-scenes look at the neo-Nazi movement provides the book's most fascinating moments, Autobiography is equally a tale of alcoholism, drug addiction, and recovery. (The word "recovering" in the title is used neither glibly nor lightly.) Meeink links both his addictions and his youthful immersion in the white supremacy movement to a violent and traumatic childhood: His early years were spent with a drug-addicted mother and an abusive stepfather, in gang- and poverty-plagued South Philly. Skinheads, as he tells it, were the first people to make him feel valued.

As Meeink rises through the ranks of the East Coast skinhead network, he doesn't skimp on the gory details: The Nazi stormtrooper-inspired raids on homeless men and junkies. The time his fellow skinhead's hammer got stuck in the skull of a college kid. "I felt like I was living in A Clockwork Orange," Meeink writes. "I loved that movie; all the skinheads did."

Meeink rose to rapid notoriety as a particularly violent young skinhead (though the movie American History X was not, as some outlets have reported, inspired by Meeink's life)—after leaving the movement, he became an outspoken anti-racist activist. Autobiography reads like an alcoholic's fourth step—"a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves"—because that's essentially what it is. Shocking and sensational, sure, but also remarkable evidence that people really can change.

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