So tender yet courageous is this fierce family memoir that it makes mass incarceration nothing less than a new American tragedy.
Michael Alexander Allen, baby cousin of an extended family, was first arrested at fifteen for an attempted carjacking. Tried as an adult and sentenced to thirteen years, Michael served eleven. Three years after his release, he was shot and killed. Why? Why did this gifted young man, who dreamed of being a firefighter and a writer, end up dead? Why did he languish in prison? And why at fifteen was he in an alley in South Central LA, holding a gun while trying to steal someone’s car? “Cuz” means both “cousin” and “because.” Danielle Allen grew up with Michael and, in 2006 when Michael got out of prison, was cousin-on-duty, shouldering the responsibility to support his fresh start while juggling the demands of her own promising academic career. In this Ellisonian story of a young African American man’s coming-of-age in late twentieth-century America, and of the family who will always love Michael, we learn how we lost a generation.