c.2021, Flatiron Books
256 pages

Each note is an individual.

You know that, but you probably don’t hear it that way. No, your ears are catching a mountain stream of notes that whisper and shout to create your favorite song, the one that runs through your head, the one you know all the words to. As in the new book, “I’m Possible” by Richard Antoine White, it’s beautiful music.

Looking for his mama was an everyday occurrence for Ricky White.

If she wasn’t in the boarded-up building where they slept, she might be by the tree, drinking. If she wasn’t there, she might be at either of Ricky’s grandmas’ houses, or with Miss Vivian. Then again, Mama might be at a store or somewhere and if he was lucky, Ricky found a few coins while he was looking for her, and he’d get something to eat that day. This was his life, until the night he almost froze to death and the McClains took him in, just as they did his mama when she was little.

Old enough to have grown children of their own, the McClains taught Baby Ricky that he didn’t have to sleep on the floor. He was kept clean, fed and responsible for chores; he was taught respect and confidence, but also shame and empathy. Most of all, Vivian and Richard McClain gave him a home and a normal childhood, including the chance to attend school regularly. It was there that he first fell in love with the trumpet.

It became his reason for going to school, doing his homework, and staying off the streets. For the first time in his life, White felt like he belonged. He learned the art of discipline; later, he learned that practice was key and improvising was never going to get him anywhere.

By then, he’d switched to the tuba. Learning that instrument would give him more time to play with a group because not a lot of people wanted to play the tuba.

Even fewer African Americans did …

If ever there was a book that can make your heart sing, “I’m Possible” is it.

Part of the reason is that author Richard Antoine White seems so eager to show readers how he lived before he was given up by his mother, an act that he ultimately sees as selfless and brave. There’s no complaint in any of this, just facts, told with the slightest sense of humor and a whole lot of acknowledgment that he wasn’t the easiest kid to love.

And that’s the other part here: this book is the sweetest love song for his adoptive parents, for music, for miracles, and for those who supported White all along.

So go ahead. Be charmed; in fact, once you get toward the end of this feel-best of feel-good books, grab a mirror and just look at that happy grin on your face. You need that kind of a boost this time of year, or a perfect antidote for a case of the I-Cant‘s, so grab “I’m Possible,” and take note.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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1 Comment

  1. His life with his mom was crap, like mine was. The difference was, he had grandparents to take him in and he got the million-dollar break: a normal life living in the same home, year in and year out. I also was chosen for trumpet in Band because there were still music programs in the 70s, even in rough schools like the one I went to. I say I was chosen because as usual in my chaotic life, I was entering that school after the year had begun, so I think it was a combination of the trumpet being about all that was left, and it being an instrument Mr. Peyton felt my mom’s boyfriend was least likely to pawn. But I didn’t stay with it because I didn’t stay with school; I could go to school, some kid would pick a fight just before lunch (I was small, underfed, and skinny) and I’d not eat that day. Or I could skip school and be free to forage and fish and I’d eat. I didn’t have any parental figure caring if I got good or was bad at the trumpet or anything else. And the only trumpet music I knew well as Herb Alpert, not very cool to a 70s kid. So I dropped it. But I never forgot the trumpet … As an adult, I did all the things one is “supposed” to do, like go to college, study something technical, etc. All things that are achievable if you’re middle-class, not if you’re flat-ass broke. It’s not like music where you study one instrument, just love that instrument, and the world will take care of you. In tech, you need *connections* and 99% of tech jobs are horribly underpaid. After trying a lot of instruments, I came back around to the good old trumpet and I’ve found I can make decent money playing on the street. I’m going to retire in a few years and it’ll be my retirement career. I have no aspirations to get into an orchestra, as again, that takes *connections* but I can have a fine old time playing on the street.

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