Mini book review: ‘White American Youth,’ by Christian Picciolini

by Patty Templeton

At age 14, Christian Picciolini attended his first white supremacist meeting. He came from a “normal” home with parents who loved him, worked a lot, and didn’t know where he was. For the first time in his life, Picciolini felt acceptance. He felt powerful. By 16, he was leader of a skinhead gang. Shortly after, he helped organize national mergers of white supremacist groups, forming ideology where skinheads shed overt fashion and infiltrated mainstream society.

“White American Youth: My Descent into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement – And How I Got Out” is the first-hand conversational account of Picciolini embracing a racist life and then realizing, eight years later when he was 22, how horribly wrong it was. To attempt to make amends, Picciolini started the nonprofit Life After Hate, focused on spreading empathy and helping people leave extremist groups.

This memoir is a violent, repulsive portrait of how hate groups recruit kids, and one man’s struggle to right the wrongs he’s put into the world. If you enjoy compelling autobiographies or books that have appeared on Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air,” crack open “White American Youth.”

— Patty Templeton


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