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Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead

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A stunning look inside the world of violent hate groups by a onetime white supremacist leader who, shaken by a personal tragedy, realized the error of his ways and abandoned his destructive life to become an anti-hate activist. As he stumbled through high school, struggling to find a community among other fans of punk rock music, Christian Picciolini was recruited by a now A stunning look inside the world of violent hate groups by a onetime white supremacist leader who, shaken by a personal tragedy, realized the error of his ways and abandoned his destructive life to become an anti-hate activist. As he stumbled through high school, struggling to find a community among other fans of punk rock music, Christian Picciolini was recruited by a now notorious white power skinhead leader and encouraged to fight with the movement to "protect the white race from extinction." Soon, he had become an expert in racist philosophies, a terror who roamed the neighborhood, quick to throw fists. When his mentor was arrested and sentenced to eleven years in prison, sixteen-year-old Picciolini took over the man's role as the leader of an infamous neo-Nazi skinhead group. Seduced by the power he accrued through intimidation, and swept up in the rhetoric he had adopted, Picciolini worked to grow an army of extremists. He used music as a recruitment tool, launching his own propaganda band that performed at white power rallies around the world. But slowly, as he started a family of his own and a job that for the first time brought him face to face with people from all walks of life, he began to recognize the cracks in his hateful ideology. Then a shocking loss at the hands of racial violence changed his life forever, and Picciolini realized too late the full extent of the harm he'd caused. Raw, inspiring, and heartbreakingly candid, 'White American Youth' tells the fascinating story of how so many young people lose themselves in a culture of hatred and violence and how the criminal networks they forge terrorize and divide our nation.


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A stunning look inside the world of violent hate groups by a onetime white supremacist leader who, shaken by a personal tragedy, realized the error of his ways and abandoned his destructive life to become an anti-hate activist. As he stumbled through high school, struggling to find a community among other fans of punk rock music, Christian Picciolini was recruited by a now A stunning look inside the world of violent hate groups by a onetime white supremacist leader who, shaken by a personal tragedy, realized the error of his ways and abandoned his destructive life to become an anti-hate activist. As he stumbled through high school, struggling to find a community among other fans of punk rock music, Christian Picciolini was recruited by a now notorious white power skinhead leader and encouraged to fight with the movement to "protect the white race from extinction." Soon, he had become an expert in racist philosophies, a terror who roamed the neighborhood, quick to throw fists. When his mentor was arrested and sentenced to eleven years in prison, sixteen-year-old Picciolini took over the man's role as the leader of an infamous neo-Nazi skinhead group. Seduced by the power he accrued through intimidation, and swept up in the rhetoric he had adopted, Picciolini worked to grow an army of extremists. He used music as a recruitment tool, launching his own propaganda band that performed at white power rallies around the world. But slowly, as he started a family of his own and a job that for the first time brought him face to face with people from all walks of life, he began to recognize the cracks in his hateful ideology. Then a shocking loss at the hands of racial violence changed his life forever, and Picciolini realized too late the full extent of the harm he'd caused. Raw, inspiring, and heartbreakingly candid, 'White American Youth' tells the fascinating story of how so many young people lose themselves in a culture of hatred and violence and how the criminal networks they forge terrorize and divide our nation.

30 review for Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    An engaging and unique memoir about an Italian-American kid who grew up in Blue Island/Chicago, a good kid living with his loving grandparents who at 14 got recruited into a white supremacist group and actually rose to power in it. It's ultimately a redemption narrative--he gets out of the group, of course--and a cautionary tale about American culture--see all the groups of people at the fringes of the Trump rallies to see why this book would be interesting to you. It's a book that, like books a An engaging and unique memoir about an Italian-American kid who grew up in Blue Island/Chicago, a good kid living with his loving grandparents who at 14 got recruited into a white supremacist group and actually rose to power in it. It's ultimately a redemption narrative--he gets out of the group, of course--and a cautionary tale about American culture--see all the groups of people at the fringes of the Trump rallies to see why this book would be interesting to you. It's a book that, like books about punk, tap into the rage of young, disaffected people. Picciolini is into angry music, too, and we can see how this makes sense for him. Gang culture, KKK style. It's about hate, and how it begins to percolate, and how it can turn around. I was raised with redemption narratives (ex-Dutch Calvinist here, meet the ex-drug addict, come to Jesus) and am suspicious of them, and feel their familiar twists and turns coming. And there are no real surprises in the arc of the narrative here, and the writing isn't amazingly good, but you wouldn't expect Proust from a reformed skinhead. He's real and honest and blunt and a little romantic in both his depiction of that life and his rescue from it. But he also beats himself up as much as he beat up other people in the book. So I am guessing most of you haven't read many books like this, maybe. Clash memoirs? I thought of Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, which is essentially about how it CAN happen here, how a Hitler can rise in our very midst, again, and in this country. I thought of how important it is to understand the variety of stories of growing up in any given community, especially if you teach in that community. This kid is in your class or community or neighborhood and you need to know and understand him in order to confront what he represents. It's an engaging read, and Picciolini is ultimately an engaging character to get to know.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily Belden

    This book was incredibly life changing. As a jew, I never thought I'd read a book about a skinhead. However, my husband met Christian and got his book. It wound up on my nightstand and I couldn't stop reading it. I finished it in 24 hours. For as horrific as the experiences were, I found the book poised. Controlled. I very much enjoyed the storytelling and didn't find it self-indulgent as most memoirs can be. I truly will recommend this book as "your next must read" for a very, very long time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    After Charlottesville, this ex-neo-Nazi was making the rounds on the talk shows, promoting the support group he created to deprogram neo-Nazis. His mission and message clearly deserve 5 stars, but the book gets a little bogged down in personal details, so I’m giving it a 4. But it’s a thorough picture of a boy with a normal, if lonely, childhood, how the neo-Nazis gave him a social life at last, how he rose in its ranks, and how he became disillusioned with it. Everyone should read it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nora

    Full disclosure: I know the author and subject of this book -- impersonally at first, as someone on the opposite side of the ideological fence when I was a teenager; and personally since his request that I help edit early drafts of this book because of that same polarized adolescent acquaintance. I was at least as reluctant to help Christian work on his life story as many others might be to read it. I wasn't sure I cared to believe that someone who spewed so much hate and brought so much fear an Full disclosure: I know the author and subject of this book -- impersonally at first, as someone on the opposite side of the ideological fence when I was a teenager; and personally since his request that I help edit early drafts of this book because of that same polarized adolescent acquaintance. I was at least as reluctant to help Christian work on his life story as many others might be to read it. I wasn't sure I cared to believe that someone who spewed so much hate and brought so much fear and pain to our shared communities could possibly redeem himself. Part of me had no interest in whatever backstory might explain his life and actions, because I mistakenly equated explaining with excusing. But if I mean what I say in my life about organizing against hate in every form -- and I do, strongly -- then I was obligated to know Christian's story and help him tell it to as many people as possible. While working on the book, and as I got to know Christian and watched him struggle with preparing to send his story out into the world, I came to believe more and more that this is a story everyone should know about. We should realize that hate can take root in a loving home, and that otherwise 'good kids' can find themselves alienated and subsequently entangled with some really frightening ideologies. We need to know that the white power movement is still alive and actively recruiting in our culture, and we need to face the role it plays in tragedies like the recent church massacre in Charleston or the racist graffiti found in my neighborhood only two days ago. And we need a story to show others who might be similarly lost that they can find their way back. Christian faces the ugliness, the hypocrisy, and the malignancy of his life in the white power movement fairly unflinchingly. But he tells the story for more than penance, as more than a document establishing distance from his present existence. By the end of the book, both author and reader arrive at some intense and important aspects of understanding what might otherwise seem incomprehensible. As a reading experience, the author tells his story without so much as a grain of sugar to assuage any of his responsibility for his choices. He also finds an incredibly engaging narrative voice; this is a fast, engrossing read. The prose is often startling in its honesty and in his commitment to showing the reader exactly how a life built on hate looks, sounds, feels. Experiencing that life as a reader is unsettling. It should be.

  5. 5 out of 5

    John

    This is well written and I found it a compelling read. My attention never wandered for a second! That is hardly surprising since the book is action packed and appears to be honestly written. Christian Picciolini certainly doesn't spare himself here any more than he may have spared his 'victims'. A rather "weedy", lonely kid to start with, his parents worked long hours and he spent a lot of time with his grandparents. Loved but emotionally starved perhaps, the school bully may or may n This is well written and I found it a compelling read. My attention never wandered for a second! That is hardly surprising since the book is action packed and appears to be honestly written. Christian Picciolini certainly doesn't spare himself here any more than he may have spared his 'victims'. A rather "weedy", lonely kid to start with, his parents worked long hours and he spent a lot of time with his grandparents. Loved but emotionally starved perhaps, the school bully may or may not have done him a favour. At any rate, by 14 he was a hard neo nazi skinhead. By the age of 16 he was the inspirational leader of a gang of white supremacist skinheads which kids were queuing up to join. This third generation Italian, middle class catholic operated initially from the Chicago suburbs but had contacts throughout the USA and beyond. Out of control at home and pretty much unteachable at any school prepared to meet the challenge, he controlled his gang and the streets they walked. He was clearly a very intelligent thug. Does that make it better or worse? Not sure, but it certainly makes his story more interesting - including the falling apart of his world and his coping mechanisms. I hope there's a part 2 soon! RECOMMENDED.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    A dark read, but knowing he saw the light, pulled himself through, and is now an advocate for peace makes it worth the read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Georgia Choate

    RV was an exceptional memoir. For Picciolini's end goal to work, to convince others of his change, his efforts took a lot of sincerity. I was originally motivated by the promise on the book cover that he would be reformed by the end combined with my base desire to know what violence he committed. How deep into hatred did he go? (At first my real uneasiness with the movement was not relating to racism. I'm a woman, and it irked me that his was another destructive war story. Naturally, RV was an exceptional memoir. For Picciolini's end goal to work, to convince others of his change, his efforts took a lot of sincerity. I was originally motivated by the promise on the book cover that he would be reformed by the end combined with my base desire to know what violence he committed. How deep into hatred did he go? (At first my real uneasiness with the movement was not relating to racism. I'm a woman, and it irked me that his was another destructive war story. Naturally, he speaks from the point of view of a man who not only surrounded himself by men for masculine guidance, but he was drawn into an addictively violent world, a man's world that needed girls and women for arm candy and pistol whipping. If this bothers you, stick with it. He redeems himself in the way he talks of women in the second half.) Back to the core of it, the challenge was for the memoirist to speak from a present, reformed, even loving state of mind - as if he were in the past making his motivations real for the reader. To convince us of his reformation, he had to show us how much he hated anyone different from him and then how far he came in accepting them. You should see for yourself how he earns your belief. I've had only small brushes with racism myself, but the story will speak to anyone who holds regret for the past or time wasted. He planted a lot of thorny seeds that may still be growing and there is clearly an ache left from that arrested development and crushing loss that taught him hard lessons. He has moved forward in love, though. I can only hope now that he fully understands, he was only a child when it started.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anika Rothingham

    I was really looking forward to this memoir as a chance to understand what drives racist skinheads to do what they do, and an opportunity to learn how to get through to them. One the one hand, Picciolini does an amazing job and remembering and recounting his thoughts and where they led. You can totally see how he got caught up in that mess. But I was also hoping to understand how he got out of it and what turned him around. 90% of the book is the story of Picciolini's skin-head life, with nausea I was really looking forward to this memoir as a chance to understand what drives racist skinheads to do what they do, and an opportunity to learn how to get through to them. One the one hand, Picciolini does an amazing job and remembering and recounting his thoughts and where they led. You can totally see how he got caught up in that mess. But I was also hoping to understand how he got out of it and what turned him around. 90% of the book is the story of Picciolini's skin-head life, with nauseating story after story of his exploits. As he says in his intro, he does not shy from the details or attempt to defend himself. While I can see how that may have been cathartic for him to write and gripping for some to read, I found it extremely painful (and not in a way that I feel grateful afterwards because I learned something). The puny 10% about his turnaround is devoid of the kind of detail we had of his skin-head endeavors. I don't really feel like I understand how he changed his views, other than: (spoiler alert?) he started questioning some stuff, his priorities changed when he had a baby, he got to know some anti-racists through a shared interest in music, and one guy who he'd treated terribly offered him grace. That guy told Picciolini to do something to atone for his behaviors... and Picciolini wrote this book and formed an organization. This book could be so much more. There could be so much more reflection, atonement, and advice for how to reach people. I don't recommend this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Al

    One of the reasons I read memoirs is to understand someone who has had an experience nothing like anything I ever have or will. In this case, to get a handle on something I haven't been exposed to and don't understand. The book was queued to my Kindle for reading when Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, gunned down several people in South Carolina. I decided it was time to push it up the list. Romantic Violence is at times infuriating and frustrating (knowing where it is headed and havi One of the reasons I read memoirs is to understand someone who has had an experience nothing like anything I ever have or will. In this case, to get a handle on something I haven't been exposed to and don't understand. The book was queued to my Kindle for reading when Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, gunned down several people in South Carolina. I decided it was time to push it up the list. Romantic Violence is at times infuriating and frustrating (knowing where it is headed and having 20/20 hindsight) while also being scary as it is easy to imagine how almost anyone in the same situation could get sucked in to an extremist organization like this. I also noticed that the terminology and rhetoric of a racist right-wing group is much the same as other extremist right-wing organizations that don't have the racist component. (Left-wing groups have their own set of touchpoints, I'd guess.) As intense as a good thriller, made more so by being true. **Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **

  10. 5 out of 5

    Georgi

    Is there life after hate? What could transform a racist, a skinhead and a homophob into a caring and loving person, who embraces diversity? How do we pay for our sins? Christian Picciolini gives a very powerful answer to these questions. I've been astonished by the honest, open and emotional narrative. And sure that many others may find their way back to normality after reading his words. An important read in times of arising nationalism, violence and rage against migrants, minorities, etc. Fou Is there life after hate? What could transform a racist, a skinhead and a homophob into a caring and loving person, who embraces diversity? How do we pay for our sins? Christian Picciolini gives a very powerful answer to these questions. I've been astonished by the honest, open and emotional narrative. And sure that many others may find their way back to normality after reading his words. An important read in times of arising nationalism, violence and rage against migrants, minorities, etc. Found a copy of his book, marked 042, in a Starbucks cafe in Sofia, Bulgaria. Christian probably put it himself there a couple of hours before that, maybe a day, not more. I'll definitely pass it to someone else so that more people could find his truth inspiring. Full review (in Bulgarian) in my blog: https://bibliotekata.wordpress.com/20...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This was a tough read. Not only because of the hate rhetoric used during his time as a skinhead. But seeing such an innocent, impressionable child (he was only 14 when recruited!) be preyed upon by hate mongers and then what he went through when realizing he was wrong and going through he change. What happened with his brother. His family. It was quite sad but also moving. You can tell that he is trying to make up for his sins by writing this book. That’s he’s spending his life doing good. I thi This was a tough read. Not only because of the hate rhetoric used during his time as a skinhead. But seeing such an innocent, impressionable child (he was only 14 when recruited!) be preyed upon by hate mongers and then what he went through when realizing he was wrong and going through he change. What happened with his brother. His family. It was quite sad but also moving. You can tell that he is trying to make up for his sins by writing this book. That’s he’s spending his life doing good. I think he’s an incredibly brave man to put his story out there.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    This is a book that should be read. It should be read by everyone who has compassion and who has interest in human growth. I'm truly amazed by Christians story.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Zimmermann

    I put this on hold on a whim one day, after reading an interview of Picciolini with one of my students. This is easily one of the best books I've read in 2017. Picciolini is honest, open, and doesn't mince words while baring his truth. It's easy to see how vulnerable kids can get swept up in any sort of ideology while looking for somewhere to belong. I hesitate to recommend it to my students because of the strong language throughout; instead, I'll aim to share the message of love and acceptance I put this on hold on a whim one day, after reading an interview of Picciolini with one of my students. This is easily one of the best books I've read in 2017. Picciolini is honest, open, and doesn't mince words while baring his truth. It's easy to see how vulnerable kids can get swept up in any sort of ideology while looking for somewhere to belong. I hesitate to recommend it to my students because of the strong language throughout; instead, I'll aim to share the message of love and acceptance with them (and recommend the book to as many colleagues as I can).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Celeste

    Very good. Very interesting. It must hard been hard for the author to write. It's written as a memoir, so we are with the author and hearing his thoughts and "reasoning" as he is introduced, then embraces, then has doubts, and finally leaves the white supremacist movement.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Long

    The bullet points alone create compelling "curb appeal" and make this story an easy sell. Born to Italian immigrant parents in the early '70s, Picciolini is an adorable little boy. Growing up in a small town outside of Chicago, he comes of age during the mid '80s. Seeking his "place in the world," he's driven to achieve greatness — to become a champion athlete or a life-saving hero. However, Picciolini's all-American ambition soon turns to a misguided, out of control hunger for power and glory. The bullet points alone create compelling "curb appeal" and make this story an easy sell. Born to Italian immigrant parents in the early '70s, Picciolini is an adorable little boy. Growing up in a small town outside of Chicago, he comes of age during the mid '80s. Seeking his "place in the world," he's driven to achieve greatness — to become a champion athlete or a life-saving hero. However, Picciolini's all-American ambition soon turns to a misguided, out of control hunger for power and glory. And by age 15, he's on the fast track to building one of America's most violent homegrown terror organizations. Fortunately, by his mid 20s, came repentance. But "Romantic Violence" is more than a riveting, good boy-turned-monster-finds redemption saga. And the true payoff is the story behind the bullet points. From family members and friends to a menagerie of "white trash thugs," Picciolini paints compelling portraits of the people who played key roles in his disturbing life story. His attention to details is superb — from pointing out his father's pinkie ring to his mother's hair-dyed fingertips. Piccionli uses a fine-tipped brush to make his story zing — recalling with vivid clarity, early memories of his parents who were too consumed with running their salon to offer him what he yearned for most — their time and attention. Typically the last kid to be picked up from school by his parents each afternoon, then rushed immediately and dropped off at his grandparents', Picciolini writes that he often felt like "a burden unloaded." Hmm, and so it begins. His narrative is brutally honest. His language — unfiltered, crude and often offensive. And the transparent accounts of his actions during his rebellious, hate-filled youth are beyond despicable. However, Picciolini assumes complete responsibility for the choices he made — choices that left him ultimately filled with "dread and regret" — a period in his life that he now looks back on as being "pathetic" and a "miserable existence." Picciolini's heartfelt accounts — the connection to his younger brother, "Buddy," discovering teenage love, and his passion for the punk scene's glory days of Social Distortion, mix tapes and "zines," often help to humanize the seemingly heartless beast. As a result, I kinda understood him. Not that I could ever condone his past acts of violence and racism in any way, I just felt like, "Hey, I know this guy." In fact, if the reader can remove their own emotions regarding the story's glaring hate factor and look closely, Picciolini will likely seem familiar, and I dare say, endearing to many. Despite possessing an arguably overall "fabulous" fashion sensibility, I'm actually a real "tough guy" inside. From my days procuring groupies and meds for platinum-selling rock stars to watching a close family member die of AIDS to surviving a painful divorce — losing everything in the process, to raising my (now) adult son and my current international missionary experiences, I've pretty much seen it all in my 52 years. But as I finally finished reading "Romantic Violence" one morning last week, I found myself so moved, that my trembling hands could literally no longer hold the (now) coffee-stained print copy — prompting me to leave it sitting atop the bar at my local Starbucks — wiping away the tears streaming down my scruffy, middle-aged face as I stepped outside to collect my composure. Bravo, Mr. Picciolini — "payoff," indeed. -Christopher Long (June 2015)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Chavez

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I stumbled upon this title one night when I turned on the TV. Somehow the channel was set to CSPAN (I don't know how, I never watch CSPAN. Perhaps a sign from God?). I saw Christian Picciolini ("PEACH-O-LEE-NEE") giving a lecture. I didn't initially know what he was talking about but his delivery was one of the best I've seen from a speaker. It didn't take long to find out he was speaking about racial and social injustices fueled by those who prey on the young and misguided who are desperate to I stumbled upon this title one night when I turned on the TV. Somehow the channel was set to CSPAN (I don't know how, I never watch CSPAN. Perhaps a sign from God?). I saw Christian Picciolini ("PEACH-O-LEE-NEE") giving a lecture. I didn't initially know what he was talking about but his delivery was one of the best I've seen from a speaker. It didn't take long to find out he was speaking about racial and social injustices fueled by those who prey on the young and misguided who are desperate to belong. I was further intrigued when he revealed himself to have been a very racist Nazi skinhead in his own youth. I was completely hooked by this cognitive dissonance as Christian Picciolini seemed like a friendly guy legitimately interested in improving lives. I thought to myself, "This man was a skinhead? No way." Now to the book itself. The book opens up during Christian's early childhood years. I found myself really liking Christian early on as he was a good kid who had to overcome bullying and really just wanted to have lots of friends and be liked. Fairly normal. But as the book progressed I started to really dislike Christian and started to see him as an unjustified, hate filled, villain. I found it interesting that he chose to write his story with the words and aggression he felt at the time. A lot of cursing and aggressive, racist terminology gets thrown around but this is the only way his story can be properly told because it allows the reader to get a glimpse of how he truly felt at the time. Christian was no slouch and put in a lot of time and work into his white supremacy movement. From tireless recruiting to spreading his messages across rallies, postal newsletters, and even music. His work ethic to his misguided cause was definitely commendable just in itself but I couldn't help but wonder just how badly his young brilliance was squandered on an ignorant movement. I'd dislike him more and more as I read his story and just when I thought he couldn't go any further down his hole of hate, he would. He'd make a lot of really unwise choices at a very young age. But then life suddenly started changing for Christian and in many ways he slowly came to see the error of his ways and eventually had an incredible change of heart. I had been starting to question if the book would ever get there as it takes nearly 22 chapters to happen. I went from liking to Christian, to despising him, to admiring him for his change of heart, to feeling sad for him because of the turn of events he reveals in the final chapter of his book, to ultimately seeing him as the true hero he is today. If Christian can change, we can all change. In 2010 Christian Picciolini started a non profit organization run by former skinheads called "Life After Hate" with the focus on helping individuals better themselves by transitioning out of racist ideological movements via www.exitusa.org For anyone wanting to see the lecture that drew me to this book: https://www.c-span.org/video/?428907-...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dani Scott

    Super relevant for our times. Christian Picciolini started a group in Chicago called Life After Hate after living a life of hate, racism, and violence. He started out listening to white power music because he liked the way it sounded, the lyrics were unimportant to him until he was about 14 years old. At that point, he was taken under the wings of older skinheads who very much believed all of the vitriol being spewed by these bands. His feelings of powerlessness at watching his parents strugglin Super relevant for our times. Christian Picciolini started a group in Chicago called Life After Hate after living a life of hate, racism, and violence. He started out listening to white power music because he liked the way it sounded, the lyrics were unimportant to him until he was about 14 years old. At that point, he was taken under the wings of older skinheads who very much believed all of the vitriol being spewed by these bands. His feelings of powerlessness at watching his parents struggling to make ends meet working all the time fueled the new narrative he was being told: This is the fault of Jewish people, people of color, etc. and his life became about becoming a leader in the Nazi movement. This book is important because it tells a story of someone who snapped out of it. Someone who went all the way over to the dark side and came out of it ready to take responsibility and spread compassion. If I'm completely honest, I did not read the whole book. I started to skim over the more violent pieces and I got tired of hearing about his white power band and the back and forth relationship with his then partner. The book is also, forgive me, not well written. As I said, this story really needed to be told, so I am thankful that Picciolini put shame aside and put pen to paper, but those who are looking to read this for the style will be disappointed. For those of us who are feeling outrage and despair in the age of Donald Trump and the emboldening of these white power believers, this is something you'll want to check out. Also, look into his organization. I am currently taking a class called Intellectual Freedom in grad school for library sciences and have been reading countless articles on our first amendment rights. What I am reading has completely shocked me and made me realize that hate speech is protected in a lot of ways by our constitution. Believe me, I know I should have known this sooner, but my knowledge of the law has been lacking. Suffice it to say, though, that in the light of what I am coming to understand as current American rights, memoirs like this become even more necessary. We have a long and dangerous road ahead of us and books like this and people like the author will help us navigate it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    .W.

    i think what i respect the most about Christian is that he changed himself. it's very difficult to alter your path - especially a violently meteoric one such as his - but he did it and is using his experiences for the betterment of the world. to be able to apologize, to grow, to move forward - very helpful and inspirational story for anyone. can be extrapolated to addiction recovery as well (for me). hails to you, Mr. Picciolini.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Heather Osborne

    Reviewed on behalf of Readers' Favorite Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead by Christian Picciolini chronicles the author’s experiences growing up in Blue Island, a working class neighborhood in Chicago during the 1980s-1990s. Christian’s life as the son of first generation Italian immigrants is difficult, and he often finds himself left to the care of his grandparents. Not really fitting in anywhere, Christian discovers the world of neo-Nazism through a man named Clark Reviewed on behalf of Readers' Favorite Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead by Christian Picciolini chronicles the author’s experiences growing up in Blue Island, a working class neighborhood in Chicago during the 1980s-1990s. Christian’s life as the son of first generation Italian immigrants is difficult, and he often finds himself left to the care of his grandparents. Not really fitting in anywhere, Christian discovers the world of neo-Nazism through a man named Clark Martell. He swiftly rises through the ranks, displacing the anger and hurt he felt through his absent parents onto the so-called “inferior” races of his blue collar neighborhood. A musician, leader, and criminal, Picciolini finds himself questioning his beliefs after this birth of his sons and the breakdown of his first marriage, and wonders if his convictions are worth the cost of losing his family. I will admit, I had my reservations going into reading this memoir, yet curiosity got the best of me. I simply could not put this book down. I sat and read, from start to finish, captivated by the engaging writing style and candid confessions of Mr. Picciolini. It certainly could not have been easy to bare his soul in such a way, knowing he may face repercussions from the community of which he had once been so engrained. In truth, I admire him greatly, not only for recognizing that he had been misled, but understanding the cause for his displaced hatred. Although the earlier chapters of the book jump around a bit, the narrative was easy to follow, candid, and compelling. Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead by Christian Picciolini truly opened my eyes to how some racially violent organizations prey on the vulnerabilities of youth in order to sway them from more ethical and moral paths. I only wish I had the ability to rank this higher than five stars. It certainly isn’t a read for everyone, but to those that do take the opportunity, they will not be disappointed.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Frances

    There are many stories and core believes that compete for our ultimate loyalty and trust. As I was driving to a vigil last week, UM-Dearborn Rises Against Hate, I heard an interview on NPR with Christian Picciolini, who was for seven years a neo-Nazi skinhead. He wrote his book, in the hope that others will understand how disturbingly easy it is for someone without prior inclination toward prejudice or violence to enter a world laden with unadulterated hate; that others may see the desire to bel There are many stories and core believes that compete for our ultimate loyalty and trust. As I was driving to a vigil last week, UM-Dearborn Rises Against Hate, I heard an interview on NPR with Christian Picciolini, who was for seven years a neo-Nazi skinhead. He wrote his book, in the hope that others will understand how disturbingly easy it is for someone without prior inclination toward prejudice or violence to enter a world laden with unadulterated hate; that others may see the desire to belong--if taken to the extreme and not addressed early enough-- can have repugnant results, and that the promise of power is sometimes so seductive an impressionable mind can be persuaded to commit atrocious acts in its pursuit.” He says he writes “with optimism that others will search for identity, belonging, and acceptance in healthy, inclusive communities and will have the strength to walk away from empty promises.” I want to understand more about how people can get involved in hate groups and how some have transformative experiences that cause them to change. And I enjoy stories of transformation in general. So I’m glad I read this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Whitney LePore

    From the early stages of the book, the reader is easily hooked on the story of a first generation American with parents pursuing success hard and fast. As the story builds, the language, the images and the pain are beautifully expressed, so much so that I often felt uncomfortable reading accounts of violence and blind hatred. By far the saddest and most rewarding chapters in the book recount Mr. Picciolini's fall from the heights of power to the lows of despair. Loss, uncertainty, remorse and fe From the early stages of the book, the reader is easily hooked on the story of a first generation American with parents pursuing success hard and fast. As the story builds, the language, the images and the pain are beautifully expressed, so much so that I often felt uncomfortable reading accounts of violence and blind hatred. By far the saddest and most rewarding chapters in the book recount Mr. Picciolini's fall from the heights of power to the lows of despair. Loss, uncertainty, remorse and fear filled the final pages, culminating in the utmost feelings of failing the most important people in one's life--family. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is soul searching, on the road to redemption or simply wants to see the impacts of subversive culture from the inside out.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    This is a compelling story of one person's descent into white supremacy and departure from it. The book starts with a recollection of youth that serves to humanize and set the conditions where the seed of hate can grow. Piccolini gives an unflinching history of his actions and feelings during his time in the white supremacy movement. Of especial interest was the cognitive dissonance that he experienced between his various beliefs and experiences and how he eventually realized was incompatible. T This is a compelling story of one person's descent into white supremacy and departure from it. The book starts with a recollection of youth that serves to humanize and set the conditions where the seed of hate can grow. Piccolini gives an unflinching history of his actions and feelings during his time in the white supremacy movement. Of especial interest was the cognitive dissonance that he experienced between his various beliefs and experiences and how he eventually realized was incompatible. The ending was redemptive and heartbreaking especially in light of all the people he affected for better or worse.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Fred Pilarczyk

    Romantic Violence is a dark, heavy read. The way it is written is different than most books of this ilk, since Picciolini actually puts you in the mindset he was as he was growing up. Due to this, the violence, language, and pure hatred can feel very offensive at times. The pace is very brisk, and before you know it you will be finished with it. If you are into subcultures, have ever had friends or known skinheads, or just want to read something that is basically a shovel to the face then p Romantic Violence is a dark, heavy read. The way it is written is different than most books of this ilk, since Picciolini actually puts you in the mindset he was as he was growing up. Due to this, the violence, language, and pure hatred can feel very offensive at times. The pace is very brisk, and before you know it you will be finished with it. If you are into subcultures, have ever had friends or known skinheads, or just want to read something that is basically a shovel to the face then pick this up.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paula Hess

    Very well-written, great pace, and fascinating and thought-provoking conclusion. A friend lent me this book and I was slightly skeptical that I would complete it based in the subject matter and the number of pages, but I found the story irresistible and, as a Chicagoland native who was into industrial music in the mid-80s who frequented a few of the locations mentioned, I found myself wondering how many people we knew in common. Just goes to show you never know where evil lurks, and also that pe Very well-written, great pace, and fascinating and thought-provoking conclusion. A friend lent me this book and I was slightly skeptical that I would complete it based in the subject matter and the number of pages, but I found the story irresistible and, as a Chicagoland native who was into industrial music in the mid-80s who frequented a few of the locations mentioned, I found myself wondering how many people we knew in common. Just goes to show you never know where evil lurks, and also that people CAN change.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katrina K

    Goodreads win. Will read and review once received. This was a well written book. I will admit I was a little apprehensive when first reading this book. I usually just read fictional books, but every now and then throw in a nonfiction read. This was definitely worth it. I have always had a weird fascination about Skinheads. Mainly the thinking behind what makes them join the group and what its like. This is a book I recommend to friends and family. I found myself having a hard time put Goodreads win. Will read and review once received. This was a well written book. I will admit I was a little apprehensive when first reading this book. I usually just read fictional books, but every now and then throw in a nonfiction read. This was definitely worth it. I have always had a weird fascination about Skinheads. Mainly the thinking behind what makes them join the group and what its like. This is a book I recommend to friends and family. I found myself having a hard time putting the book down. I finished it within a day. A great read that was insightful.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Powerful and moving I bought this book in the aftermath of Charlottesville as a way to try to make sense of what was happening in our country. I'm so glad I did. At times hard to read, Mr. Picciolini holds nothing back describing his youth as a skinhead and neo-Nazi. I just finished reading it and I'm humbled by his bravery to document everything so unflinchingly, and impressed how he took total responsibility for his actions. This book is a must-read, a womderful tale of redemption that we ar Powerful and moving I bought this book in the aftermath of Charlottesville as a way to try to make sense of what was happening in our country. I'm so glad I did. At times hard to read, Mr. Picciolini holds nothing back describing his youth as a skinhead and neo-Nazi. I just finished reading it and I'm humbled by his bravery to document everything so unflinchingly, and impressed how he took total responsibility for his actions. This book is a must-read, a womderful tale of redemption that we are lucky to be able to experience.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Quite a good read. It was an alarming tale of a boy from a loving family who met the a charismatic skinhead at a vulnerable time, setting him on a path to hate and violence. Being intelligent and charismatic himself, he moved into a position of leadership and organization with wide influence. How he descended into a dark life and then got himself out onto a far different track is worth the read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mmfniteowl

    I saw the author at the Chicago Book fair this year and was intrigued by how he came to be so involved with the skinhead group. Also, when I read Jodi Picot's book, "Small Great Things", I thought the ending was not very realistic. The skinhead changed from a bigot to accepting of others views. And when I heard Christian talk about renouncing the group,I realized that people can change. Made Picoult's book more believable . I also was very surprised at how widespread these "hate" groups are.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amber Scott guerrero

    Well written yet difficult read. Had this book not been so well written I may not have been able to finish. His story is a difficult one to acknowledge. Christian's candor, stark painful honesty is to be commended. Let his story be a warning of how easy it is to find yourself or someone you love mired in the muck of not only hate but gangs. Worth the uneasiness to get to the end.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Brennan

    This book distills the need for acceptance, mentorship, and purpose that grips us in adolescence into a straightforward narrative that captures why extremist movements find it so easy to recruit young people. A powerful read and certainly a book that any parent, teacher, or really anyone who works with kids should read. Picciolini seems to dig up the skeletons of his past and show us how and why he came to the life he dod as well as what got him out.

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