Syndicated, conservative talk-show host Armstrong Williams’ first book may be titled Beyond Blame: How We Can Succeed by Breaking the Dependency Barrier (The Free Press, 102 pp., $18), but that doesn’t stop him from pointing the finger. Mostly he blames 29-year-old Brad Howard, a former drug dealer and a father of three living in Southeast D.C.; several conversations Williams had with Howard served as the motivation for six essays, which are masked as letters. “I realize what you need is a new soul—or at least some serious repair on the one you have,” Williams tells him. Williams also blames educators, who have “ignored the obvious fact that real self-esteem comes only from real accomplishments,” and women who “consistently” come to the defense of the Brad Howards in the black community. And Williams accuses African-American leaders who aren’t held accountable for their actions and thus create an environment that nurtures predators.
Williams’ unblemished, opinionated analyses embrace the doctrines of the Republican Party. While his positions on education, parenting, and victimization theology are predictable, his compassionate letters to Howard shift from stern lectures marked by logical reasoning to quiet pleading with secrets of his own youth as guideposts. Williams’ letters resemble the stern but loving talks fathers have with sons, and in fact pay homage to his late father, James Williams: “[My father] placed great importance on the smallest things,” he writes. “From getting good grades in math to finishing my chores, he viewed almost everything in the context of a larger picture. Every life is made up of those small decisions, those little victories and defeats, that we deal with every day. Every little, unheralded choice is a piece of the bigger picture—the general direction your life will take.”