Book Review July/August 2008
Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain
By Lori L. Tharps
Atria Books, March 2008
$23, 224 pps.
Growing up in Milwaukee, Lori L. Tharps wanted desperately to escape the “boring and dull and colorless” life there; and in seventh grade she “began to obsess about traveling to Spain.” She writes: “Spain seemed to be the perfect place for a girl with a penchant for drama to find herself. … Spain is going to change my life.” As a junior at Smith College, Tharps got her wish and traveled to study abroad — in Salamanca, Spain. Once there, however, she discovered that the country of her dreams has a complex history with slavery and is not as colorblind as she imagined it might be. Kinky Gazpacho is an enjoyable memoir about the unexpected lessons learned about a country’s culture and the joys of self-discovery.
— Clarence V. Reynolds
Say You’re One of Them
By Ukem Akpan
Little, Brown and Company, June 2008
$23.99, 384 pps.
Nigerian writer Ukem Akpan, a Jesuit priest, delivers a brilliant literary debut with this collection of stories that center on the lives of children surviving in the war-torn, strife-ridden countries of Africa. What’s so inviting about Say You’re One of Them is the rich texture of the well-crafted narratives told from the perspective of brave, innocent and hopeful young characters. From the first story, about a 12-year-old girl who prostitutes herself to earn money to pay her brother’s school fees, to the last, in which a young Rwandan girl is faced with the harsh realities of being the daughter of a mother who’s Tutsi and a father from Hutu bloodline, each story brims with emotion and thoughtfulness.
THE AGE CURVE
It’s fair to say that selling any product, service or idea ultimately depends on having enough customers to buy it. Yet when it comes to targeting specific consumers, marketers routinely fail to do the math of demand and supply. Lack of market research, lack creativity and lack consumer motivation all get blamed when the real culprit is shifting generational numbers, according to Kenneth W. Gronbach, a nationally recognized expert on demographics and generational marketing.
Gronbach is the founder, president and CEO of a direct marketing company. He argues that most of the country’s struggling companies — and most generational-marketing gurus — are not paying attention to a basic fact: Smaller generations buy less stuff; larger generations buy more stuff. In his book The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm, Gronbach shows corporate executives, entrepreneurs and marketers how to anticipate and successfully adapt to predictable waves of demand using one piece of data: the U.S. Census record of the number of live births from 1905 to 2005. Focusing on each of the five distinct generations living in America today, reveals how a generation’s size, particularly in relation to the generation it follows, determines its collective personality and habits of consumption.
“Marketers seem to miss the fact that generation size is also market size,” Gronbach observes. “And marketers don’t notice that aging and generational movement are absolutely consistent. We can’t speed them up and we can’t slow them down.”
The Age Curve gives any business an edge on serving the changing needs of the two largest markets: the 78 million members of the baby- boom generation and the soon-to-be 100 million Generation Y, or echo boomers. Backed by hard facts and numbers, Gronbach shatters many trusted assumptions about consumer behavior and offers eye-opening insights into the imminent future of the United States. Readers will discover:
• How the myth of the much-hyped “graying of America” may culminate in the collapse of the grossly overbuilt assisted-living industry (now ranging in age from 44 to 63, the boomers won’t be nursing-home candidates for at least another 20 years).
• Why Gen Xers have been unfairly branded as unresponsive consumers and “slackers” (there are simply 11 percent fewer Gen Xers than boomers)…and how this small group of young adults spurred the huge housing crisis and may seal the death of Social Security.
• Why Generation Y offers a massive opportunity for marketers (these kids are already consuming at five times the level of their parents’ generations)…and how selling to this savvy group will require unique, personalized strategies and a commitment to being Green.
A compelling argument for generational marketing looking simply at the numbers, The Age Curve is a mind-transforming book with the potential to revolutionize the way companies view, connect with and count their most valuable customers.