A Quantum Life (Adapted for Young Adults): My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars

Delacorte. Aug. 2023. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781984849632.
Gr 10 Up–Before he became Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, a NASA astrophysicist, he was just James Plummer, Jr., whose life wasn’t a straight line to success. Instead, instability reigned with a single mother and constant moving. He had a higher-than-average IQ and a need for scientific knowledge, but instead found trouble. Dubbed the gangsta physicist, Oluseyi provides an introspective look at his ascension to a credentialed scientist by combating addiction and discrimination with grit. For this young adult adaptation, Oluseyi includes Horwitz to help shift the narrative. Still focused on his rocky rise into the world of doctoral work and discovery in STEM, the shorter chapters keep a steady pace focused on his relationships; first with his sister who did most of the caretaking, then with the father he would see during the summers. Then there were his romantic relationships, drug affiliations, and ultimately his children and his mentor. Readers get attached to Oluseyi who bares all, provides inspiration, and celebrates science. Reaching through the pages to tell his story without editing the obstacles makes it tangible. The honesty is also what connects it to similar memoirs like Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi and Becoming by Michelle Obama.
VERDICT By celebrating a Black academic in the STEM field, this scientist’s memoir envisions a place for anyone who has a dream that the possibility is there to achieve it. Purchase it for teen nonfiction collections everywhere.

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