Chasing Dreams in Cyberspace

Article excerpt

books

Hacker Cracker: A Journey from the Mean Streets of Brooklyn to the Frontiers of Cyberspace

By Ejovi Nuwere with David Chanoff

(William Morrow, $27)

With fingers flying over the keyboard, security expert Ejovi Nuwere races to shut down the computer access of a company's just-fired chief technology officer before he can take revenge by crippling the firm's information systems. The man heads back to his offoce sooner than expected and a rush of adrenaline jolts the hero as he has only seconds to finish the job. When he does, Nuwere feels like "the man in black, the unseen avenger brought in to take down the bad guy."

So begins Hacker Cracker: A Journey from the Mean Streets of Brooklyn to the Frontiers of Cyberspace. Twenty-two-- year-old Nuwere's memoir traces his life growing up in Bed Stuy, a rough Brooklyn neighborhood where drugs and gangs were commonplace, and shows how his hard-won computer skills gave him a way out.

While the most successful hackers manage to remain anonymous, some have grabbed headlines in recent years, such as Kevin Mitnick, who was captured and jailed for fraud after more than a decade of hacking into telephone company operating systems. But Nuwere tells a seldom heard story, as the word "hacker" typically conjures up images of brainy White guys rather than young Black men from poor backgrounds.

Hacker Cracker adds a twist to the familiar genre of African American autobiography in which the protagonist overcomes difficult beginnings and rises to prominence.

The ride is anything but smooth. Nuwere's adolescence includes living next door to drug-addicts, hearing about a friend who'd been shot and whose "brains were on the sidewalk" and an attempted suicide in sixth grade.

Filled with such harrowing incidents, Hacker Cracker is written in a matter-- of-fact, dispassionate style that often simply relates Nuwere's experiences rather than actually animating them.

The author was raised in his grandmother's small, three-bedroom apartment, where the large crowd of people coming and going felt like family. His mother's downward spiral because of drug abuse eventually led to her death of AIDS-related illnesses, while his father died of kidney failure when Nuwere was 13.

As life becomes more difficult at home and in school, the author finds solace in computers. …