Glenn Loury gets really candid in his memoir.

Loury spells out his marital infidelity, drug addiction and experience with public scandal in detail. The book is part personal confession, but also part political philosophy, chronicling Loury’s journey from right to left and back to right. In some ways, it’s a story about how Loury became comfortable with making mistakes, admitting them and changing his mind.

“What’s my alternative?” Loury told the Deseret News in a video call. “My alternative is to live with a lie about myself and not to be authentic and not to live in good faith.”

Loury is a public intellectual and a Brown University professor whose academic career in economics has taken him around the world and also into political circles. He now also hosts a podcast with John McWhorter.

“Late Admissions: Confessions of a Black Conservative” starts with Loury’s working-class upbringing on Chicago’s South Side and goes through critical moments of his teenage years. He was raised by a single mother and spent a lot of time with his extended family. He’s frank about both the good (his mother, his church and aspects of the neighborhood community), his mistakes (stealing a car, for instance) and the tragedies (losing a Little League teammate to a heroin overdose).

The frank nature of Loury’s writing carries over throughout the entire book. As Loury put it, he’s in the last quarter of his life and he said he had to come to terms with himself.

“It’s the problem of self-regard. That’s the way I term it in the book — the problem of coming to terms with oneself, the enemy within, acknowledging the enemy and not being duped by the cover story, even the cover story that you tell yourself,” said Loury, who is 75 years old.

For Loury, the book is about telling the truth, not just to readers, but to himself.

Writing it was taxing. Loury said two particular parts were hardest for him to revisit: his abandonment of his son Alden and his betrayal of his late wife Linda. As much as it is a story about pain and mistakes, Loury also explains how he launched his academic career.

Loury was a teen father and worked at a Burger King and later a printing plant as he went to a local community college. Soon he would earn entrance to and, later, a degree at Northwestern University, and then made it to Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his doctoral degree. By 1982, Loury had earned tenure at Harvard University, becoming the first Black academic to do so in the economics department.

In these early years of his career, Loury became acquainted with Republican circles — the Reagan administration even considered him for a cabinet slot.

Loury said his economics training and proximity to Christianity inclined him toward conservatism.

“I’m an African American from a traditional cultural nexus,” said Loury. “I was around the church all of my life, one way or another, and some of the more socially conservative values are kind of a part of my cultural heritage.”

But Loury wasn’t a conservative for the entirety of his career. After a couple clashes with other conservatives, Loury moved leftward and advocated for prison reform.

“I was a Reagan conservative and neoconservative on the ride of the culture war, political correctness and all of that,” he said. “But then, I had a phase where I moved sharply to the left and I took up incarceration as my cause.”

Loury, who was a member of the American Enterprise Institute’s Council of Academic Advisers, resigned from the institute over Dinesh D’Souza’s book “The End of Racism.” He took to The New York Times in 1997 to criticize then-contemporary conservative commentary on race.

“A ‘get out of the wagon and help the rest of us push’ approach to indigent families and a ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ attitude toward inner-city law-breakers have become staples of conservative ideology,” wrote Loury. “There is scarcely a thought given to the impact such policies will have on poor black communities.”

Around this time, Loury found more of a home among the left. But switching political affiliations wasn’t an easy ride.

“It’s costly. You lose friends. People get mad at you and you move into unfamiliar territory,” he said. “And sometimes you wonder, do you have a place to stand?”

Loury would eventually return to conservatism with stern words about identity politics. He’s also critical of former President Donald Trump, and neoconservatism permeates his philosophy. In the last few years, Loury said he’s “soured on the defund the police stuff” and, in part, that motivated his shift rightward.

As someone who has been on the left and the right, Loury sees positive aspects of both political philosophies.

On the left, Loury has an admiration for the compassion and the posture of questioning whether or not something is fair to people. Referencing economist Thomas Sowell, Loury said this compassion needs to be combined with realism.

“It needs to be brought into reckoning with the reality that resources are limited,” said Loury. This discipline and realism attracts Loury to the right, as does the concept of order both in civil institutions and the institution of the family. Reverence for institutions and practices, as well as a certain restraint to civil life, is something Loury thinks is understood by the right.

The book isn’t just about Loury’s political philosophy, it also delves into his story of faith.

Loury and his family went to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Chicago a couple of times a month while growing up. He said he didn’t go every Sunday, but it still influenced him.

“My real religious birth comes when I’m an adult. I’m in my late 30s and I’m struggling with recovery from drug addiction and with trauma and scandal in my life,” said Loury. At that point, he started attending what he described as “a very lively, spiritually lively and devout African American religious grouping.”

Along with Linda, his late wife, and their two children, the family became members of the congregation and Loury even became involved in ministries and was “something of a deacon-like figure.” The family uprooted to live closer to the church. But after Loury was baptized, he said he had a crisis of faith that began when a close friend died in her 40s and he attended a funeral for her.

“I felt like I was peering down into the abyss of despair,” said Loury. He wrote more about this episode in the book and encouraged those interested in the story to read the book

“I had this crisis of faith and I fell away from the church. But as I tell in the book, and I don’t want to tell it all here, I want people to read the book,” he said. “That was in a way a cover story. That was a cover story for me about my faith journey.”

While the book tells Loury’s philosophical journey, he had to leave out some other aspects of his life that he said he wished he could include (if he had more space — the book’s already 400-plus pages long).

Loury has traveled to South Africa, Australia, Hungary, Nepal and India.

“I’ve traveled the world and done many, many interesting things that have nothing much to do with being Black in America, but have to do with me being a world-class scholar in my field and I’m not sure that comes across in the book as fully as it could,” he said.


Travel has molded and formed Loury’s perspective on the world and when the Deseret News asked what he hoped readers, especially from younger generations, would glean from his candid account, Loury said, “Don’t live small, live big.”

“Don’t be in a box. Don’t live in a box of identity — I’m of this or I’m of that. Think big. The world’s a small place,” said Loury. “The differences between us are not so great, between our various cultures and races and religions and traditions. There’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot more to know, much more under heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy — I think that’s from Shakespeare.”

“Identities are part of who we are, but they are not who we are,” said Loury. “We are the authors of our own script.”

How you live your life cannot be abdicated to someone else, he said. “Don’t subcontract that to the crowd. Don’t delegate responsibility for how you offer your life to the group. You’re responsible for what you do with your life.”

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