My dad spent a good chunk of his youth in a strange land full of swamps, rice paddies, and mountains, watching villages get burned and children get killed and families get wiped out. He saw his friends from the neighborhood and the friends he made in the army gunned down before his eyes. Every day he fought to survive more than he fought an enemy he could identify. My father wasn't a violent man. He was a musician. He went to Vietnam a boy and came back a man, a very different man than he would have become otherwise. He came back with memories and bad habits that he couldn't shake for a long time. That is the heart and soul of my story, and that is where my very beginning is. It's not a very good place to start. You hear me, Julie Andrews? I learned how to be a man from my father, and because of what his life had done to him, I learned a few other things too. I think I'm just now trying to unlearn some of those lessons or at least see them for what they are—the good, the bad, the all of it. All of the humanity of where I'm coming from has only just become clear to me.
What I'm saying is that my father picked up bad habits over there just like I picked up bad habits in show business. Show business is my Vietnam and this life is the war that I'm fighting. We've all got our wars. We're all victims of our battles because in war nobody wins. My father? The only thing that kept him sane was his music, but he died paying the price for his sins anyway.
Excerpted from I Am the New Black by Tracy Morgan, with Anthony Bozza. Copyright © 2009 by Tracy Morgan. Excerpted by permission of Spiegel & Grau, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.