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The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson
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The Residue Years

by Mitchell S. Jackson

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All I can say is wow!. One of the best books i have read in a long time. ( )
  AprilAnnAmelung | Sep 6, 2017 |
Never has a place I've known so well felt so foreign ( )
  RachelGMB | Aug 5, 2015 |
“Son, if you’re going to risk your love, save all the space you can for hurt.”--Grace
This spectacular debut novel was a finalist for the 2014 Pen/Hemingway Award, an award that went ultimately to NoViolet Bulawayo for her astonishing debut We Need New Names. Jackson was mentioned in the Award ceremony because the judges felt he deserved a call-out. Jackson has an earlier book of stories and essays called Oversoul: Stories and Essays, published in 2012, which deserves to be unearthed.

This fiction has the feel of real lives on the brink, aided by the coldly invasive government forms and drug treatment schedules that divide sections of the story. Never been booked nor needed to fill out an Incident Report? No matter. The folks here can tell you just how hopeless it feels, and how little of the whole story they capture. And they’ll tell you they never want to have to do it again, hoping against hope that they and everyone else in their neighborhood-sized universe has the strength to make it so.

Grace and Champ (“name it first, then make it so”), mother and son, come close, so close to fulfilling the promise of their names. This is the story of their curved and intersecting paths: how Grace, straight from rehab is cherished by Champ and how Champ creates a vision of world he has control over. He’s determined: “Say it first and believe it second; that’s my psalm.” No one else is creating a habitable place for those he loves—why shouldn’t he?

The Pacific Northwest has its share of the complicated rhythms of race. This story is set in the ‘hoods of Portland, where it rains almost constantly and most of the population is whiter ‘n a salt lick. There are just enough black people about to remind you the importance of family.

We watch a boy do a man’s work and a mother try to marshal inner reserves that are too meager. The character of Michael jittering out of the gloom on a rainy or dark night strikes terror, and rightly so. “With friends like these…”

The interleaved voices of Champ and Grace circle one another like a contrapuntal melody, each adding emphasis and context until finally coming together in a sinuous and discordant harmony. The outcome we have feared from the start has the smooth and clarion inevitability of Greek tragedy. “Listen, don’t forget this. Don’t let this slip your mind. Most of us, if we’re lucky, we see a few seconds of the high life. And the rest are the residue years.”--Mister




( )
2 vote bowedbookshelf | May 5, 2014 |
This is the urban flipside to Jessmyn West's "The Men We Reaped" and is almost as sorrowful a tale. The novel is told in alternating voices, mother and son, as they stumble through the minefields of using and selling crack cocaine. Each family member, including sons, girlfriends, fathers, grandbabies, are swept into the bad decisions and the good. The bureaucracy is not cruel as much as it is ever present, police and drug counselors, ripoff artists, none with vision, or maybe all with eyes too weary to see the humans beneath the challenges. And yet there's strength enough, hopefully, to come out on the right side. A very memorable first novel, if a novel it is ("A Novel" is crossed off on the cover). ( )
  froxgirl | Oct 28, 2013 |
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Mitchell S. Jackson grew up black in a neglected neighborhood in America's whitest city, Portland, Oregon. In the '90s, those streets and beyond had fallen under the shadow of crack cocaine and its familiar mayhem. In his commanding autobiographical novel, Mitchell writes what it was to come of age in that time and place, with a break-out voice that's nothing less than extraordinary."The Residue Years" switches between the perspectives of a young man, Champ, and his mother, Grace. Grace is just out of a drug treatment program, trying to stay clean and get her kids back. Champ is trying to do right by his mom and younger brothers, and dreams of reclaiming the only home he and his family have ever shared. But selling crack is the only sure way he knows to achieve his dream. In this world of few options and little opportunity, where love is your strength and your weakness, this family fights for family and against what tears one apart.… (more)

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