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Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow

Fire Shut Up in My Bones

by Charles M. Blow

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2121085,053 (3.85)7
"New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow mines the compelling poetry of the out-of-time African-American Louisiana town where he grew up--a place where slavery's legacy felt astonishingly close, reverberating in the elders' stories and in the near-constant wash of violence"--Amazon.com.



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Charles M. Blow recounts the story of his childhood and growing into adulthood, a journey that was shaped greatly by his cousin's sexual abuse and his own confusion about his sexuality.

This searing memoir resonates strongly with me. I did not grow up poor and black in the southern U.S., but I have experienced a similar trauma that left me with a "before" and "after" too. "Before" took a little getting into, his early memories having a sort of stream of consciousness, impressions with no particular order. But before long, I was hooked by the writing style and the vivid images he evokes. The author doesn't go into great detail about the event, which he terms the "betrayal" from then on, but he shows how it affected him, the need for affection and attention that left him vulnerable to it, and the emotional baggage he dealt with afterwards. His emotions of feeling dead and consumed by the event to coming alive and at peace was a journey I have been on too. The descriptive language he uses to convey memories is lovely, and he has a way of writing with immediacy, both remembering his child's reaction and also having a more mature understanding looking back on what happened in his life. A lovely, hopeful memoir that I highly recommend. ( )
  bell7 | May 14, 2019 |
Moving memoir a man's about race, poverty, abuse New York Times op-ed and columnist Charles Blow drops the reader into his childhood and some of his young adulthood (ish, it ends after he leaves college). He discusses poverty, race and racism, his encounters with sexual abuse and growing up.
The reader knows that it is not going to be a light or easy read when Blow discusses his sexual abuse by a cousin within the first few pages. But the book is not entirely about that. Instead we learn about him as he grows up, having no comforts like a bathroom (his family sometimes washed in the same water that had been used for laundry), that he and his family lived in places where there was only one police officer and no jail (!).
It was a fascinating read to see where this NYT contributor came from and the journey he took. He discusses the abuse he received from his cousin and how that marked a change in him. Increasingly wary among other aggressive boys, yet when growing up and into adulthood he could not help but feel attraction to both women and men. 
In some ways the book was disappointing--any look about his time at the NYT isn't really here, and once he leaves college the book pretty much fast forwards through the rest. He marries his college sweetheart, although the marriage doesn't last more than 7 years. I wanted to know, why did he get married, after seeing his parents' marriage disintegrate (including his mother shooting an actual gun towards his father)? What does he tell his children about his past?
Some of this might be voyeurism, but I had somewhat hoped it would be more comprehensive of his life. I was also somewhat disappointed because I had read an excerpt that made its rounds when the book was about to be released/initial publicity: those actually took the book ends of the book and arguably "spoils" it somewhat.
Still, overall it was a good read and I'm glad I managed to get a copy from the library. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |

My disappointment in this book is unrivaled in light of the level of anticipation I had for reading this memoir. During the 2016 political campaign and the emergence of Donald J. Trump as a force to be reckoned with, Charles M. Blow took voice with the opposition and became a champion to me for his attacks on this awful man and now his presidency. Blow’s writing for the NY Times is always powerful and poignant. His appearances as a commentator on television prove to be remarkable events in themselves. But sad to say this book is a different story.

One admiring reviewer describes his awe in the author's command and use of the English language. Not so. But should have been. Too sweet and flowery for my tastes. Didn’t feel honest. And a not-so-admiring reviewer states he may have fire in his bones, but certainly not in his writing. It's tedious and boring and he takes what would be a gripping read of his difficult young life and turned it into a carefully worded, deliberately constructed poetic recitation. I get absolutely no sense of any "fire" whatsoever. I wish it were not so, but I must concur. And I know why this book fails on par with his articles. It feels as if a different man is speaking on the page. Not the Charles M. Blow I was attracted to. Sort of takes the starch out of his stance. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 7, 2018 |
Not my favorite... I don't do well with memoirs and autobiographies. I should have known better, but I was intrigued because I like Charles Blow's journalistic work. ( )
  beebeereads | Feb 12, 2017 |
I love this book. It makes a point, we have no way of knowing the impact that things can have on us until much, later on. After, being affected and having the courage to deal with it. Especially, as children growing up, lacking the maturity to understand complex emotions. Often blaming ourselves when the reasons why, had nothing to do with us at all. Too often we feel, what makes no sense. ( )
  andreancarr | Oct 27, 2015 |
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