cover image Fire Shut Up in My Bones: A Memoir

Fire Shut Up in My Bones: A Memoir

Charles M. Blow. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-544-22804-7

In this brave and powerful memoir, New York Times columnist Blow describes growing up poor, African-American, and sexually conflicted in the 1970s Deep South. The Civil Rights era barely touched his Louisiana hometown of Gibsland, and Blow's family struggles in segregated, rural poverty. Sexual abuse at the hands of an older cousin when Blow is seven drives the already sensitive boy into isolation and depression. Although Blow becomes a superior student and athlete, he remains haunted by his experiences. Thirteen years later, this inner turmoil explodes, and he feels an urge to murder the man who molested him. Gibsland seems trapped in a pre-industrial era (young people there eat clay). The rare intrusions of modernity are shocking: when Blow's family learns of an overturned cattle truck on a nearby highway, they rush out, steal an injured cow, and slaughter it. The great bravery in the book lies in Blow's nuanced treatment of his uncertain sexuality. While he waxes sentimental at times, and his deliberations about whether to murder his cousin come off as melodramatic, this is a singular look at a neglected America. (July)