cover image How Far to the Promised Land

How Far to the Promised Land

Esau McCaulley. Convergent, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-24108-0

McCaulley (Reading While Black), an associate professor of the New Testament at Wheaton College, explores racism, poverty, and faith in his searing memoir. McCaulley grew up in Huntsville, Ala., with a mother who was fundamentally rendered a single parent after his father became addicted to drugs. He saw football as his most promising route to a college scholarship, but when an injury seemed to nix those plans, he turned to his studies, eager to prove himself as “more than a Black body, useful only when I collided with other desperate boys wrestling for control of the football.” He negotiated pressures in college to conform to the often-narrow expectations of a progressive Black intellectual, struggled with faith and purpose, and later found his calling: “to put into words and on paper the varied experiences of God in the souls of Black folks.” With uncompromising honesty and deep introspection, McCaulley complicates the narrative of “overcoming racism and poverty as a hero,” and instead sets his story amid larger communal narratives of Blackness, because “the focus on a singular person obscures the truth that the gifted are not the only ones who succeed, the weak are not the only ones who perish, and the America we laud for producing victors still creates too many victims.” This is powerful and necessary. (Sept.)