The Residue Years

The Residue Years

Mitchell S. Jackson

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 1620400286

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Winner Writing Writers' Award
Winner Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction
Finalist for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize
Finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award

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.

Honest in its portrayal, with cadences that dazzle, The Residue Years signals the arrival of a writer set to awe.

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tough to ignore. She slaps my app on a clipboard and checks it with a red pen. I can’t watch. I can’t not watch. I left the felony question blank, and when she gets down by where it’s at on the page and crisscrosses a red X. I turn to the window that looks onto the playground, see two boys tumble out of the mouth of a winding purple slide while a small girl stands by applauding. There’s a huge difference between lowering your standards and adjusting your expectations. One day you’re driving your

takes out a paper and pamphlets and tosses them on the bed. The pamphlets show pregnant women. What’s this? I say. A decision, she says. Decisions. Our last was not long ago and we said never again. But the punk in me knows I’ll press soon enough for another, a last (you would hope) clinic visit. What the pimps in my life, what all the two-bit players and the model apathetic lovers never told me, was this: For those of us who can feel, the guilt never leaves, it only ever gets displaced. Do

maybe the grand puba of prohibition bootlegging. Tell me the Kennedys ain’t American royals, I said. And your point is? he said. This is when I mentioned Big Ken’s oldest brother, Uncle Cluck, who well before his passionate crusade for crackhead of the century graduated cum laude from the U of O and ran a profitable legal businesses while becoming (per the newspaper headlines of his bust) the biggest dope dealer in the land. My point is you’ve got to be more than ambitious. You got to have

she? What’s wrong with that? I say. That is how it’s supposed to be done. Says who? he says. Not for me. A father now, yes. But a husband, hell no. Champ, that’s foolish, I say. And selfish. Don’t be so selfish. You’ve got to learn to give, son. More than what’s in your pocket. We finish and he digs the bag—it’s as swelled as it was when New Years I brought it back—from a closet stocked with boxes for my grandbaby. He carries it out behind me to the Honda. It’s filthy; its hood and roof are

pistol (I can feel it shaking, and hope he can’t see) aimed where his heart should be. That’s my mama, I say. My mama, I say. Say it as a man, a boy, a child. The woman who gave me life stands butt-naked, all bones, her pubic bush glistening wet. Well, here it is, no more secrets, she says. The truth, all truth. Now are you satisfied? She martyrs her arms out. Her eyes are wrung dark. One of her penciled eyebrows is swiped clean. Her hair’s a spiked swarm. The room reeks of blunts and sweat

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