Standalone Sunday is a weekly tag created by Megan @bookslayerReads (which I like to do once a fortnight) where you recommend a standalone novel. It’s a quick, fun tag anyone can participate in, and all the details can be found on Megan’s blog! So, my novel this week is…
Title: The Residue Years
Author: Mitchell S. Jackson
Publication Date: August 20th, 2013
Genre: Race; Own-Voice
The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson. I read this for an independent assignment I was doing this time last year, and this novel really blew me away. It has autobiographical components (hence the crossing out of the words “a novel” on the cover), and reading this novel, and then doing major research on Jackson and the novel’s setting was really eye-opening for me. So, the reasons I’ve chosen this novel are:
1. Jackson’s History: The novel’s two protagonists and narrators, Champ and Grace, are based on Jackson and his mother. Jackson was arrested for possession of drugs and did sixteen months in prison before gaining an undergraduate degree in Speech Communications, and two master’s degrees in Creative Writing. That’s so impressive! I think he’s a very inspiring person, and reading this novel knowing it’s loosely based on his life really adds to the reading experience and the novel’s hard impact.
2. Depiction of Black Communities in 90’s Portland: This very honest depiction comes from Jackson’s experiences as a youth growing up in Portland in the aftermath of the crack cocaine epidemic during 80s America. Champ is a drug dealer, and Grace is a former drug user, and their narratives highlight the inequalities black people and drug users (and former drug users) experienced by the media, law, and politics during this time. Their narratives are so intelligent and informative of what this time period was like for black people, and how overwhelmingly racist it was.
3. Jackson’s Writing: I found Jackson’s writing to be pretty interesting – Champ’s narrative especially. Champ’s language changes depending on where he is and who he is talking to (college, friends, family, etc):
“KJ’s ambivalent about his cut. Looks to me, with his shoulders hiked. My bro is always demurring, always deferring. But since it’s a 0.00 percent of reclaiming a vacated seat, it won’t be no assurance from intimate distance today. Give him a low one-lengther, I say from my perch. Dude’s averse to cuts, I say.
Averse? the barber says. Averse! There you go with those SAT words. Man, don’t you know the shop got rules against that smart boy vocab?
Funnyman’s got jokes, but maybe it ain’t knee-slap. How else to explain dude on the other side who used to go to grade school with me, who used to get teased something terrible about his droopy eye, who spent recesses befuddled by chapter books, needed extra time on tests, and slogged the halls past the last bell with low ambition pinned to his chest like a Cub Scout badge? How else to explain, how now, like most of us other frauds, he plays like he’s too tough for TV, a muthafuckin man of steel. But hold up before you knock it. That’s how it is for us. How they made it. How it must be if we are at all to be. Cause how it is where you’re from, who knows, but around here, you’re either a soldier or a sanguine sucker.
Check it, though, deep down in the place sealed off from the world, what I know is, no civilian should have to be that tough..”
Have you read this novel? What were your thoughts? What is your Standalone Sunday novel? Let me know in the comments!