Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Praise for Fear and What Follows

The August 1 issue of ALA Booklist has a very nice review of Tim Parrish’s Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, A Memoir. This book is a riveting, unflinching account of the author's spiral into racist violence during the latter years of desegregation in 1960s and 1970s Baton Rouge. 

Reviewer Ray Olson calls the book “a dramatic literary performance.” He goes on to say:
It is immensely readable and engaging, not least because, despite its narrative shapeliness, Parrish examines the contradictions of his young life, chief among them the fact that one of his best longtime friends was a black fellow athlete and top student. This is one of those books that, once read, is never forgotten.
The narrative of Parrish's descent into fear and irrational behavior begins with bigotry and apocalyptic thinking in his Southern Baptist church. Living a life upon this volatile foundation of prejudice and apprehension, Parrish feels destabilized by his brother going to Vietnam, his own puberty and restlessness, serious family illness, and economic uncertainty. Then a near-fatal street fight and subsequent stalking by an older sociopath fracture what security is left, leaving him terrified and seemingly helpless.

Parrish comes to believe that he can only be safe by allying himself with brute force. Parrish turns to violence in the street and at school. He is even conflicted about whether he will help commit murder in order to avenge a friend. At seventeen he must reckon with all of this as his parents and neighbors grow increasingly afraid that they are "losing" their neighborhood to African Americans. 

Fear and What Follows, an unparalleled story of the complex roots of southern, urban, working-class racism and white flight, as well as a story of family, love, and the possibility of redemption, will be available in September. 

The full text of Olson’s review is below.
Growing up in working-class Baton Rouge as the Civil Rights Act of 1965 began to take effect, Parrish heard the n-word a lot, including from his father and staunch Christians. He learned that being a man meant being strong, athletic, and, in the crunch, violent. Parrish’s older brother taught him to be an ace passer and receiver at football, but his manliness was tested when tough kids messed with him. He kept up his end, but could he continue to do it? Meanwhile, blacks began moving into white working-class neighborhoods. Parrish then took up with a kid who knew how to fight and enjoyed it. When a second crunch came, Parrish got in a race fight at school. But in the aftermath, he changed his mind, gave up his brawling buddy, and saw that things weren’t as he’d thought they were, including the correctness of his father’s attitudes. Parrish has also written stories and a forthcoming novel, and his memoir is a dramatic literary performance, concerned with setting and pace and as singularly focused as much first-person realist fiction. It is immensely readable and engaging, not least because, despite its narrative shapeliness,Parrish examines the contradictions of his young life, chief among them the fact that one of his best longtime friends was a black fellow athlete and top student. This is one of those books that, once read, is never forgotten.
                                                                                      — Ray Olson

 

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