"A Childhood is the best introduction to his work. It explains so much of where Crews was coming from in his blood-tinted fiction. . . . This memoir has a foot in another world, a weird, old Depression-era America. Crews writes with knowledge and feeling on a wide series of topics, from farming to factory work (his mother later takes a job at a cigar-making factory) to food and sex. . . . This memoir is for everyone. It’s agile, honest and built as if to last. Like its author, it’s a resilient American original."
—Dwight Garner, New York Times
"The book itself is a work of art, beautifully produced by University of Georgia Press and illustrated by gorgeous woodcuts of key moments in the narrative. . . . Crews achieves a persona remarkable for reflecting from the writer's present while conveying the world and viewpoint of the five-year-old who gets scalded one day at a hog boiling and the boy who later is incapacitated by polio."
"It is Crews' great gift that he can show us how absolutely cursed, and alsolutely beautiful, we are. . . . Crews burns through the easy ways in which we would like to regard ourselves; what he leaves behind is something better, something touched by the refiner's fire."
—New York Newsday
At once shocking and elegiac, heartrending and comical, A Childhood not only recalls the transforming events of Crews's youth but conveys his growing sense of self in a world "in which survival depended on raw courage, a courage born out of desperation and sustained by a lack of alternatives."
Amid portraits of relatives and neighbors, Bacon County lore, and details of farm life, Crews tells of his father's death; his friendship with Willalee Bookatee, the son of a black hired hand; his bout with polio; his mother and stepfather's failing marriage; his near-fatal scalding at a hog-killing; and a five-month sojourn in Jacksonville, Florida. These and other memories define, with reverence and affection, Harry Crews's childhood world: "its people and its customs and all its loveliness and all its ugliness." Imaginative and gripping, A Childhood re-creates in detail one writer's search for past and self, a search for a time and place lost forever except in memory.
Read more about Harry Crews at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
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