A Childhood: The Biography of a Place

A Childhood: The Biography of a Place

by Harry Crews

A Childhood is the unforgettable memoir of Harry Crews' earliest years, a sharply remembered portrait of the people, locales, and circumstances that shaped him--and destined him to be a storyteller.

Crews was born in the middle of the Great Depression, in a one-room sharecropper's cabin at the end of a dirt road in rural South Georgia.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Autobiography
  • Rating: 4.39
  • Pages: 192
  • Publish Date: October 1st 1995 by University of Georgia Press
  • Isbn10: 0820317594
  • Isbn13: 9780820317595

What People Think about "A Childhood: The Biography of a Place"

Of course, were Crews black his point of view would likely be different. Almost all of his first flush of books would feature characters named after the real life black families and friends who so nurtured and helped raise him as one of their own, and I take this honoring as a testament to the man's constitution.

UPDATE: Here is a link to a wonderful retrospective look at Crews' book by Dwight Garner in his "American Beauties" column in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/29/bo... ------------------------------------------- When Harry Crews died in 2012, Elaine Woo in the Los Angeles Times wrote, the word original only begins to describe Crews, whose 17 novels place him squarely in the Southern gothic tradition, also known as Grit Lit. He emerged from a grisly childhood in Georgia with a darkly comic vision that made him literary kin to William Faulkner, Flannery OConnor and Hunter S. His novels are a bit too bizarre for my reading tastes, but I am a huge fan of his memoir. A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, a straight forward account of the first six years of his life, is just as memorable as his novels, and will always be one of my favorites. Crews description of what happened the night after his father was buried is one of the most devastating descriptions of grinding poverty that I have ever read: "The night after the day daddy was buried, somebody went in the smokehouse and stole all the meat that had been cured and hung there before he died....

Harry Crews was born in 1935 into grinding poverty in southern Georgia. "The only thing worse than my nerves was my curiosity, which had always been untempered by pity or compassion, a serious character failing in most societies but a sanity - saving virtue in Georgia when I was a child." This quote precedes a scene where he watches a hired man tortured by a bad tooth pull it out with a pair of pliers, with nothing but freezing water from the well to deaden the pain.

What you see is a stereotypical country boy that you may point and laugh at, but with a quick look in your direction, the intimidation makes you run for your life. One of the best biographies you'll read of a childhood and place that shaped that person through his writing and the rest of his life.

This reads like fiction. In Crews' mind, part of the fullness of story telling is hearing the story for the first time from a perspective you haven't heard or known, and the only way that can be accomplished effectively is through association that only happens in a physical proximity. My daughter while she may one day hear new stories about me from different friends of mine, but she will never get to experience the same story being told by all those people at the same time because we are virtual in connection now not physical. Great read- highly recommended- highly southern- puts me in a place to know how he gained his unique slant on life which would have been required to write the way he did.

They give the book a fabulist feel that I don't think is necessary given the richness of Crews's memories.

Harry Crews was practicing the art of storytelling as a five-year-old in a poor sharecropper's shack in Georgia. "I knew that under those fancy clothes there had to be scars, there had to be swellings and boils of one kind or another because there was no other way to live in the world." Crews' family was terribly poor, working extremely hard farming in Bacon County, Georgia during the Great Depression.

Not your typical beach read, but hey, it worked for me.

Two parts Larry Brown, two parts Wendell Berry, two parts William Gay, two parts the kinds of places and people and stories Ive had all my life. I had already learned without knowing Id learned it that every single thing in the world was full of mystery and awesome power. Making stories about them was not so that we could understand them but so that we could live with them.

His mother later moved her sons to Jacksonville, Florida. Crews is twice divorced and is the father of two sons. Crews returned to the University of Florida as an English faculty member.