A Childhood

The Biography of a Place

Harry Crews

Illustrated by Michael McCurdy

Title Details

Pages: 192

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 10/01/1995

ISBN: 9-780-8203-1759-5

List Price: $29.95

A Childhood

The Biography of a Place

Harry Crews

Illustrated by Michael McCurdy

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  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards

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. If Bacon County was a place of grinding poverty, poor soil, and blood feuds, it was also a deeply mystical place, where snakes talked, birds could possess a small boy by spitting in his mouth, and faith healers and conjure women kept ghosts and devils at bay.

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.

Crews is, obviously, a unique southern raconteur. . . . It's easy to despise poor folks. A Childhood makes it more difficult. It raises almost to a level of heroism these people who seem of a different century. A Childhood is not about a forgotten America, it is about a part of America that has rarely, except in books like this, been properly discovered.

—New York Times Book Review

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

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

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.

—Richard Gilbert, Narrative


25 Books All Georgians Should Read, Georgia Center for the Book

About the Author/Editor

HARRY CREWS (1935-2012) is the author of eighteen novels, including The Mulching of America, The Knockout Artist, and A Feast of Snakes. He was a professor at the University of Florida.