I feel it's my duty to review all the books I read, even the terrible ones.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow definitely falls into that category.
It's pretty rare, but every once in a while Amazon tricks me into reading a book because of its glowing with five-star reviews. This was the main reason that I decided to read Fire Shut Up in My Bones for my book club, even though it's something I wouldn't normally pick up.
Darn you, Amazon.
If there's anything I truly hate, it's my time being wasted.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones is a memoir about how one of America's most innovative and respected journalists found his voice by coming to terms with a painful past.
Charles M. Blow remembers growing up in an African-American Louisiana town, a place where slavery's legacy reverberates in a near-constant wash of violence. Charles is extremely attached to his mother, a fiercely driven woman with five sons. Unfortunately she is not able to protect him from an episode of abuse at the hands of an older cousin. This damage triggers years of anger and self-questioning for Charles. Eventually he escapes to a nearby state university, where he joins a black fraternity after a passage of brutal hazing. Finally, he briefly outlines the conclusion of his college years and his entrance into the world of professional journalism.
The first couple chapters were all right. I enjoyed Blow's writing style and the descriptions of his hometown and the people who live there. But about a quarter of the way through the book, I found myself feeling bored and constantly wondering, "So what? Why am I reading this? Why should anyone care?" I know a memoir is ultimately a collection of personal memories, but if you're going to publish them publically for the masses, I think the author should still attempt to create a story that is engaging and interesting to the reader. Blow seems to ramble on and on with seemingly no purpose. Then he spends far too much time on his years spent with the fraternity, graphically describing the violent hazing and humiliation he endures. He makes his point, but the length of this particular part of the book went way overboard and almost caused me to give up finishing completely. I kept thinking, "All right, already. I got it, I got it."
I admire Blow in his ability to recreate himself from a fearful, self-doubting little boy into an intelligent, accomplished adult, but I was extremely disappointed in this book overall.
I wish I hadn't wasted my time on it.