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There Will Be No Miracles Here: A Memoir

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NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2018 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES "Somehow Casey Gerald has pulled off the most urgently political, most deeply personal, and most engagingly spiritual statement of our time by just looking outside his window and inside himself. Extraordinary." —Marlon James "Staccato prose and peripatetic storytelling combine the cadences of the Bible with an urgency reminisce NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2018 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES "Somehow Casey Gerald has pulled off the most urgently political, most deeply personal, and most engagingly spiritual statement of our time by just looking outside his window and inside himself. Extraordinary." —Marlon James "Staccato prose and peripatetic storytelling combine the cadences of the Bible with an urgency reminiscent of James Baldwin in this powerfully emotional memoir." —BookPage The testament of a boy and a generation who came of age as the world came apart—a generation searching for a new way to live. Casey Gerald comes to our fractured times as a uniquely visionary witness whose life has spanned seemingly unbridgeable divides. His story begins at the end of the world: Dallas, New Year's Eve 1999, when he gathers with the congregation of his grandfather's black evangelical church to see which of them will be carried off. His beautiful, fragile mother disappears frequently and mysteriously; for a brief idyll, he and his sister live like Boxcar Children on her disability checks. When Casey—following in the footsteps of his father, a gridiron legend who literally broke his back for the team—is recruited to play football at Yale, he enters a world he's never dreamed of, the anteroom to secret societies and success on Wall Street, in Washington, and beyond. But even as he attains the inner sanctums of power, Casey sees how the world crushes those who live at its margins. He sees how the elite perpetuate the salvation stories that keep others from rising. And he sees, most painfully, how his own ascension is part of the scheme. There Will Be No Miracles Here has the arc of a classic rags-to-riches tale, but it stands the American Dream narrative on its head. If to live as we are is destroying us, it asks, what would it mean to truly live? Intense, incantatory, shot through with sly humor and quiet fury, There Will Be No Miracles Here inspires us to question--even shatter--and reimagine our most cherished myths.


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NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2018 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES "Somehow Casey Gerald has pulled off the most urgently political, most deeply personal, and most engagingly spiritual statement of our time by just looking outside his window and inside himself. Extraordinary." —Marlon James "Staccato prose and peripatetic storytelling combine the cadences of the Bible with an urgency reminisce NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2018 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES "Somehow Casey Gerald has pulled off the most urgently political, most deeply personal, and most engagingly spiritual statement of our time by just looking outside his window and inside himself. Extraordinary." —Marlon James "Staccato prose and peripatetic storytelling combine the cadences of the Bible with an urgency reminiscent of James Baldwin in this powerfully emotional memoir." —BookPage The testament of a boy and a generation who came of age as the world came apart—a generation searching for a new way to live. Casey Gerald comes to our fractured times as a uniquely visionary witness whose life has spanned seemingly unbridgeable divides. His story begins at the end of the world: Dallas, New Year's Eve 1999, when he gathers with the congregation of his grandfather's black evangelical church to see which of them will be carried off. His beautiful, fragile mother disappears frequently and mysteriously; for a brief idyll, he and his sister live like Boxcar Children on her disability checks. When Casey—following in the footsteps of his father, a gridiron legend who literally broke his back for the team—is recruited to play football at Yale, he enters a world he's never dreamed of, the anteroom to secret societies and success on Wall Street, in Washington, and beyond. But even as he attains the inner sanctums of power, Casey sees how the world crushes those who live at its margins. He sees how the elite perpetuate the salvation stories that keep others from rising. And he sees, most painfully, how his own ascension is part of the scheme. There Will Be No Miracles Here has the arc of a classic rags-to-riches tale, but it stands the American Dream narrative on its head. If to live as we are is destroying us, it asks, what would it mean to truly live? Intense, incantatory, shot through with sly humor and quiet fury, There Will Be No Miracles Here inspires us to question--even shatter--and reimagine our most cherished myths.

30 review for There Will Be No Miracles Here: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    Casey Gerald may have an interesting and worthwhile story to tell, but I was unable to stick around for another 300 or so more pages to find out. I couldn’t stand what to me was an affected, ostentatious, fake-and-folksy, down-home-jokey narrative voice. Unfairly or not, it made me mistrust him and any observations he might make. I stuck my toe in the water, and the writing so turned me off that I could wade in no farther. I can only report that no, there were no miracles here with respect to le Casey Gerald may have an interesting and worthwhile story to tell, but I was unable to stick around for another 300 or so more pages to find out. I couldn’t stand what to me was an affected, ostentatious, fake-and-folksy, down-home-jokey narrative voice. Unfairly or not, it made me mistrust him and any observations he might make. I stuck my toe in the water, and the writing so turned me off that I could wade in no farther. I can only report that no, there were no miracles here with respect to lean, compelling prose. If I’m going to be with someone for 400 pages, I need to like his voice.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Raymond

    I first became aware of this book after reading "The Personal Cost of Black Success" in the November 2018 issue of The Atlantic magazine. The article reviewed Gerald's memoir and Kiese Laymon's Heavy: An American Memoir, which I finished earlier this year. I instantly connected with Gerald's book from the beginning when he writes about his 1999 New Year's Eve experience at his family's church when he waited for the world to end. I remember that evening well and Gerald's writing brought those mem I first became aware of this book after reading "The Personal Cost of Black Success" in the November 2018 issue of The Atlantic magazine. The article reviewed Gerald's memoir and Kiese Laymon's Heavy: An American Memoir, which I finished earlier this year. I instantly connected with Gerald's book from the beginning when he writes about his 1999 New Year's Eve experience at his family's church when he waited for the world to end. I remember that evening well and Gerald's writing brought those memories and feelings back to me. His memoir is a powerful examination of his life from his upbringing to experiences in Yale, Wall Street, and DC. I was very impressed with the hard truths that he shared throughout the book such as: the real role of high school football players, being black in the Ivy Leagues, the American Dream, the symbol of Obama and himself. Gerald successfully shows the reader that there is always struggle in success and that one person's life should not be used as the example for a whole race of people to live up to. Plato once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Fortunately Gerald examines his life with a critical eye, exposing both the triumphs and flaws. Favorite Quotes: "Home is what you think about when you don't want to be where you are." "If you only see the surface of things, you might as well be blind." "You know one of the reason the world will never be rid of tragedy is that it keeps half of us employed and the other half entertained, and as sad as we feel when things are going wrong, can you even imagine, my lord, what it would be like if we had nothing to fear or complain about, no animals to rescue, no days to commemorate, no stories to tell for a little sympathy on a night we could use some attention, no one to hold in their time of need after waiting forever to hold them?" "Love is the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."-bell hooks "Without love, you are something. You are a danger to yourself and others." "Every grand purpose grows from personal pain." "There is one other thing you must try to do in a group meeting: speak last." "The best revenge is excellence." -Dr. Edward Joyner "We measure success by the lives that we change." "Since the days of Lucifer and Cicero and Christ and Lincoln and Hitler and right up to today, the speaker, the sorcerer of language, has kept a dangerous hold on the people, always toeing the line between demagogue and liberator, between sophist and prophet." "Nobody ever died too early or too late; you always die right on time." -Clarice Gerald "Time heals no wounds, but you do start missing people after a while." "I'm grateful for the grace of God." My review is also posted here: https://medium.com/ballasts-for-the-m...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tina Panik

    Unlike any book, or any memoir, I have ever read. Casey’s honesty is equal parts shame and pride, brains and ignorance, hope and despair. His story is still unfolding, and I’ll be first in line for a follow up volume... This was an ARC from Book Expo NYC, where I saw Casey speak at a dinner that left everyone in tears.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I read a lot of memoirs. I love memoirs. This is one of the best I've ever read. It's so beautifully written, so honest, and so timely. The perfect trifecta of a memoir. I read a lot of memoirs. I love memoirs. This is one of the best I've ever read. It's so beautifully written, so honest, and so timely. The perfect trifecta of a memoir.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    The title comes from a seventeenth-century sign in a French village that was intended to get the God-dazzled peasants back to work. For Gerald it’s a somewhat tongue-in-cheek reminder that his life, even if he has made good after an unpromising beginning, is not some American dream or fairytale. It’s more complicated than that. Still, there’s no sugar-coating his family issues. His father missed his tenth birthday party because he was next door with dope fiends; his bipolar mother was in the psy The title comes from a seventeenth-century sign in a French village that was intended to get the God-dazzled peasants back to work. For Gerald it’s a somewhat tongue-in-cheek reminder that his life, even if he has made good after an unpromising beginning, is not some American dream or fairytale. It’s more complicated than that. Still, there’s no sugar-coating his family issues. His father missed his tenth birthday party because he was next door with dope fiends; his bipolar mother was in the psych ward while his father was in jail, and then disappeared for several years. Gerald and his older sister, a college dropout, got an apartment and set their own lax rules. In the meantime, he was coming to terms with the fact that he was gay and trying to reconcile his newfound sexual identity with his Christian faith. In spite of it all, Gerald shone academically and athletically. He was his Texas high school’s valedictorian and followed his father into a thriving college football career – at Yale, where he accidentally fell into leadership via a Men of Color council across the Ivy League schools. It wasn’t until he got to Yale that it even occurred to him that he was poor. (I was reminded of the moment in Michelle Obama’s memoir when she got to Princeton and experienced being a minority for the first time.) As he neared graduation, he decided to go into investment banking “simply because I did not have any money and none of my people had any money.” Back in Texas after a year in a Washington, D.C. think tank, he even considered a run for Congress under the slogan “We can dream again.” I loved the prologue, which has the 12-year-old Gerald cowering with his church congregation on the last night of 1999, in fear of being left behind at the end of the world. I think I expected religion to continue as a stronger theme throughout the book. The style wasn’t really what I imagined either: it’s a coy combination of reader address, stream-of-consciousness memories, and remembered speech in italics that often set me skimming. Whereas landmark events like his mother’s departure are left impressionistic, football games and the inner workings of Yale’s societies are described in great detail. Scenes in the classroom and with boyfriends, though still occasionally tedious, at least feel more relevant. Gerald proudly calls himself a “faggot” and is going for a kind of sassy, folksy charm here. For me the tone only landed sometimes. Mostly I appreciated his alertness to how others (often wrongly) perceived him – a great instance of this is when he meets George W. Bush in 2007 and tells him the bare bones of his story, only for Dubya to later twist it into an example in a speech. The memoir tails off into a rather odd and sudden ending, and overall I wasn’t sure it had enough to say to fill close to 400 pages. Perhaps Gerald could have waited another 10 years? As a more successful take on similar themes, I’d recommend the memoir-in-essays Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race by Clay Cane. (This was hand-picked by Colm Tóibín for publication by Tuskar Rock Press, a new imprint of the UK publisher Serpent’s Tail.) Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brady Jones

    This is not a story, and it’s not a lecture: It’s a lesson. Gerald’s autobiography sheds light into the diametrically opposed natures of our society through lenses of race, class, gender/sexuality, generations, religion, and regionalism. It is, at its core, an indictment of power in all its forms. It does not follow a traditional arc, ending with a neat bow. Instead it ends with a beginning and more questions than answers - and that makes it great. It is several conversations happening at once, This is not a story, and it’s not a lecture: It’s a lesson. Gerald’s autobiography sheds light into the diametrically opposed natures of our society through lenses of race, class, gender/sexuality, generations, religion, and regionalism. It is, at its core, an indictment of power in all its forms. It does not follow a traditional arc, ending with a neat bow. Instead it ends with a beginning and more questions than answers - and that makes it great. It is several conversations happening at once, both consciously and unconsciously, intentional and unintentional. As a white farm kid from Nebraska the same age as Gerald, I found some of this hit close to home and some of it was a lesson in learning others’ experiences. I believe it is so important for us to listen to and learn from each other, and this memoir is an excellent source for that. My sincerest kudos to Casey Gerald for having the courage to be real and raw in writing this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hayley Stenger

    This was an interesting read. I always felt like Casey Gerald was walking a tightrope in life and on the verge of falling. He lived in a world that was chaotic and he was balancing emotional trauma with educational and athletic success. The writing was aggressive and a little chaotic, it fit the story well. Gerald was reflective and honest. The only issue I had was the writing wasn't as tight as I would have liked. I look forward to hearing more of what Gerald has to say, I think he has some int This was an interesting read. I always felt like Casey Gerald was walking a tightrope in life and on the verge of falling. He lived in a world that was chaotic and he was balancing emotional trauma with educational and athletic success. The writing was aggressive and a little chaotic, it fit the story well. Gerald was reflective and honest. The only issue I had was the writing wasn't as tight as I would have liked. I look forward to hearing more of what Gerald has to say, I think he has some interesting insights that are relevant to our current times and society.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bryna Zumer

    This was sort of interesting, but I didn't finish it... Casey Gerald is obviously a good, unique writer with his own voice, and he has some interesting stories to tell. Ultimately, though, I wasn't totally sure why I should read a memoir by such a young author who basically just started a business-school co-op and has written for a lot of high-brow media - and, since he's basically from my generation, I felt like some of it was a little pretentious/posturing. I guess I just wasn't interested eno This was sort of interesting, but I didn't finish it... Casey Gerald is obviously a good, unique writer with his own voice, and he has some interesting stories to tell. Ultimately, though, I wasn't totally sure why I should read a memoir by such a young author who basically just started a business-school co-op and has written for a lot of high-brow media - and, since he's basically from my generation, I felt like some of it was a little pretentious/posturing. I guess I just wasn't interested enough in him as a person at the end of the day... but the writing style was interesting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    It must be a great challenge to write a successful memoir - to look at your experiences without bias and present them without malice or sensationalism. There is very little in this memoir I can relate to on a personal level; I never played football, never got scholarships, never had to choose between a Rhodes Scholarship interview and playing against Harvard, never grew up without supportive parents and never faced blatant racism and bigotry with conviction. The principle that is hard to ignore th It must be a great challenge to write a successful memoir - to look at your experiences without bias and present them without malice or sensationalism. There is very little in this memoir I can relate to on a personal level; I never played football, never got scholarships, never had to choose between a Rhodes Scholarship interview and playing against Harvard, never grew up without supportive parents and never faced blatant racism and bigotry with conviction. The principle that is hard to ignore throughout this memoir is an understated restraint. Casey Gerald accomplishes things most people aspire to with determination and resolve, refuses to define what his audience would describe as burdens and admits his faults while slowly leading the reader through the first two decades of 21st Century America. The things I can relate to, The Berlin Wall, FDR and Y2K for example, are interspersed with one man’s journey through the hyperbole. I don’t see any attempt by the writer to define himself as a folksy anti-hero.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Misha

    This is an interesting memoir, to be sure, and Gerald's voice can be so clear and rallying in one section and muddied and herky jerky in others. (He also mentions his own name waaaay too much throughout the book.) In a year in which Educated came out, I realize how much narrative style and authorial voice effect the reading of a memoir, and this was a bit uneven overall for me. Gerald's coming-of-age in a destructive family of origin, his realization of self as a queer black man (he rejects the This is an interesting memoir, to be sure, and Gerald's voice can be so clear and rallying in one section and muddied and herky jerky in others. (He also mentions his own name waaaay too much throughout the book.) In a year in which Educated came out, I realize how much narrative style and authorial voice effect the reading of a memoir, and this was a bit uneven overall for me. Gerald's coming-of-age in a destructive family of origin, his realization of self as a queer black man (he rejects the term African American, as he cannot abide having his Americanness watered down, which makes perfect sense), his success as a football player that brings him to Yale, where he becomes a leader and puts him on the ladder of privilege, which he rails against as he rides, is instructive and illuminating. Gerald is now speaking out on the need for political revolution and the destruction of the meritocracy and capitalist system that only lifts up the few. He will be a voice to watch.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    I came into this knowing nothing of Casey Gerald. Listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s interesting to read the varying reviews of his literary voice, which I absolutely loved. Humble (in a self-deprecating way), honest, and refreshingly humorous. While one might consider some of the subject matter “timely” in our current sociopolitical climate, I believe he is just telling his story... and he just happens to be a black, gay man coming of age and meeting success in his Americ I came into this knowing nothing of Casey Gerald. Listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s interesting to read the varying reviews of his literary voice, which I absolutely loved. Humble (in a self-deprecating way), honest, and refreshingly humorous. While one might consider some of the subject matter “timely” in our current sociopolitical climate, I believe he is just telling his story... and he just happens to be a black, gay man coming of age and meeting success in his American “meritocracy”. And perhaps seeing his worldview evolve along the way.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lily

    I tried to force myself through this book and succeeded through it for awhile. It might have a message somewhere in there about who Casey is/was and what he has learned. Obviously, he had an unsettled childhood from what I did read. I do not want to wade through the rest of the book to find out the moral of the story (if there is one) because of the coarseness of the narrative and language. It was interesting to hear the lingo of his world.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    I was asked to read this ARC/memoir for an honest review. It is already receiving notable buzz from many reliable, reputable sources - Lissa Muscatine (One of the owners of Politics & Prose) and Colm Toibin (Author) to name two. And, the true life story of Casey Gerald's rise from "rags to riches" is truly astonishing in the way only true stories can be. The book begins at a religious revival with 12 year old Casey discovering doubt for the first time in his life. He grew up in Texas with a fath I was asked to read this ARC/memoir for an honest review. It is already receiving notable buzz from many reliable, reputable sources - Lissa Muscatine (One of the owners of Politics & Prose) and Colm Toibin (Author) to name two. And, the true life story of Casey Gerald's rise from "rags to riches" is truly astonishing in the way only true stories can be. The book begins at a religious revival with 12 year old Casey discovering doubt for the first time in his life. He grew up in Texas with a father who following a legendary football career descends into drug use and a mother who battled mental illness. His sister and other female family members were the ones who saved Casey - saved him from bullying, saved him from homelessness and saved him from floating through school with indifferent, meaningless class assignments. Casey improbably pursues football in high school as a way to connect with his father's victorious history. Usually 3rd string and warming the bench, he is unexpectedly given a chance in one game's desperate attempt for victory and ends up scoring a touchdown. This play is repeated and he finally has what he wants - a spot on varsity and some respect. From this unlikely point, he begins his ascent to recognition and is ultimately offered a football scholarship to Yale. Everyone that has influence over Casey's decision advises him to take it - to make his high school proud and to be an example of success for his town. From his first visit to the campus through his first semester, he writes of his struggle to fit in to a place and a people so different than anything he has ever experienced before. What makes this memoir so poignant is the seemingly insurmountable climb that Casey has accomplished as he goes on to become a Rhodes scholar finalist and attend Harvard Business School. But, it is also his brutal honesty about the conflicts in his life that create such empathy that you feel devastated when he describes feeling so alone in the world and his bouts of sobbing without reason. Nothing is ever easy, but for Casey, what is the personal cost? How do some people stay positive in an uncertain world full of inequities - some just due to your station in life at birth? This is the gift the reader receives from selecting and reading diverse books. It creates compassion. A brilliant, spiritual young man searching for answers in life, a unique, true-life narrative, and a writer's voice worth reading. Look for this release in October 2018.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caroline (readtotheend on IG)

    This book was just not for me. There were really amazing passages. I really connected to passages where he talks about his Yale football experiences and the relationships and lessons he learned there. I also felt really connected to the passages where he talks about his identity as a gay man - it felt very honest and sincere. But ultimately, I felt his writing to be very uneven and I personally do not love stream-of-consciousness type writing. To be honest, what I felt was lacking was a sense of This book was just not for me. There were really amazing passages. I really connected to passages where he talks about his Yale football experiences and the relationships and lessons he learned there. I also felt really connected to the passages where he talks about his identity as a gay man - it felt very honest and sincere. But ultimately, I felt his writing to be very uneven and I personally do not love stream-of-consciousness type writing. To be honest, what I felt was lacking was a sense of humility. Yes, clearly this person is amazingly intelligent and has overcome a lot and extremely resilient. Perhaps it's too much to ask that someone also be humble and it's more of a reader issue (me) than him. It's also why I appreciated the candid and vulnerable parts of him towards the end of the book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I selected There Will Be No Miracles Here for our book club discussion because so many publications put it on their recommended reading lists.  This memoir opens on New Year's Eve, 1999, when so many believed it was the end of the world. His grandfather is an evangelical minister who has gathered his flock together for their last day on earth and as the clock strikes midnight, they all go to heaven. Or not. This immediately sets the tone for the kind of realistic humor that peppers Casey's life. Ca I selected There Will Be No Miracles Here for our book club discussion because so many publications put it on their recommended reading lists.  This memoir opens on New Year's Eve, 1999, when so many believed it was the end of the world. His grandfather is an evangelical minister who has gathered his flock together for their last day on earth and as the clock strikes midnight, they all go to heaven. Or not. This immediately sets the tone for the kind of realistic humor that peppers Casey's life. Casey's life is difficult with a mentally ill mother and the abandonment of his father. He is forced to grow up quickly, simply for survival. When Casey is recruited to play football at Yale, he is brought into a world he could never even fathom. It is here where he is invited into the folds of elite secret societies and the success of Wall Street. He is also plagued with guilt that he is living this success story. He has all he needs at his fingertips, but he sees how these acts are crushing those that are left in the margins. How can many have so much while others are barely surviving? I listened to this selection, read by the author, and thought it had so many beautiful and valid points. His storytelling shines best when he reflects on his lack of faith, his struggles with sexual identity, and the morality of privilege.  Unfortunately, this was not edited properly, and could have benefited from a great deal of trimming. The plot of Gerald's stories often went into lengthy tangents that took away from the meat of the story. Had this been tightened up, these moments would have felt more impactful.  As a whole, this memoir felt disjointed and unnecessarily lengthy. 

  16. 5 out of 5

    et2 Brutuss

    Just How? While I liked it and found there were many profound and moving passages, I find it a little bit disingenuous. It seems that he sort of just falls into these positively life changing situations. He sort of just ends up at Yale, Yale! He sort of just ends up a Rhodes Scholar candidate. These are circumstances that people carefully craft their entire childhoods and young adulthood to be able to access and still fail. Yet Casey seems to sort of meander into them, unwillingly even. You need Just How? While I liked it and found there were many profound and moving passages, I find it a little bit disingenuous. It seems that he sort of just falls into these positively life changing situations. He sort of just ends up at Yale, Yale! He sort of just ends up a Rhodes Scholar candidate. These are circumstances that people carefully craft their entire childhoods and young adulthood to be able to access and still fail. Yet Casey seems to sort of meander into them, unwillingly even. You need to know the right people, do the right things, play the game better than anyone else you know, move through life without a single misstep - unless you're this guy, if you're him it just happens to you, with or without your active participation.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Angie Reisetter

    Gerald's life has been extraordinary in many ways, from his often absent parents during childhood to his days playing football for Yale to his work in a think tank in DC. This memoir comes across as an exercise in radical honesty, a reworking and fact checking of the stories he's told himself and others over the years. It's also beautifully written in a voice that is somehow both achingly earnest and deeply skeptical. He tells us how he felt during an episode in his life and then examines whethe Gerald's life has been extraordinary in many ways, from his often absent parents during childhood to his days playing football for Yale to his work in a think tank in DC. This memoir comes across as an exercise in radical honesty, a reworking and fact checking of the stories he's told himself and others over the years. It's also beautifully written in a voice that is somehow both achingly earnest and deeply skeptical. He tells us how he felt during an episode in his life and then examines whether that feeling was reasonable or not, backs out to view it as an outsider, and then, no matter the judgement, jumps back into the moment to experience the very real emotion at the time. He examines how the world works, how it is run by wealthy, well-connected people, and then acknowledges that he has become connected with those people and maybe there's nothing particularly wrong with that, except that maybe we should all know and admit how it works and adjust our thinking accordingly. He gives the most convincing defense of playing football I've ever read, while acknowledging that it cost him, and all its players, greatly. His language soars when describing his few lovers, and darkens when he criticizes how he treated them. At one point, he mentions that one of this writing professors told him that he has a tendency to overwriting, and that is probably true, but his language was thick and expressive in a way that really touched me and I relished, whether or not I should have. This is probably the best-written memoir I've read. He doesn't come to any overwrought conclusion, doesn't have a thesis, no natural end to the tale. The journey was so amazing that I cherish the time I got to spend with this man in his 30s, as he evaluated his life and cultures and gazes with great uncertainty on the future. I stumbled on this book, not knowing or expecting much from it, and it knocked me back in awe. I got a copy to review from the publisher through Edelweiss.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sonora Taylor

    3.5/5 This book had a great start and an uneven finish. I got the sense while reading that Gerald's public speaking skills dictated the way he wrote. Sometimes this worked really well, and sometimes this didn't work, especially in the last third of the book. I started to feel lost and disjointed. Perhaps that was intentional on the author's part, and if so, then maybe that's a style that isn't for me. Still, it was a good read overall, and a great read for the first half of the book. 3.5/5 This book had a great start and an uneven finish. I got the sense while reading that Gerald's public speaking skills dictated the way he wrote. Sometimes this worked really well, and sometimes this didn't work, especially in the last third of the book. I started to feel lost and disjointed. Perhaps that was intentional on the author's part, and if so, then maybe that's a style that isn't for me. Still, it was a good read overall, and a great read for the first half of the book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I have to give this book 5 stars because I spent so much time thinking about it when I wasn't reading it. And telling my husband. And looking up articles about him. And watching his Ted Talk. I almost want to equate it to On The Road because it is written in this dreamy out of body type way. He writes about himself with confusion and uncertainty, as if each step in his life is a surprise. Yet this belies how incredibly smart and ambitious he was (is), succeeding with each new phase. I think what I have to give this book 5 stars because I spent so much time thinking about it when I wasn't reading it. And telling my husband. And looking up articles about him. And watching his Ted Talk. I almost want to equate it to On The Road because it is written in this dreamy out of body type way. He writes about himself with confusion and uncertainty, as if each step in his life is a surprise. Yet this belies how incredibly smart and ambitious he was (is), succeeding with each new phase. I think what I actually liked the most was his skepticism regarding his own success. He never drinks the Kool-Aid. He grabs every opportunity but spends as much time questioning the validity of it. I will look forward to hearing about the next window in his life.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I just couldn't get into this one. I just couldn't get into this one.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zakiya

    3.5 stars rounded down. The author has an interesting coming of age story reflecting on the happenstance of life, taking readers through his childhood, his time at Yale, and adult life working on Wall Street and in DC. The book was rather hard to follow, as each chapter jump into a different phase in the life without warning or seemingly any order....definitely not chronologically.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charles Baker

    This was a hard book for me. I'm 20 years or so older than Casey Gerald. I'm from the South, Mississippi rather than Texas. My family was a kinda' messed up, but I think not so profoundly as Casey's and in some different ways. I'm cis-het, he's gay. I went to Yale some 20 years before Casey. He made it through, I did not. My life now is good, beautiful wife, great kids nearly all grown. I glimpsed the world Casey became a part of. My dad, whom I didn't spend much time with as my parents were div This was a hard book for me. I'm 20 years or so older than Casey Gerald. I'm from the South, Mississippi rather than Texas. My family was a kinda' messed up, but I think not so profoundly as Casey's and in some different ways. I'm cis-het, he's gay. I went to Yale some 20 years before Casey. He made it through, I did not. My life now is good, beautiful wife, great kids nearly all grown. I glimpsed the world Casey became a part of. My dad, whom I didn't spend much time with as my parents were divorced, thought I could become a Rhodes Scholar...I didn't even get as close as Casey. I often thin despite what I have now, what if...what if I had made it through? What if I had been as driven at Yale as I was to get there? This book, Casey's writing, resonated with me so profoundly that I could only read it in small chunks. I had the same feeling he related in the story of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great when I thought about what Casey has done. I often felt the weight of expectation of my family, and all the people in Jackson, MS who knew me as one of three kids from the town's 8 public high schools to make 32 out of 36, the only one of the three to go to an Ivy. The expectations that I let down and ran from for years. Casey's story, his excellent writing put me back in so many of those places and times. It was hard, but thank you, Casey Gerald. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us, with me, a self just two decades and slightly shifted from my own.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Van

    Every page of this book had me sucking in my breath. Gerald is a beautifully complex writer. This work feels unfinished and raw at points, and poetic and perfect at others. For me, it worked. I felt incredibly close to the author and his life in a way that it is not always so easy to achieve in a book. In some ways, this felt more like the intimacy of a podcast in which an authors' feelings literally vibrate through your body as they come in contact with your ears. Gerald draws no broad general Every page of this book had me sucking in my breath. Gerald is a beautifully complex writer. This work feels unfinished and raw at points, and poetic and perfect at others. For me, it worked. I felt incredibly close to the author and his life in a way that it is not always so easy to achieve in a book. In some ways, this felt more like the intimacy of a podcast in which an authors' feelings literally vibrate through your body as they come in contact with your ears. Gerald draws no broad general conclusions from his life's story, but nevertheless does a lot of laying down of the truths of his lived experience. This seems contradictory, but I think it is just that his truths feel personal and grounded in his very specific life story, while also resonant and connected with the personal experiences of so many people. Another important aspect of this book -- it dives deep into Gerald's religious life and personal conclusions in a way that I loved and longed for more of. I wish I had this book right next to me and I'd include some of the quotes that I've dog-eared from this book. There were so many. I just can't wait to read more of his work. (PS. I have quite purposefully not summed up his life story in a few bullets -- you can find them elsewhere if you are left curious. One thing Gerald does is illustrate how little the bulleted version of his life has to do with his lived experience. He tells of how the bulleted version of his life told again and again (and sometimes by him) reduced his complex life and excluded so much of who he really was. This version did real violence to his psyche. So I have purposefully chosen to leave out the bullets as I don't wish to pantomime that violence.)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Peter Colclasure

    Casey Gerald might become the next literary big deal if he can learn to write a sentence with less than three dependent clauses. He has an original voice and important things to say, but he's also coy, evasive, and turgid. Consequently, this book is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant—a blast to the face of equal parts brilliance and self-indulgence. So how do I rate it? On the one hand: Gerald is witty and clever, but not for the mere sake of being witty and clever. There’s a moral rage sim Casey Gerald might become the next literary big deal if he can learn to write a sentence with less than three dependent clauses. He has an original voice and important things to say, but he's also coy, evasive, and turgid. Consequently, this book is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant—a blast to the face of equal parts brilliance and self-indulgence. So how do I rate it? On the one hand: Gerald is witty and clever, but not for the mere sake of being witty and clever. There’s a moral rage simmering underneath his barbed poetry. And his story—maybe he’d roll his eyes at this, but fuck it—his story is incredible, sad and moving and inspirational all in one go. Grew up poor, son of a star athlete who became a drug addict, abandoned by his mom, realized he was gay, went on to Yale, led the Yale football team to its first winning season in a generation, worked at Lehman Brothers in the months leading up to the housing crisis in 2008, worked in Washington D.C. the first year of the Obama administration, rubbed elbows with the rich and powerful, pondered at length the plight of America’s poor black communities in relation to the white status quo, as well as the intra-black class divisions, which at points seemed more contentious than the white/black race divisions. On the other: the editor in me wanted to take a hatchet to the manuscript. He spent a lot of time describing things that weren’t interesting, but would breeze over matters of supreme importance. We get an entire chapter describing D’Angelo’s abs in the music video for “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” But when his mom has a stroke and crashes the car as she’s driving him to school, it gets a paragraph or two, written in this oddly detached, associative manner, like it was a fantasy sequence, so you’re not really sure what happened and are left with a million questions he never answers. Same with the scene where some men break into his apartment and hold him hostage. One thing that irritates me is when a writer, rather than writing, performs a live-stream of the writing process: “I should tell you—or possibly I shouldn’t tell you—because after all how can I know for certain that you need this knowledge, and what does it mean to know something anyway, and is anything really a should, when I consider everything you need to know, maybe you need it and maybe you don’t, but maybe I’m going to tell you anyway for my own personal reasons, which you don’t need to know about, but you need to know the thing that I’m going to tell you.” This excessive handwringing over what to write should, in my opinion, be conducted in the privacy of the author’s head before committing anything to the page. In my opinion. I appreciate the fidelity to accuracy, and his acknowledgement of the fallibility of memory. He continually points out when he can’t remember something clearly, when his memory conflicts with someone else’s, and when things aren’t clear. Which sometimes worked to his advantage and sometimes not. When he described the disappearance of his mother, it works to his advantage. You get a sense of how foggy that period of his life was. But sometimes he performs the same taxonomy on trivial details. Like he talks about the bow tie he wore on prom night his senior year of high school, which he either rented or purchased, he can’t remember which, and I’m reading this thinking, why do I care whether your prom bow tie was rented or purchased? What does that have to do with anything? The memoir really gets interesting once he arrives at Yale and he describes his clash with the world of privilege. He quickly morphs in a leader, organizing the freshman football players into the first competitive team that Yale had in years, and founds the Yale Black Men’s Union. While you were playing MarioKart in college, this kid was organizing, helping people, on a mission to improve himself and those around him. "We measure success by the lives that we change." And: "The best revenge is excellence." When his sister is interviewed by his hometown newspaper, she says “I’m just grateful he hasn’t let the circumstance define who he is. He’s risen to the challenge. He’s his own man.” He responds: Now what shall we call a boy whose college application is a thousand-word pastiche of trauma pornography? Whose letters of recommendation echo all his stations of the cross? Who looks down into the camera with the pitiful eyes for a portrait that will be the banner of an article about his father and his mother and his poverty and the troubles of his world? A boy so far from growing into a man that even the things he believes most deeply he believes only in response to someone else? I say we ought to call him a boy defined by his circumstances. The trouble isn’t that we are defined by our circumstances. It’s that we are so defined by running from them that we don’t understand what they mean, what they did and are still doing to shape the way we see and move through the world. And we call the running rising to the challenge. Not so. Not so. I suppose this would be the thesis statement of the memoir, which I love: The American Dream is real. Not that foolishness you hear from politicians—If you work hard and play by the rules you can do anything, be anybody, in this country. I’m talking about the real American Dream, the way the country actually works: If you know the right people, they can help you do anything, be anybody, rules and hard work be damned—as long as they like you. They do have to like you, and that takes a good deal of work. This dream, of course, cannot be extended to three hundred million citizens and, therefore, cannot be confessed to any. So despite the fact that America is designed from rooter to tooter for most of its citizens—especially those in places like Oak Cliff—to have nothing and achieve nothing, the political version of the American Dream is essential, kids like me are essential: something and/or someone has to keep the steam down. Here's a good example of the wit. On the election of Obama: The challenge of black politics, Brandon Terry once told me, is to get mediocre black people to be treated like mediocre black people. That’s one reason Obama is important—we can now see the difference between a first rate and second-rate dude. Seeing as though I have met many bushels of mediocre nonblack people who are treated like Albert Einstein, I have to say that this is universal challenge.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Macdonald

    I don't read a lot of memoirs, but I would if they were like this. I think I highlighted a third of the book. By far one of the best books I've read in a long time. As much interesting as it is poignant, I can't believe Gerald can write a book about his life and not have it be either a sob story or a cliche. He writes with breathtaking honesty, humility, and grace, all the more remarkable for how he's built his life. I don't read a lot of memoirs, but I would if they were like this. I think I highlighted a third of the book. By far one of the best books I've read in a long time. As much interesting as it is poignant, I can't believe Gerald can write a book about his life and not have it be either a sob story or a cliche. He writes with breathtaking honesty, humility, and grace, all the more remarkable for how he's built his life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cherise Wolas

    An interesting memoir. A coming of age tale, of a young queer black boy. Rags to riches. From the other side of the river in Dallas in 1999, in a family of preachers, with a father who was a star football player, and then became a drug addict, a bipolar mother who disappears, a boy who finds himself at Yale, etc. There is fury and poetry in some of the prose that makes it shimmer.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Germaine Irwin

    I think this is a fabulous book, a life so far lead with no shortage of problems, naïveté, desire, strength, foolishness, and enlightenment- just like many of us and also very different from many of us. He shows us his path without judgements (except for himself) and thus shows us a way to relate experiences while also opening our eyes to other truths.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I'm not black, but this book is zoomed into many of the issues I've been pondering. If you want to know how a thoughtful Democrat works for an Obama think tank and, as a result, considers becoming a Republican, read this book. Anyway, I know I'm old now because the author reminisces about his childhood by mentioning things from my childhood. I'm not black, but this book is zoomed into many of the issues I've been pondering. If you want to know how a thoughtful Democrat works for an Obama think tank and, as a result, considers becoming a Republican, read this book. Anyway, I know I'm old now because the author reminisces about his childhood by mentioning things from my childhood.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maria Elena

    I cannot get into this. It is too poetic and all over the place.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nohemi

    An unusual, complex memoir. We need more books like this one. My favorite passage was when he described all the ways he used to keep quiet, for other people. And how that’s no way to live.

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