Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family

Scribner. Mar. 2019. 336p. notes. ISBN 9781501131707. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501131745. mEMOIR
OrangeReviewStarAward-winning novelist Jackson (writing, New York Univ.; The Residue Years) reclaims his history through an elegant memoir that gives authority over his own life, focusing on the 1980s–90s. Jackson's reflection on his youth in Portland, OR, along with his incarceration for and subsequent life in New York is one of rigorous self-examination. In approaching his personal story and family history with honesty and poetry, Jackson frames his experience in terms of his relationships, even going as far as giving narrative space to ex-girlfriends to recount their time with him. The result is an intimate portrayal of what makes us human.
VERDICT Jackson's eloquent account is as much about a writer struggling to understand life's jubilations, mistakes, and losses, as it is a chronicle of a black man's place in America, appealing to fans of Kiese Laymon and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
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