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Mitchell S. Jackson grew up black in a neglected neighborhood in America’s whitest city, Portland, Oregon. In the ’90s, those streets and beyond had fallen under the shadow of crack cocaine and its familiar mayhem. In his commanding autobiographical novel, Mitchell writes what it was to come of age in that time and place, with a break-out voice that’s nothing less than extraordinary.
The Residue Years switches between the perspectives of a young man, Champ, and his mother, Grace. Grace is just out of a drug treatment program, trying to stay clean and get her kids back. Champ is trying to do right by his mom and younger brothers, and dreams of reclaiming the only home he and his family have ever shared. But selling crack is the only sure way he knows to achieve his dream. In this world of few options and little opportunity, where love is your strength and your weakness, this family fights for family and against what tears one apart.
Honest in its portrayal, with cadences that dazzle, The Residue Years signals the arrival of a writer set to awe.
“Powerful…full of impossible hope….Jackson’s prose has a spoken-word cadence, the language flying off the page with percussive energy…there is a warmth and a hard-won wisdom about the intersection of race and poverty in America.”—Roxane Gay, The New York Times Book Review
“A fresh new voice in fiction.”—Abbe Wright, O, The Oprah Magazine
“This novel is written with a breathtaking, exhilarating assurance and wit. Terrific.”—Kate Saunders, The Times (London)
“Authenticity and a rhythmic prose propel Jackson’s debut novel.”—Time Out New York
“Here is a rude awakening for everyone who thinks they’re getting all they need to know about Oregon’s largest city from ‘Portlandia.’ In [Jackson’s] autobiographical novel it’s crack, not coffee, that feeds the story.”—Billy Heller, New York Post
“The troubling thing about the way Portland has been packaged and sold and mocked on TV and sold again in the past decade is that the image of benign quirkiness we currently project is utterly homogenous, and utterly white…. People of color used to outnumber whites in Northeast Portland neighborhoods, and that's the milieu in which Jackson's excellent novel THE RESIDUE YEARS is set…. Jackson's novel is beautifully written and sad and hopeful in a way that aches. And if you live in Portland—and especially if post-gentrified Portland is the only Portland you know—you should read it.”—Alison Hallett, The Portland Mercury
“Jackson's writing style is raw and poetic. His characters struggle with personal responsibility, limited options and a desire for a better life.”—Angela Decker, Ashland Daily Tidings
“A heartwarming — and on numerous occasions heart-dropping — tale of a mother…and her eldest son.”—Matthew Lynch, STET
“[Jackson] poignantly captures a reality rarely given such a sympathetic portrait: in this case, the helpless cycle of addiction and poverty that’s ever-so-much-more complicated than any war-on-drugs pulpiteering would have you believe. It’s the sort of novel that makes you throw up your hands at the world’s cruelty: a triumph for Mitchell, because he’s written characters it’s easy to care about—perhaps partially because, after all, they’re real.”—Jennifer Croll, The Georgia Straight (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
“THE RESIDUE YEARS is an inspired testimony to the death of the American Dream. Or perhaps it is a rebuttal to the idea that there ever was one.”—Rebecca Kilberg, Bookreporter.com
“There is nothing pretty about selling drugs or doing crack, yet Hurston Wright Award winner Jackson makes it literarily beautiful in this debut novel…. Jackson simply tells a wonderful story that resonates long after the book is closed…. [an] exceptional novel.”—Ashanti White, Library Journal (starred review)
“Jackson’s poetic prose is a joy to read…. Jackson carries the main theme—options—gracefully throughout…. The ways mother and son grapple with social judgment and limited choices are provocative and timely in view of the current American cultural focus on personal responsibility.”—Booklist
“Jackson’s dedication to the shadows and unhappiness of his characters shines through at the crucial moments.”—Publishers Weekly
“The real core of THE RESIDUE YEARS isn't the plot, but the depth of the iron-strong bond between mother and son.”—Annie Atherton, Shelf Awareness
“Jackson’s voice is defined by a striking juxtaposition of street smarts and book smarts.”— Jonathan Frochtzwajg, Portland Monthly