Fire Shut Up in My Bones

Fire Shut Up in My Bones

by Charles M. Blow


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New York Times Notable Book | Lambda Literary Award Winner | Long-listed for the PEN Open Book Award

“Charles Blow is the James Baldwin of our age.” — Washington Blade

“[An] exquisite memoir . . . Delicately wrought and arresting.” — New York Times

Universally praised on its publication, Fire Shut Up in My Bones is a pioneering journalist’s indelible coming-of-age tale. 

Charles M. Blow’s mother was a fiercely driven woman with five sons, brass knuckles in her glove box, and a job plucking poultry at a factory near their segregated Louisiana town, where slavery's legacy felt close. When her philandering husband finally pushed her over the edge, she fired a pistol at his fleeing back, missing every shot, thanks to “love that blurred her vision and bent the barrel.” Charles was the baby of the family, fiercely attached to his “do-right” mother. Until one day that divided his life into Before and After—the day an older cousin took advantage of the young boy. The story of how Charles escaped that world to become one of America’s most innovative and respected public figures is a stirring, redemptive journey that works its way into the deepest chambers of the heart.

“Stunning . . . Blow’s words grab hold of you . . . [and] lead you to a place of healing.” — Essence

“The memoir of the year.” — A. V. Club

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544570115
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 85,571
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

CHARLES M. BLOW has been a columnist at the New York Times since 2008 and has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Fox New, the BBC, Al Jazeera, and HBO. He lives in Brooklyn with his three children.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 The House with No Steps 5

2 Thanksgiving 40

3 Chester 61

4 The Punic Next Door 82

5 Look-Away Jesus 110

6 Change 124

7 Another Boy's Baby 145

8 The Brothers 156

9 Hell Week 180

10 The Champagne-Colored Girl 190

11 Lie Detector 202

12 The Just-in-Case Gun 212

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Fire Shut Up in My Bones 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Rima_Regas More than 1 year ago
This is a modified version of my review on that other ubiquitous online bookseller... :-) I purchased my first copy of this book at my local Barnes and Noble, the day before the book was released. What a glorious memoir! It is as exquisitely beautiful as it is devastatingly raw in certain places. The vivid picture of life as it is lived in the rural south as painted by Mr. Blow is one that readers will at once recognize as universal and familiar in certain aspects, but also see as very distinct and unique in others. Those among us who, like Mr. Blow, were victimized as children, are certain to identify with the devastating trials and tribulations that follow sexual abuse. Charles methodically takes us through the stages of self-blame, shame, anger and social withdrawal. But then, Charles' unique combination of gifts, in the form of precocious wisdom, intellectual curiosity, and the drive to apply lessons learned pull him through life experiences that have devastated many a child. The reader is guided from stage to stage in Mr. Blow's path to self-discovery and healing. My first reading focused on the sexual abuse and hazing. The second reading was for the pure joy of Mr. Blow's exquisite writing, the vivid scenery and rich cultural tapestry of a Deep South I just didn't know. I will read this book at least twice more. As I read the book, both times, I wondered who else, like me, has a Big Mama and Jeb in their lives? Who else, among the readers, remembers their first book purchase or the childhood items they cherished the most and how they came by them? I know I do!  As a long time fan of Mr. Blow's work at The New York Times, I've always appreciated his very nuanced approach to race.and race relations and often wondered about his experience as a person of color. His first person account on race relations in this memoir gives the reader a full appreciation of Mr. Blow's thoughtful, forgiving nature, innate sense of fairness and generosity of spirit, as well as a very honest look at how segregation is practiced. He has, on occasion shared a quote by Nora Zeale Hurston. I will share it with you here. I thought about it often as I read this book. "Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me." Zora Neale Hurston I will read again for the purpose of discussing this book with my teen. We are reading Mr. Blow's memoir as a family and plan on discussing it as a family. We feel that, while difficult topics, sexual abuse and hazing are necessary topics of conversation with one's older teen in preparation for college and life in general. I highly recommend this book to anyone who was abused, in any fashion. It will be helpful to victims and their partners, whether the abuse is fresh in their history, or an old wound. I am hopeful that this memoir will be especially helpful to parents. Why parents? Because, as is Mr. Blow's way, he will undoubtedly cause many of us to think more deeply about the way in which, as a society, we box our children into gender identification, roles, social taboos, right from the start, with assumptions about our children that none of us can or should make. We should not assume that, because a child is born a boy or girl, that they will follow along any particular path. We need to be more thoughtful and allow them to develop into the men and women they will eventually be, without added burdens or biases. Thank you, Charles for your courage and generosity in writing this memoir. What a beautiful man you are!
BigPlatePops More than 1 year ago
Charles Blow not only told a great story of his life, it was also one I could relate to.. From being a Black child born and raised in Louisiana, to having a Mother he love dearly, to attending an HBCU.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a beautiful and captivating memoir!  This is the rare kind of book that touches one's heart and makes one almost grateful for their own trials/ tribulations.  I honestly had a hard time putting this book down.  So  many times did I want to reach right through the pages to assuage his painful experiences, give him a hug, show him a glimpse of his bright future. This book exudes humanity, love and triumph in the face of  overwhelming pain, despair, abuse, and poverty.  I absolutely LOVED this book!  It left my spirit soaring!!      
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First off, I purchased the hard copy because I am such a fan of Blow's work. I was checking out the cost for my nook when I decided to review the reviews (after the fact), and see what people were saying. Well, I'm shocked, to say the least, at anyone who doesn't appreciate this fascinating piece of work. I'm a little over half way through the book and I can't put it down. I feel as if I'm there with him throughtout his journey. He really takes you there. His descriptions of people and places takes me back to my summer days in Ga. when I was young and innocent . I'm loving it! Great job!
PranayGupte More than 1 year ago
This is a moving, haunting book, written so beautifully that it touches the heart deeply. Charles Blow's searing truths, his self discovery, his self assessment -- his life -- are portrayed as honestly as I've ever read in a contemporary memoir. I applaud his courage and sensitivity in writing the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book drew me in and I couldn’t put it down. Very powerful story. Awesome read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
waterwinetravel More than 1 year ago
If you are a fan of NYTimes columnist Charles Blow, you won't be disappointed.  Mr. Blow's account of his troubled childhood in rural Louisiana, his abuse by trusted family members, hazing by his fraternity brothers and his coming to terms with his sexuality and masculinity is a riveting read.  I wept at the end.  Joyful that Blow was able to own his own truth.  I'm hoping there is a part 2 in the works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm chuckling at the fact that I'm adding one more five-star review. At some point, won't folks just stop reading all the gushing? Still, I'm pleased to add my voice to the effusive din. I finished reading it just moments ago and I was left in awe and in tears. It is exquisite—amazing and literary, honest and brave. As an editor, I have trouble reading a lot of books because I spend so much time noticing changes that I would have suggested. But every so often, a book comes along that is written so beautifully that my appreciation for the writing overrides my impulse to reach for a blue pencil. It is a shorter book than I expected but just long enough to reveal what he wants to reveal, which is spectacularly generous in its scope. I appreciate this book for the masterful writing it contains but perhaps even more, I admire this book for the people it may help. I don't often read books a second time, but I do believe this one will prove an exception.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As I am typing this"COMMENT"(I know-big no,no)There are 8 reviews,3neg.,5pos.I"m scratching off the Aaaaaa one-no biggie.The 2 that remain-9-24-14 and11-09-14Get the dictionary ready so you can marvel at these two jerk's massive intellegents.O.K.-Examples-UBIQUITIONS,BLEATING,BEHEST,UNRESERVEDLY,CONTRIVED,CREDULITY and last but not least USURP!!!Do you think these people actually talk this way in everyday life or maybe they are acting out their life long dream of being an author .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Often a memoir is written to help free the author and when done well it also frees the readers that come across it. Mr. Blow has dutifully and beautifully succeeded in doing both. When he walks you through his family's rituals as a young boy of preparing food and making sure that nothing is wasted he is all together giving you insight into how he himself was made and transformed into the man that he has become. Life experiences - some good, some bad, some that just are - some sweet, some bitter, some salty, some rich, some with texture - are cooked up and provide sustenance and nourishment. Mr. Blow has a distinct flavor.  I applaud him for his honesty in and elevation of a conversation about Black male sexuality. The world runs rampant with discussions about Black men and sex yet rarely do we get conversations about Black men and sexuality. He further opens doors to conversations on basic emotional human development that too often are closed to Black men asked to or told to live in box.  This book is worth reading, sharing and teaching.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ApisMellifera More than 1 year ago
At Blow's bleating, begging, and behest, I write this review.  His ubiquitous interviews, which I've listened to and read carefully, lead me to believe unreservedly that the truth of these two stories he's building his supposed memoir on are contrived and invented.  This is an  inescapable opinion, one based on his own words in many interviews.  These two, and there are only two, supposed incidents of  abuse are in my opinion not sexual, and not even abuse.  I consider the allegations he levels at his cousin and this uncle (or great  uncle??) ludicrous and encourage readers to read my one star review on Amazon.   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a dense, impenetrable, pretentious, and histrionic vanity piece that is just plain insufferable reading.  The sheer nerve of Blow to think people want to hear about his murderous impulses and contorted sexual searchings stretches my credulity to the breaking point.  I strongly recommend that potential buyers of this narcissistic vanity piece check out an excerpt of it on the NY Times a few days ago.  And murderous impulses is exactly right, and by Blow's own description he came very close to murdering somebody in cold blood.  I found this very disturbing.  You gotta read it to believe it.  The nerve of the Times to let this garbage usurp vital space better devoted to better writing and weightier topics is incomprehensible to me.  But then again, Blow is an op ed "columnist" there, and he and Bruni are fighting tooth and claw for last place there.  They're horrible writers in my opinion who evidently really believe that every facet of their personal lives should be divulged.  I encourage readers to check out that atrocity of "writing" on the Times before handing their hard earned money over to Blow.