No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Homeby Chris Offutt
"In his fortieth year, Chris Offutt returns to teach at his alma mater, Morehead State University, the only four-year school in the Kentucky hills. With the humblest of intentions, he expects to give back to his community, hoping to become, quietly, a hero of sorts. Yet present-day reality collides painfully with memory, leaving Offutt in the midst of an adventure he… See more details below
"In his fortieth year, Chris Offutt returns to teach at his alma mater, Morehead State University, the only four-year school in the Kentucky hills. With the humblest of intentions, he expects to give back to his community, hoping to become, quietly, a hero of sorts. Yet present-day reality collides painfully with memory, leaving Offutt in the midst of an adventure he never imagined: searching for a home that no longer exists." During that same year, Offutt records the story of his parents-in-law, Arthur and Irene, Holocaust survivors who emigrated to New York from Poland in 1946. Their moving chronicle of exile and war entwines with Offutt's attempt to find a sense of safety and home. But it is Arthur who sagely states that "home is illusory" and there are "no heroes" in life.
- Simon & Schuster
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.90(w) x 8.68(h) x 0.90(d)
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Chris Offutt's No Heroes is great for the active, fearless reader. The book juxtaposes the author's attempt to find meaning in his return to rural Kentucky with tales of his in-laws' ghastly experiences in concentration camps. At first I found the juxtaposition disturbing. I kept asking, 'What's this about?' After I read more, however, I realized that the triple memoir is about comparisons and contrasts. I contrasted Offutt's own story with the struggles of the two survivors, of course, but I also compared the reports of the survivors. Their tales are not one unit, but two different responses to degradation. Finally I started comparing myself with Offutt and each of the survivors. I asked myself how I would respond to the powerlessness of being in a concentration camp. I'm not proud of the answer, but the reading experience led me to a better understanding of myself. Passive readers should look elsewhere, but the active reader will find Offutt's book rewarding. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
It's been said that you can't go home again, and that's true. For Chris Offutt, I think it might be said that you can't remember home again. As a native of Eastern Kentucky, and alumnus of Morehead State University and a resident of Rowan County for the past nine years, I was very disappointed with this book. The vast number of inaccuracies about Morehead State is particularly disturbing. I was working at MSU in 1998-99 when Offutt made his homecoming and I see a very different picture of the University. I won't deny that there are some instances of the images that Offutt describes. Sure, we get a few students that are from very sheltered and impoverished backgrounds and there are some faculty and staff that have become a little jaded, but I would imagine no more or less than any other public university. Also, I seriously doubt that any MSU student could say that they had never seen a dictionary. I grew up in a county much poorer and backward than Rowan and my parents had a dictionary at home and every classroom I was ever in had stacks of them. In fact, I had a friend in college who grew up in a snobby suburb of Chicago and I found that as an entering freshman that I was more well read than her. Furthermore, I graduated in 1997, a product of the Geography, Government and History Department at MSU and I would put my education and abilities up against anyone. I have friends who went to UK and to other private universities and, this may come as a surprise to Offutt, but I can certainly carry my weight in lofty, academic discussions. He refers to the faculty at MSU as jaded, wishing they weren't here. I think he is the one that has become jaded. He's been successful, and is a good writer; he expected to be welcomed as a hero, having been educated and all, but found that he's not as rare as he would like to think. There are lots of us who are educated and still live here - some are alumni of MSU, some from institutions of higher learning from across the country, that have come back because we like this small town; we like working here. We like helping students from this region overcome the stereotypes about people from Eastern Kentucky that Offutt is perpetuating. If he wants to be a hero, perhaps he should try portraying this region more accurately, not just in a way that will sell books. It's worked for various other regional authors: Bobbie Ann Mason and Jesse Stuart, just to name a couple. I would encourage people to read this book with the proverbial grain of salt and if it peaks your curiosity, make a trip to Eastern Kentucky, even to Morehead and decide for yourself.