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The Residue Years

The Residue Years

4.5 2
by Mitchell S. Jackson

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Roxane Gay
…[a] powerful debut…The beating heart of this novel is a journey toward a home that is always just beyond grasp no matter how fiercely Grace and Champ reach. Their story is as moving as it is unbearable. Jackson's prose has a spoken-word cadence, the language flying off the page with percussive energy…There is warmth and wit, and a hard-won wisdom about the intersection of race and poverty in America.
Publishers Weekly
A Portland, Ore., family struggles to stay together despite the overwhelming effects of the crack epidemic in Jackson’s gritty autobiographical novel. Fresh out of her nth time in court-ordered rehab, Grace does everything she can to stay focused on the most important thing in her life—her three boys. No longer able to get the corporate jobs she had in the past, she toils at a fast-food restaurant and tries to avoid her old crowd so she can finally share a home with her children. Meanwhile, her eldest, Champ, deals the very thing that put his mother into rehab, so that he can give his family what he believes they deserve. He is intent on being his mother’s lifeline, providing her with a car and new clothes, while juggling college, his girlfriend, and his younger brothers. The narrative shifts between Grace and Champ as they stumble towards finding the right way to provide a home for the ones they love in a cycle that was designed for failure. At times, the pain and desperation of the family is swallowed by the overwritten prose. However, Jackson’s dedication to the shadows and unhappiness of his characters shines through at the crucial moments. Agent: Liz Darhansoff (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"[A] powerful debut... full of impossible hope... Jackson's prose has a spoken-word cadence, the language flying off the page with percussive energy... There is warmth and wit, and a hard-won wisdom."—Roxane Gay, The New York Times Book Review

"A fresh new voice in fiction." O, The Oprah Magazine 

"Jackson's poetic prose is a joy to read... The ways mother and son grapple with social judgment and limited choices are provocative and timely." Booklist

"Completely gripping... Beautifully written and sad and hopeful in a way that aches."  Portland Mercury

"Authenticity and a rhythmic prose propel [this] debut novel." - Time Out New York

"I was touched by characters whose lives were often as real for me as my memories of growing up. The language invented to tell their stories engages, challenges, clarifies the American language, claiming it, enlarging it."—John Edgar Wideman, author of Fanon, Philadelphia Fire, and Brothers and Keepers

"In this raw heartwreck of a novel, every bit of personal wisdom is hard-won. Here is Grace, mother of Champ: 'Some people are latecomers to themselves, but who we are will soon enough surround us.' It's a searing claim and prophecy about lives severely tested. The author is entirely persuasive, such that Grace and her sons, given vivid voice, are one of the fictional families I have cared about most." —Amy Hempel, author of The Collected Stories

"The language in this book is as gut-wrenching as it is stunning, at once an elegy and an anthem. The Residue Years is a story about doing what you must until you can do what you want. But most of all, it is about all the sacrifices we're willing to make for love." - Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion's Gaze

"It's so tough to write beautifully about ugly things, but Mitchell S. Jackson makes it look easy. The Residue Years is the story of a man and woman trying their best to overcome the enormous hurdles life has put in front of them, two portraits of the courageous battle to simply do one's best. This is a memorable, powerful novel and Mitchell S. Jackson is a genuine talent." - Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver

"Mitchell S. Jackson writes brilliant sentences, so full of the energy and beauty and tragedy of life. The Residue Years is an amazing first novel that also introduces an important new voice in literary fiction." —Michael Kimball, author of Big Ray

"I know these characters well: Champ with his swagger and invincibility, doing all he can to protect his fiercely beating heart. Grace, held together with polish and a prayer, trying to make a way when there isn’t one. Both of them longing, for a better life, a clear path out of their predicaments. I know the language they speak: voices redolent of struggle and the South displaced to our country’s far northwestern corner: Portland, Oregon. A wrenchingly beautiful debut by a writer to be reckoned with, The Residue Years marks the beginning of a most promising career." –Jesmyn Ward, author of Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped 

"There will be temptation to put Mitchell Jackson's formidable debut novel in a convenient box but a true reading defies segregation. The Residue Years speaks in melodies about a grim world you think you know yet likely never inhabited. See the face of systemic racism, gentrification, failed hoop dreams, and a misguided drug war that makes criminals of victims. Feel the breaking heart. And also be lifted up; this fantastic novel speaks ultimately of love." - Robb Todd, author of Steal Me For Your Stories

Kirkus Reviews
The time Jackson chronicles here is indeed residue, particularly the little that remains of hope in the unforgiving life of a decaying urban neighborhood in Portland, Ore. Champ and his mother, Grace, know drugs. Champ eventually deals, and his mother uses and, now coming off a jail term, desperately wants to stay clean. Grace winds up getting a menial job, though she has to lie about her felony conviction to get it, and she looks for strength and guidance from her church. Her faith is tested, however, when Big Ken, the father of Champ's younger brothers KJ and Canaan, brings Grace to court because he wants sole custody. Grace starts using again and, by the end of the novel, even has to resort to selling herself to feed her habit. Champ is bright and wants to continue his college education, but he finds life on the streets seductive and compelling--and it's about all he knows. He has a girlfriend, Kim, whom he's made pregnant, though he has little compunction about being unfaithful to her. To make ends meet, he starts dealing again, constantly trying to outsmart the cops who are understandably skeptical about his roaming the streets at night. Eventually, he and Grace are both caught with some marijuana when Champ is driving her away from a sexual assignation. Throughout the bleak narrative, Champ and his mother alternate chapters as Jackson moves us from the harsh and bitter voice of Champ to the milder but no less desperate voice of his mother. A bleak and depressing--yet searingly forthright and honest--confrontation with the mean streets of urban decay.

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.18(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.19(d)


Meet the Author

Mitchell S. Jackson was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He holds a Masters of Writing from Portland State and an MFA from New York University. Mitchell teaches writing at NYU, Medgar Evers College, and John Jay College. He also works as a journalist, writing about rap music for Vibe, The Source, and various others. His fiction and poetry have appeared in literary journals, and he is a previous winner of the Hurston Wright Award for College Writers. He is also the author of the original e-book Oversoul: Stories and Essays. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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The Residue Years 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
WilliamBT More than 1 year ago
Mitchell S. Jackson does an excellent job on his book. This is a book of all tells and should be read by anyone thinking of becoming an author. Mitchell does an outstanding job on this piece of work. A job well done. William B. Turner Author
DTH212 More than 1 year ago
a must read!!