In this powerful, affecting, and unflinching memoir, a daughter looks back on her unconventional childhood with deaf parents in rural Texas while trying to reconcile it to her present life—one in which her father is serving a twenty-year sentence in a maximum-security prison.
As a child, Kambri Crews wished that she’d been born deaf so that she, too, could fully belong to the tight-knit Deaf community that embraced her parents. Her beautiful mother was a saint who would swiftly correct anyone’s notion that deaf equaled dumb. Her handsome father, on the other hand, was more likely to be found hanging out with the sinners. Strong, gregarious, and hardworking, he managed to turn a wild plot of land into a family homestead complete with running water and electricity. To Kambri, he was Daniel Boone, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ben Franklin, and Elvis Presley all rolled into one.
But if Kambri’s dad was Superman, then the hearing world was his kryptonite. The isolation that accompanied his deafness unlocked a fierce temper—a rage that a teenage Kambri witnessed when he attacked her mother, and that culminated fourteen years later in his conviction for another violent crime.
With a smart mix of brutal honesty and blunt humor, Kambri Crews explores her complicated bond with her father—which begins with adoration, moves to fear, and finally arrives at understanding—as she tries to forge a new connection between them while he lives behind bars. Burn Down the Ground is a brilliant portrait of living in two worlds—one hearing, the other deaf; one under the laid-back Texas sun, the other within the energetic pulse of New York City; one mired in violence, the other rife with possibility—and heralds the arrival of a captivating new voice.
From the Hardcover edition.
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About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
KINGPIN tugged on the belt loop of Mom’s skintight jeans, and waited for her to look down and acknowledge me. I wanted money to play Space Invaders in the bowling alley arcade, but she was con- centrating on reading the lips of a balding deaf man who had two hooks for hands. Despite having no ﬁngers, he tried to communicate with American Sign Language (ASL), scraping the curved metal claws against each other as if he were giving a Ginsu knife demonstration. My mother was an expert lip reader and kept her eyes focused on his mouth to make sense of the ﬂurried ﬂashes of metal; she bobbed her head up and down to let him know that she understood.
I stared at the beige plastic attachments that encased each wrist and wondered how they stayed connected to his ﬂeshy stubs. Did he take them off at night? Were they suction cups or drilled into his arms? I shuddered at the thought and watched how he made the hooks open and close.
Was he born that way or did he have an accident? After con- templating both scenarios, I decided it would be better if he were born without hands. That way he wouldn’t know the difference. I couldn’t imagine that the world would be so cruel as to take the hands of a grown deaf man.
As I stared at his signing, his hooks brushed perilously close to my face, causing me to reel back in fear. I had a brief horrify- ing image of running for my life being chased by him, with his grunts and wheezing breath hot on my neck. But Mom, who made fast friends with everyone she met, was perfectly at ease.
I yanked harder and smacked her round bottom. “MAAAA- MMMMAA!!!”
“What?” Mom signed by waving her hand with the palm side up, exasperated at my persistence. “Can’t you see I’m talking?”
“Need quarter,” I signed back.
Mom could partially hear when she wore powerful hearing aids—one of which was always on the fritz, in need of a battery or screeching like brakes crying for new pads—but they were useless in the din of crashing bowling pins. For all practical purposes, she was as deaf as every other grown-up gathered in the dingy Tulsa bowling alley smelling of fried food, cigarettes, and beer. They had traveled here from all parts of the country to com- pete in the 1978 National Deaf Bowling Tournament, where Mom was scheduled to defend her title as women’s singles champion.
This event was the type of activity the Deaf community cre- ated so that members could mingle. In the days before the Inter- net and mobile gadgets, the best way for the Deaf to socialize was old-fashioned face-to-face time through clubs, travel groups, cruises, and sporting events like ﬁshing and bowling tourna- ments. While some fathers may have gravitated toward ﬁshing and hunting, mine liked bowling because he could smoke, drink, and carouse between rounds. Mom liked it because she was damned good, with a 164 average. Usually her winnings were enough to pay for our trips with a little proﬁt to boot.
The National Deaf Bowling Association was founded in 1964, but the women’s singles had only been around for four years and Mom was already a force to be reckoned with. She loved to brag about how she was knocking down pins while knocked up with me. She’d bowled three days prior to my birth and was back in the alley three days later.
The wooden lanes and alley lights may as well have been the stage and footlights of Broadway. She was a star and I was proud to say she was my mother.
Mom answered my plea for a quarter by pantomiming empty front pockets and signing, “I’m out. Go ask your daddy.”
Without hesitation, I turned on my heels and skipped to the bowling alley lounge, where I found my father leaning against the pool table holding court among a small gathering of onlookers. He held a cold can of Coors Light and a lit Kool in one hand and was signing with his free hand.
“Two deaf people get married. The ﬁrst week of living together they ﬁnd it hard to talk in the bedroom after they turn off the lights.”
I caught Dad’s eye and he gave me a quick wink as he gave the ASL sign for “wait” by wiggling his slim ﬁngers palm side up, revealing the calluses from his years as a construction worker. Unlike my mother, Dad didn’t speak at all other than an occa- sional shout of a name or profanity aimed at a Dallas Cowboys game. When he did, his voice came out in an oddly high pitch with too much air behind it. He couldn’t read lips as well as Mom and didn’t move his mouth much when he signed.
I let him ﬁnish the joke that he didn’t bother censoring, even though I was nearby. I had watched him tell it at least a dozen times. As he signed, the ash on his cigarette grew longer.
“After several nights of misunderstandings, the wife comes up with a solution. ‘Honey, we need simple signals in the bed- room at night. If you want to have sex, just reach over and squeeze my breast once; and if you don’t want to have sex, squeeze it twice.’
“The husband replies, ‘Great idea. If you want to have sex, pull my dick once. If you don’t want to have sex, pull it a hundred and
ﬁfty times.’ ”
His audience erupted into a variety of loud grunts and squeals of laughter. One waved his hands, while another signed ASL let- ters, “H-A-H-A-H-A.” Dad chuckled at himself with a slight curl of his upper lip, making a dimple appear in his right cheek. He took a drag of his cigarette and the long, crooked ash ﬁnally broke off, landing on the worn, booze-stained carpet. A few ﬂakes ﬂoated onto his dark blue jeans and he sent them ﬂying with one forceful burst of breath. He inspected his appearance and brushed off the remaining ashes before he asked, “What’s wrong?”
I signed back, “Need money.”
“Okay, but don’t waste,” he warned before making a big pro- duction out of retrieving his wallet and ﬁshing through its con- tents. I’d always thought of my father like a deaf Elvis. Tall, muscular, and handsome with dark hair combed back into a modern pompadour, he could charm the skin off a snake. His friends were caught in his magnetic spell and kept their eyes trained on our exchange. Dad seized the opportunity to remain in the spotlight. He grabbed my shoulder and whisked me around to face his fans.
“Do you know my daughter? Her name K-A-M-B-R-I.” In ASL, it is customary to introduce someone by ﬁrst spelling out the name letter by letter followed up with a shorthand sign, a “Name Sign,” to refer to that person. A person’s Name Sign often uses the ﬁrst letter of their name in ASL incorporated with the sign that indicates a physical or personal characteristic, such as a big smile or a goatee or, in my case, my temperament as a baby.
Dad signed each letter slowly so they had time to soak in my unusual name. He then drew a tear on each of his cheeks using the middle ﬁnger of the ASL letter “K” to show them the sign he and Mom had created for me.
“Why tears with a ‘K’? Because when she was a baby she never cried. No. Never. Always laugh, laugh, laugh.”
He patted my head and smiled. I looked back at the adult faces staring at me and forced my lips into a smile—not quite the hyena Dad was describing—as I waited for the money. As was always the case when I was introduced to deaf people, the ﬁrst question was, “Hearing?”
Dad signed, “Yes, hearing.”
I sensed a twinge of disappointment in their expressions, a typical reaction when deaf friends learned I wasn’t one of them. I understand it now, but as a seven-year-old kid I found myself wishing I had been born deaf, too. Then I would belong to the tight-knit Deaf community instead of being just an honorary member.
“Very smart,” Dad bragged. “Good girl. Nickname ‘Motor
You know you talk a lot when your deaf family nicknames you Motor Mouth.
Dad passed me a crisp bill, and my eyes widened when I saw it was a ﬁve. Five bucks would get me an icy Dr Pepper, greasy crinkle fries, and plenty of games in the arcade.
“Share with your brother,” he signed with a warning raise of his brow.
David could fend for himself. Besides, I reasoned, he was three and a half years older than me and better at most video games. One quarter lasted him a hell of a long time; surely he didn’t need any more money. After a quick thank-you to Dad and a half-assed wave to his friends, I left the dark, smoky hideaway and headed straight for the snack bar.
In the game room, I found David dominating Space Invaders, as usual. He swayed and ducked, jerked the joystick, and repeat- edly bashed the ﬁre button as a crowd of admiring onlookers grew around him. He must have been within reach of the ma- chine’s high score, a feat I’d witnessed him achieve once before.
“Totally rad!” a kid shouted, giving David a slap on the back.
“Yeah, totally!” said another with a high-ﬁve. My brother ac- cepted the accolades from his minions, who always ﬂitted be- hind him, with a smug smirk.
“That was so neat, man!”
A freckle-faced kid challenged, “Yeah, but can you reach the
“Video games don’t end,” another kid stated with certainty. “Oh yeah? Well then how far does it go?”
We weren’t totally sure. Each round became progressively harder so it was difﬁcult imagining a game lasting forever. But if you were winning, why would a game just quit? David seemed in line to be our exploratory leader, a twentieth-century Christopher Columbus.
I smacked down a quarter on the glass screen with a crack, claiming my place as the next player in line, and waited for him to lose.
“Go away,” he demanded. “You’re gonna fuck me up.”
David was skinnier than a dried stick of spaghetti and, at ten years old, already as tall as many adults. Like me, his hair was as white as hotel sheets with skin browned from frolicking every day in the blazing South Texas heat without a drop of sunscreen. David returned to concentrating on his game, so I ignored his command and lingered long enough to see him lose a turn.
“See!” he yelled as he gave a quick jab to my arm. “Look at what you made me do!”
I yelped in pain and poked the lump where he had knuckle- punched me.
“I told you to go away,” he hissed. “Stop watching me.”
The End was apparently not in sight as long as I was present. David’s cronies sneered at me. I was jeopardizing my brother’s attempt at immortality, so I retreated to the Pong machine. When I ran out of quarters, I sprinted back to the lanes, where the hook-handed man was stepping up to bowl. He had replaced his right hook with a special contraption that gripped his bowling ball. As he charged down the alley, he used his left hook to whack some lever or button that sent his ball barreling toward the pins. I had no idea how many he knocked down or if his aim was any good. Did it matter? A deaf man with hooks for hands was bowling.
When the bowling was ﬁnished, my parents’ night was just getting warmed up. Every night out to a Deaf event ended the same way. My mom and dad stood gathered in a circle of deaf family and friends for what seemed like an eternity while I did absolutely nothing, waiting impatiently to go home. Drink after drink crossed the bar—more Coors Light for Dad, Seven & Sev- ens for Mom—as Deaf community gossip was dished with a
ﬂurry of hands.
Unlike other kids absorbing adult chatter, my “listening in” required eyes and dedicated attention. I was tired and desper- ately wanted to go, but getting a deaf person to leave any social engagement was harder than eating spaghetti with a knife.
Hoping my parents would notice, I made a dramatic produc- tion of pushing together three plastic chairs to serve as a make- shift bed. I draped Dad’s denim blazer over me and waited for them to call it a night. I almost wanted to walk up to the alley manager and tell him to ﬂick the lights on and off, the best way of telling a group of deaf people it was closing time. Although I was too big to be carried around like a baby, when my father roused me, I pretended to be fast asleep. He scooped me up and carried me to the car. I buried my face in his neck and breathed in his trademark scent of Jovan Musk and beer and nicotine. My parents, never extravagant with accommodations, unloaded us at a roadside motel for the night.
The next afternoon, a local news reporter arrived at the bowl- ing alley to cover the ﬁnal day of the tournament, creating a buzz. A slim strawberry blonde, my mother was easy on the eyes. For the ﬁrst few years of her life, she could hear without the help of hearing aids. This meant she could speak more clearly than most of her hearing-impaired peers, making her the unofﬁcial ambas- sador to the hearing world. Naturally, the reporter chose to inter- view her.
Mom was scheduled to close the annual ceremony by per- forming several songs in ASL, accompanied by a live band. More thrillingly, however, the concert was going to be shown on televi- sion.
There weren’t many occasions for Mom to get gussied up, so when the opportunity presented itself she went full glitz. Seeing her leave the motel room dressed in three-inch heels and a shiny, short-sleeved maroon wrap dress that clung to her tan skin and showcased her enormous breasts, you’d have thought she was headed to New York’s Studio 54 instead of a run-down bowling alley. At thirty-one, she was in the prime of her life and the center of attention. She loved every minute of it.
The reporter chatted with my mother, who was standing near the band, two guitarists and a drummer, who were setting up their instruments at the far end of the establishment. The cam- eraman turned on the bright spotlight and with a quick toss of her head and ﬂash of a smile, Mom was “on.” Before the reporter could even ask a question, Mom declared, “We are deaf not dumb.”
To this day, the phrase “deaf and dumb” is the most offensive insult to a deaf person. Mom wanted to make it clear that just because a person couldn’t hear didn’t mean they lacked intelli- gence.
I stood directly behind the cameraman and admired how proudly she stood, with both shoulders back. Even now, as a woman in her sixties, she carries herself with the same poise and grace at a backyard barbecue as at a wedding. She gestured to a table of merchandise like a TV game show model presenting an item up for bid. The table had items available for purchase, as- sorted T-shirts and handcrafted buttons proclaiming, “Deaf and dumb SMART.” They rested alongside an abundance of cro- cheted knickknacks, jewelry, and assorted keepsakes decorated with hands in the shape of the ASL sign for “I love you.”
The reporter nodded politely. “You are performing a concert tonight. How can deaf people enjoy music?”
“Even though we can’t hear, we can feel the vibration.” She simultaneously signed as she spoke. “We dance to the beat of our own drummer.” She ﬂashed a wide smile that revealed two rows of straight, white teeth, perfect except for a chip in the front from a childhood spill on a tricycle.
“Deaf people enjoy music. They just don’t hear the lyrics,” Mom explained. That’s where she came in.
My mother loved music and incorporated it into every aspect of her life. Deafness ran in her family. She was born to two pro- foundly deaf parents, and had a younger deaf sister named Carly and a few deaf aunts and uncles. By having some hearing ability, it was as if she were determined to hear enough music for all of them and listened to it with a junkie’s fervor. Anything would do. Hard-rocking Led Zeppelin played alongside the kooky, light pop of Captain & Tennille.
Mom collected hundreds of vinyl records. She also subscribed to Billboard’s Hot 100 and music magazines that published lyrics so she could understand the words. Every Sunday afternoon, she piled a thick stack of 45s onto the hi-ﬁ console turntable, the most impressive piece of furniture we ever owned, cranked the volume, and cleaned house while singing to her favorite songs. Mom couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. But it didn’t matter: Our weekend ritual was so much fun with Mom vacuuming and David and me sharing the dusting duties.
I plopped down cross-legged, front row and center, in the crowd that formed in a semicircle around Mom and the band. I slapped my hand over my puffed-up chest as they began to play the national anthem.
I mouthed along with her signing as the song swelled to its triumphant end, majestically demonstrated by Mom’s sweeping movements, “. . . and the home . . . of the . . . BRAVE!” I ap- plauded wildly while the Deaf showed their approval by raising their arms and wiggling their ﬁngers as if they were tickling God’s belly. No one could sign a song in ASL like Mom could.
Mom accepted the praise with a curtsy and thank-you before she continued. “This next song is my favorite. It’s called ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac.” The music started and stirred within her. She grooved in place to the opening chords.
Now here you go again,
You say you want your freedom . . .
Mom was ﬂushed from the heat of the spotlight, the thrill of performing, and the few cocktails she’d been drinking. Dad leaned against a wall in the back of the crowd, sipping a fresh Coors Light. He smiled with a slight smirk as his wife relished the limelight. I shared his thought: She was beautiful.
From where I sat, my mother was the envy of anyone in that stale Tulsa bowling alley. But the truth was, this trip to Oklahoma should have been our last as a family. Dad had cheated on Mom again—this time on New Year’s Eve—and pretty much everyone there knew it except for David and me. Fed up with his philan- dering, Mom was leaving him. She’d hastily packed everything we owned into a rented storage space and in the days before we set off for Tulsa, she had checked us into an apartment in the bad part of Houston that charged by the week.
David and I didn’t know the purpose of our trip to Tulsa. We were unaware that Mom was going to break the news to her par- ents about her plans to divorce Dad. By participating in the bowl- ing tournament, she was also fulﬁlling her obligations to the Deaf community. She was the reigning women’s singles cham- pion, after all.
My father was just along for the ride to see his friends and keep up appearances for Mom, though he had a hard time stay- ing on the straight and narrow. He couldn’t help but party hard and ﬂirt, assuring anyone who questioned his antics that he was going to be single soon.
“Christy left me,” he told one woman. “She wants a divorce,” he told another. He wasn’t lying, but his comments resulted in something Dad hadn’t anticipated. He had set the rumor mill swirling and several women approached Mom with the same blunt question: “Are you and Ted getting a divorce?” One thing Mom passed down to me was her disdain for the malicious gos- sip that seemed to infect their circle of friends in the Deaf com- munity, as if there was some sort of perverse satisfaction in circulating the misery of another. Being married to my father made her hypersensitive to the damage that whispers could cause.
“Who told you that?” Mom deﬁantly responded. “Ted,” they answered.
She confronted Dad with the gossip. “Why did they ask me that?”
“They’re jealous of you,” he signed. “They don’t want to see us together.”
“But they said you told them I left you.”
“No! They lie. They’re trying to break us up and cause prob- lems.” My father could spin shit into gold. Once he told a lie, he committed to it, and with each retelling it became his truth. He grabbed Mom by her waist and smothered her neck and cheeks with kisses, smiling as he cooed in his softest voice, “I luh yooo, Chrisseee. I luh yooo.” There was his dimple again.
Some kids might have been embarrassed at seeing their par- ents be affectionate, but I never was. I loved watching them kiss and cuddle. I was too young to understand my father’s motives and see that he was playing upon Mom’s weakness: her determi- nation to appear strong, in control, and poised like the woman her fans adored. That night, her pride got in the way—she knew he was a cheater, but by staying with him she could prove the nay-saying gossips wrong. So she took him back, on one condi- tion.
Table of Contents
Boars Head, 1978-1986
Chapter 1 Kingpin 3
Chapter 2 Montgomery Hillbillies 16
Chapter 3 You're the One That I Want (Oooh, Oooh, Oooh) 40
Chapter 4 The Man of Steel 56
Chapter 5 Half Baked 74
Chapter 6 Showcase Showdown 83
Chapter 7 Oklahoma! 98
Chapter 8 Workin' for a Livin' 115
Chapter 9 Hellcat Under a Hot Tin Roof 136
Chapter 10 Repo Man 154
Grove Street, 1986-1987
Chapter 11 The Miracle Worker 177
Weyland Drive, 1987-1989
Chapter 12 Sixteen Candles 207
Chapter 13 A Petty Officer and a Gentleman 227
Chapter 14 Excessive Noise Disturbance 238
Chapter 15 Come Sail Away 249
New York City, 2002-2008
Chapter 16 Overboard 267
Chapter 17 Witness for the Prosecution 294
Chapter 18 Nothing but the Truth 308
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The trouble is, deaf people also have to make a living, which is usually found in the world of the Hearing Community. And this does not always go smoothly. Crews' father, Ted Crews, was a particularly tragic case of this, a man who could never quite make that transition for long, although he was a man of many talents and skills in the world of carpentry and most areas of general contracting. Crews cannot really say for sure why her father had so many problems with authority and normal work routines. She did learn something of his childhood as a boarding student at an Oklahoma school for the deaf from the age of seven. Too young to understand, he thought his father had abandoned him there and perhaps never quite got over that. When the author told stories about her Dad when she was young, my eyes got misty remembering doing the same things with my Dad when I was young. Back in the day when you could ride in the bed of a pickup truck and Dad would let me drive the straight back road home. Trying to please him by wanting to help him do things, only to be disappointed that the position was taken by my older brother. Wheelbarrow rides around the yard and fighting off daddy long legs during camping trips. Anyone who reads this book will find a part of themselves in it. This author still has a long life to live but has endured so much more than someone like me. My life broke me, but Kambri got stronger. Whether she put up a wall to keep the pain out, put all her energy into school and work, or ran away to different states, I cannot imagine how I would cope if my Dad was in prison for attempted murder. Her Dad was the reason her family broke up and went their separate ways, but his imprisonment has brought them back together in one form or another. I do not think I could sit across from my Dad in a prison visiting room while he denied facts and only asked for money. Kambri has forgiven her Dad and has accepted who he is. "It can't be pretty without being ugly first." The Crews family has burned down the ground, best wishes for growing new, bright and healthy. I was most interested in a this book because of the child's view of the Deaf community. I learned some things I hadn't known before, like that deaf people can be loud neighbors because they don't realize they are making noise. Crews also shares the discrimination her parents experienced in a time before the American's with Disabilities Act.
Book was a goodreads review advance copy. Always been a fan of auto/biographies as long as I can remember. Can remember reading the big ones in elementary school. Don't know what it is about this one but loved it! Never could find myself to pull away from this. Not to say things in the book are not true but has the feel of a great story that you can not put down. Maybe my excitement with this book is the love hearing someone's own life story, tales from the past. And the life that they have had lived. Eagerly turned pages finding myself more, and more pulled into the book. Dreading when getting near the end of the book. Before I would know the story would be over. Horrified when some of the pages started to come loose and try to fall out. Sounds like my kind of luck and book happened to be signed too lol. But it was it was just like four pages and was able to finish book without anymore falling out. Due hope author will come out with some other kind of book in the future. Loved her storytelling in this one, and one of the best books I have read in awhile
I hounded the publicist for a copy of the early manuscript and wasn't able to put it down. This remarkable memoir is so moving and well-written and offers amazing insight into the Deaf community.
“Burn Down the Ground” is more than readable. It’s put-your-phone-on-airplane-mode, call-in-sick-for-work, ignore-your-spouse-and-family readable. No, you may not have grown up isolated in the woods. No, you may not have been immersed in the Deaf community. And no, your formative years may not have been marked by intense and random bursts of violence. But in these pages, you will recognize yourself—the tragic comedy of youth, and the terrifying realization that maybe your heroes aren’t so heroic after all. Kambri Crews is more than just someone who can tell an amazing story–she is an amazing story.
A truly amazing, heart-wrenching story. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to write a review of a book about the life of a real person, written by that person (who is still around to read the review!) I read this book 3 times in a row. Each time my prevailing impression was not “A deaf convict and how he tried to destroy his family,” instead it was “No matter how grim the circumstance of your family they are still your family and you love them.” This book is not about a Deaf family, though it provides useful and inspirational information about what it is like to grow up in the Deaf Community. This book is not about domestic violence, though it provides a powerful example of how badly our law enforcement handled violence against women and insight into how far we have come (and even more insight into how much further we have to go.) This book is not about alcoholism, drug abuse, infidelity or mental illness, though it does provide a frightening example of how all those things can tear a family apart. This book is about a woman who took advantage of life. Where a stranger might say, “Just give up,” Kambri Crews said, “This is just another hill that I can climb.” This is a story that provides the reader with a dose of reality and teaches us that we have much to learn about society outside of our own little micro-culture.
Kambri Crews is an incredible storyteller. Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to see her perform yet, but she really delivers in her memoir. She provides fascinating insight into life in rural Texas - really rural Texas - and life as a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult). Finely crafted with honesty and humor, Crews' life is inspiring especially how she has been able to accept her father as he is and still have a relationship with him on her terms and without losing herself. No small feat. A great read! I look forward to more from Kambri Crews!
Kambri Crews is a truly remarkable woman, and you'll agree by the time you come to end of her story. As remarkable as it is that she was a girl with hearing raised in a deaf household, that's only the beginning, and you'll be rooting for her as she makes her way through this rags-to-no-longer-being-in-rags story. This is one of those Oprah-type books you'll end up buying as a gift for your friends so you can discuss it.
Kambri Crews is an amazing storyteller! She has a way of making the reader feel as they are in the room. She's witty, funny, and doesn't pull any punches. This book relates to so many different readers, including the deaf, low socioeconomic, and families who have had to deal with domestic violence. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll love this book!
This was a very absorbing book, a memoir of a hearing child (and her hearing brother) raised by deaf parents who were enmeshed in a dysfunctional relationship. At times, I was reminded of Jeanette Walls's The Glass Castle, but with a spousal abuse (on the part of the alcoholic father) compounding the problems. It's amazing how resilient some children are -- and how oblivious some adults are to the problems of children, their own and others' children. As a former social worker in child welfare, I recognized the patterns of unintentional neglect, both emotional and physical. The effects of neglect stay with kids longer than abuse, I believe. "A happy childhood lasts a lifetime," I've heard it said. An unhappy one does, as well. A cautionary tale for anyone who works with children.
The only thing I hated about this book was having to put it down and go to sleep! When the author told stories about her Dad when she was young, my eyes got misty remembering doing the same things with my Dad when I was young. Back in the day when you could ride in the bed of a pickup truck and Dad would let me drive the straight back road home. Trying to please him by wanting to help him do things, only to be disappointed that the position was taken by my older brother. Wheelbarrow rides around the yard and fighting off daddy longlegs during camping trips (man those suckers can get really big). There were times that my brother hurt me and my mother did not listen. I had bad hair, bad skin, braces, thick glasses and clothes from K-mart when I entered junior high. Fortunately, God blessed me with a big rack, so that took the boy's eyes away from my face. I changed and grew with every move to a new home. My parents only had horrible screaming fights but my brother's destructive behavior caused physical fights with my Dad. Anyone who reads this book will find a part of themselves in it. This author still has a long life to live but has endured so much more than someone like me. My life broke me, but Kambri got stronger. Whether she put up a wall to keep the pain out, put all her energy into school and work, or ran away to different states, I cannot imagine how I would cope if my Dad was in prison for attempted murder. Her Dad was the reason her family broke up and went their separate ways, but his imprisonment has brought them back together in one form or another. I do not think I could sit across from my Dad in a prison visiting room while he denied facts and only asked for money. Kambri has forgiven her Dad and has accepted who he is. "It can't be pretty without being ugly first." The Crews family has burned down the ground, best wishes for growing new, bright and healthy. If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself!
Kambri Crews is so genuine as she shares her moving story. Her honesty makes you appreciate her strength and ability to overcome and it also causes you to stop and count your blessings. I couldn't put this book down.
Easy reading and great story I could not put it down!
I devoured this book in two days. It is written so well. You will imagine yourself right next to Crews as she describes the sights and sounds of her life. I am inspired by how well adjusted she came out of such a childhood. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the deaf community.
This author has risen above tough circumstances to make her way in the world. This is a classic example of triumphing over seemingly insurmountable challenges to become something extraordinary. Read this book to remind yourself that if you put your mind to something, it can be done. Read it to remind yourself we are all human. Read it to remind yourself that forgiveness is crucial to love. Highly recommend.
This is a must read by a very gifted writer and story teller!
Imagine what it would be like to grow up caught between the world of the hearing and the world of the Deaf. This is a no holds barred look at one strong woman's life It opened up a world to me that I had never bothered to consider. Kambri is a survivor who could have blamed others for the life she was delt but she overcomes and understands that it all made her stronger and everyone did their best with what they had.
I had taken a couple of ASL classes before and really enjoyed it so I was interested in reading Kambri Crews' memoir. Kambri is the hearing daughter of two deaf parents (also known as a CODA. In her memoir Kambri talks about her chaotic life as a child and how it had affected her. She talks about life as a CODA, her parents' lives, a little bit about Deaf culture, and more emotional topics.I loved how honest Kambri was in this memoir. She writes about some frightening and deeply personal events and doesn't hide anything. From her days living in a shed, to her father's violent rages against her and her mother, you can immediately connect with Kambri and find yourself cheering for her. I would recommend this book to family and friends.*I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway which in no way affects the content of my review.*
I just finished Kambri Crews book, Burn down the Ground that I received thru Libraything¿s early reader. Her account of life growing up in a family with deaf parents, in Texas is often funny, scary, violent and touching. This woman is a survivor as are her Mom and brother. She writes in a way that allows you to read about this raw, yet affectionate life they led. In spite of the anger I felt for the trauma they suffered, I gave the book 4 stars. It was well written, and very readable.
This book is about the life of Kambri Crews, the hearing daughter of deaf parents. Her family was poor and highly dysfunctional. The memoir is largely about the many difficulties she experienced growing up in an abusive home. At times if felt as though her father's deafness was used as an excuse for his bad behavior. I was hoping for much more insight into deaf culture.
As a hearing child of two parents who are deaf, her parents not being able to hear is the least of author Kambri Crews problems. Her father is an angry expolosive man, who ultimately makes it impossible to live with and/or maintain a relationship with. Kambri Crews however, is able to rise above such a difficult set of circumstances and become a seemimgly happy and well adjusted adult. I found the memoir to be funny, sad and very readable.
Kambri is a hearing daughter of two deaf parents and her book explores her journey to adulthood, through interesting, funny, and sometimes difficult stories. She talks about her difficult relationship with her father and his fall from grace, and how she has come to terms with it as an adult. An incredibly interesting read, bringing up things I would never have thought about as a hearing person with hearing parents. I feel I walk away from this book with a better understanding and appreciation for the deaf community as well as being very impressed with the person Kambri has become with the childhood difficulties she overcame. An excellent read.
[Burn Down The Ground] by [[Kambri Crews]] is an interesting look at her life growing up as a hearing child of deaf parents. She shares her unique perspective of what it is like to be responsible for much of the communication between her parents and the world at large. Her family life was somewhat bohemian, and while her mother was hardworking and basically supported the family, her father was not able to hold a job for long even though he was a talented carpenter due to his temper and substance abuse. It is inspiring to see how much she had to overcome to get to the successful life that she enjoys today. I'm not convinced that all of the family's struggles can be attributed to the parents' deafness, but it is a remarkable story.
This book, yet another memoir of a hardscrabble childhood, has its slow spots, but it really gets going when the author describes her hearing-impaired father's descent into alcoholism, paranoia, and rage.
I love memoirs, and Kambri Crews' BURN DOWN THE GROUND could very well turn out to be one of the best of 2012 - and it's her first book too. If Crews is like many women, she probably doesn't particularly like being reminded of her age, but I'm gonna say it anyway, because she's only forty, which seems kinda young to be writing your memoirs. But the fact is she had a story worth telling - that she NEEDED to tell - and she does a fine job of it.BURN DOWN THE GROUND is a magical mix of the ordinary and horrific, the story of a girl born to deaf parents. Kambri Crews was a "CODA" (child of deaf adults) in the parlance of the Deaf Community. She goes on to explain -"The Deaf have their own language, arts, churches, and universities. Because of this, they are strongly bonded through shared history and life experiences, and view themselves as a distinct society."The trouble is, deaf people also have to make a living, which is usually found in the world of the Hearing Community. And this does not always go smoothly. Crews' father, Ted Crews, was a particularly tragic case of this, a man who could never quite make that transition for long, although he was a man of many talents and skills in the world of carpentry and most areas of general contracting. Crews cannot really say for sure why her father had so many problems with authority and normal work routines. She did learn something of his childhood as a boarding student at an Oklahoma school for the deaf from the age of seven. Too young to understand, he thought his father had abandoned him there and perhaps never quite got over that.She mentions too that her father's deafness made him feel insecure and paranoid, feelings which often escalated into jealousy, anger and violence, usually directed at her mother. As a child Kambri was unaware of this, and worshiped her handsome talented dad, who, with only his family's help, cleared a piece of scrub ground in the Texas woods and made them a home. This small unofficial settlement northeast of Houston in Montgomery County was called Boars Head. I thought of LORD OF THE FLIES, and Kambri, her brother and friends did indeed live a kind of dark and unsupervised wild-child existence there.Although the Crews family lived from paycheck to paycheck, barely keeping ahead of the bill collectors and repo men, Kambri herself was an all-A student who loved sports, learning and reading until she hit puberty and briefly "fell in with a bad crowd," as we used to say. A move back to the city gives her a chance to start fresh in high school and she embraces this second chance, once again becoming an honor student and working full-time besides. During these years she learns more about the dark side of her parents' marriage, and even finally witnesses her drunken father's rage and his brutal battering of her mother. She finds a way out in a quick marriage to a local sailor and a move to Ohio. Although the marriage doesn't last, Kambri's determination to succeed does. She puts herself through college and works her way up into management in the banking industry, but isn't satisfied, so moves to New York and starts over again.The Crews family has, in the meantime, disintegrated. Her parents have divorced and her brother, a reformed drug addict, has gone his own way. And perhaps I should point out that Kambri herself is no saint. She's had her own detours and lapses with drugs, alcohol and casual sex along the way. But always she keeps on trying to figure out her father. In fact her narrative is framed by a visit she is making to her father - the first in nine years - in Huntsville prison, where he is serving twenty years for assault and attempted murder. She can't cut him loose.BURN DOWN THE GROUND is a beautifully written memoir. It offers a window into the world of the Deaf, but more particularly it tells the story of how one young woman managed to rise above her difficult beginnings in a troubled hardscrabble Texas family. But she won't forget them - refuses
I enjoyed this book. It was well written and a great story. It was interesting to learn what it was liking living with deaf parents. There are also elements of poverty, domestic violence, and drug abuse. It's amazing how well Kambri turned out considering everything that was working against her. 3 1/2 stars