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Them: A Novel

3.38  ·  Rating Details  ·  705 Ratings  ·  164 Reviews
The author of the bestselling memoir Makes Me Wanna Holler presents a profound debut novel -- in the tradition of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities and Zadie Smith's White Teeth -- that captures the dynamics of class and race in today's urban integrated communities.

Nathan McCall's novel, Them, tells a compelling story set in a downtown Atlanta neighborhood known for it
ebook, 352 pages
Published November 6th 2007 by Atria Books (first published October 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,259)
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Wilhelmina Jenkins
Halfway through this book, I would have given it 2 stars. Most of the characters are mere stereotypes and I felt that the interactions between the African American residents and the incoming white gentrifiers were way over the top. I am very familiar with the area about which McCall is writing - it's only a few miles from my home and I pass through it several times a week. Very little in McCall's description rang true to me. A pet peeve of mine as an African American is the unnecessary and inacc ...more
Emily G
So I'm almost but not quite done with this, but I can't see it getting any better so: I picked it up cause I saw it on some top books of the year list and was interested in the topic. It's a novel about the gentrification of an old black neighborhood in Atlanta, telling a story from both the black and white sides.

Being a white girl from a privileged background living in a neighborhood that worries my coworkers, I thought maybe this could, I don't know, better educate me about the issues and why
Jan 28, 2009 Kelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern
Interesting premise (gentrification/ reverse white flight, and the irritation it causes in the black community.) Except the author beats you over the head with the irony. Terrible writing. The author conveys the story through stereotypes and unpersuasive character voices. Think John Grisham but without the suspense. The author hasn't a clue of how yuppie whites act, think and talk. Same with urban, working poor blacks-- I don't think the author effectively captures their voices either. The book' ...more
Sep 10, 2008 Christia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a word - fantastic! McCall has hit the nail right on the head with his incredibly accurate portrayal of the gentrification of the Old Fourth Ward, an historic neighborhood (birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr and location of the King Center) in Atlanta. If he did not experience this transition personally, he certainly spent a great deal of time interviewing and observing those who did.

Barlowe is a middle aged, hardworking black man who watches his neighborhood change as whites begin to tric
Aug 13, 2009 Tamara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aa-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 17, 2009 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: absolutely NO ONE!
Recommended to Elizabeth by: anyone who wants to get blocked from my communication list.
This is a book of buffoonery. I can not believe a Black man would write such garbage. That goes to show you that just because you're a college professor does not mean you're enlightened.

Up until this point in my life, I could not fathom why people would burn books. Now, I see why. This is a piece of garbage that no one should waste their time reading. It's a load of stereotypes, ignorance, and absolutely NO originality.

Mind you, I didn't pick this book. This is the Roswell Reads 2009 selection.
Jan 16, 2008 Jasmin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant look at gentrification. In focusing on gentrification of Atlanta from the fictional perspective of black and white residents in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s old neighborhood in novel form. McCall's use of language, analysis of present-day realities and reasons for their existence allowed this book to be able to shift how I look at gentrification of homes, neighborhoods and lives. I highly recommend for folks to read this book.
David Larsen
Dec 15, 2014 David Larsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I originally read Makes Me Want To Holler by this author when I was eighteen. At first, I was surprise he wrote a novel being that he hadn't released a book in almost a decade. Like many, at first I wasn't sure where he was going with things and his protagonist Barlowe Reed at first anyway, seemed kinda bitter and angry. As the story went on though, I actually found a lot more entertaining and a lot more in depth than I first thought that I might have. Nathan McCall did a really good job with t ...more
Jerry Daniels
Jul 10, 2011 Jerry Daniels rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nathan McCall treats fear and prejudice with humor in Them, his first piece of fiction that appears to be about gentrification but is really about how fear drives prejudice and misconduct. While many characters lend to the telling of this story, it is "Barlowe Reed" that McCall uses to encourage readers to consider the merits of racial loyalty and those merits for upholding principles that transcend race.

"Barlowe" is a middle-aged black man longing to own a home but encounters his internal conf
Sep 26, 2011 Paul rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sorry, but this novel is just awful. I lived in the exact neighborhood which is the subject of this novel, and was one of the first white people to move in during the mid-1990s. While I understand that this is a work of fiction, and that it is not intended to portray the attitudes and actions of real characters, I think the author took a very lazy approach to his research and his writing. In fact, many black residents of this neighborhood (Mtamanika Youngblood among them) worked tirelessly t ...more
J.L. Whitehead

This was a slow moving story but I enjoyed it. Nathan McCall deals with the issue of race cleverly. In this story, a white couple moves into a black neighborhood, and it is the white couple who find themselves unwelcome.

Barlowe Reed is the main character who at times strives to be the good guy, yet at times falls into the role of passive. At times, you want him to stand up and take a side...any side. The couple that move in next door to him (Sean and Sandy Gilmore) wonder what is it that they've
Nov 23, 2008 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book_club
Started off strong but kind of crashed midway through.

This book, written by a former Washington Post reporter, covers the very sticky subject of gentrification in a poor Atlanta neighborhood. McCall gets into the heads of characters on both sides--both the poor blacks and the slightly-less-poor whites buying up the cheap property.

The problem, I thought, was while Barlowe seemed like a decently well-rounded character, the white characters were all so stupid. Sandy and Sean didn't seem like real p
Deon Stonehouse
Barlowe Reed is a good man, albeit a bit touchy about the postal service. He lives in a rundown rental house he would dearly love to make his own, but saving the funds for a down-payment and getting a mortgage are gargantuan challenges for Barlowe. He likes his neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the grave of Martin Luther King, near downtown and his job. He likes hanging out with the guys in the neighborhood, he feels at home here. Barlowe has taken his troubled nephew under his wing, helping th ...more
Jan 28, 2009 Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-issues
I love Atlanta. I love being from here, I love living here now, I love the people, and I love the history. I enjoyed Nathan McCall's attempts to influence the current dialogue on race and found myself and my egotism, obliviousness, entitlement, affluence, and several other more annoying characteristics displayed painfully accurately in the book. I loved that I was uncomfortable when I couldn't figure out what people looked like because the author was only noting their race when they weren't blac ...more
Feb 19, 2009 Candice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ellen
Recommended to Candice by: Carol
This was a very good book that left me with so many things to think about. It's a "there goes the neighborhood" story told mostly from the point of view of a Black man living in the Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta, not far from Ebeneezer Baptist Church. White people are moving into the neighborhood and there are so many changes. I viewed it as more than just a racial struggle; it's also a class and culture struggle. I liked the main character a lot. Barlowe Reed, a Black man of about 40 is trying to ...more
Sep 01, 2008 Nilaja rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to learn what gentrification does to an existing community, read this book. If you want to know the difference in thought processes between black and white people in a community read this book. Defining who "Them" is will be an indepth study for the reader of who you really are and what you would call "Them". Nathan McCall's tale, while a good story and read, is not just a good story and read. It is about America at its most basic level. It is about the things we all aspire to have. ...more
Apr 10, 2012 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Barlowe Reed is a single, African American man living in a home with his nephew in the old Fourth Ward of Atlanta. He is fed up with Caeser (his name for white authority) and continues to work as a printer and hang out with the local black men at the Minimart. Then one day a white couple buys the house next door to Barlowe. Before you know it more white people start moving into the neighborhood and the locals of the old Fourth Ward aren’t pleased.

This is a story full of racial tension throughou
Jan 02, 2010 Jonathan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The best example of telling rather than showing, to get some perennial writing advice backward, I’ve seen in a long time, McCall’s Them is nonetheless a provocative read. Taking on issues of race and class in a gentrifying Atlanta neighborhood, McCall throws subtlety aside, so you’re guaranteed to understand just how complicated it is. Two things really annoyed me: “them” is italicized way too often, and it seemed to me he falls back on stereotypes for his characters. Whether that is deliberate, ...more
Andrew Duncan
A frustrating book but in an eye opening way. Though it's a reflection of actual reality it still upsetting all the same. The book takes the viewpoint from the other, or how they refer to each other "Them". Their interactions are frustrating because often McCall takes you in the head of some of his characters, and mostly the character react out of fear or suspicion of "them". The main black character and main white character, Barlowe and Sandy respectively, have serious character flaws. Barlowe' ...more
Abe Weill
Jan 31, 2010 Abe Weill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book popped out to me off the shelf at my school library. I read the inside cover and was immediately drawn to the storyline. Admittedly I don't know much on the subject, being caucasian in California, so I don't know the accuracy of the novel. As far as I can tell this novel seemed to be a tone-setting book, meaning that this book is showing exactly what's wrong in the U.S.A. today. The book really opened my eyes to what's going on still in Atlanta and other cities. This book had drama, ro ...more
Feb 17, 2009 Renee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Them" is a fictionalized story of gentrification set in the historic old Fourth Ward where MLK Jr grew up and was buried. There are times when I felt like a ping -pong ball, at first sympathizing with "them" and then going back to understanding the reasoning for "us". This is a “them/us “ book as it is the author's intent and he carries this theme out brilliantly. There are seeds of hope in this book however deeply buried they may be. I also learned that it seems that racial relations are much ...more
Hmmm where to start with this book. I'm definitely glad I read it or listened to it but the story line seemed to get lost in so many other story lines. It's like the author wanted to talk about everything he could possibly talk about in this one book and while he did a decent job of connecting the dots there was some information that should've been deleted to make a cleaner more concise and moving story. It does offer a moving view of gentrification and the after effects on those who can no long ...more
Sep 26, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book caught my interest from the beginning and continued until the end. I love how Mr. McCall captures the dynamics of class and race in today's urban renewal. Integrated communities changing with the entrance of new comers who have no history of the place and instead of taking the time to find out things about the old resident, it is full speed ahead with changes that are considered an affront by many of the old residents.

Barlowe , a single African American who works as a printer and rent
Aug 23, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps I really enjoyed this book because I want to move to the inner city and my husband is against it for the all of the reasons that Shaun (the main white male character in the book) has plus some others. I hope the stereotypes are way over the top as another reviewer wrote because I want to think that people in the city are not so divided upon racial lines that they cannot be neighborly to one another. Characters aside, I think the book did a great job of raising gentrification issues and u ...more
Oct 16, 2014 Adina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just finished reading Them this morning. At first I was a bit skeptical about the idea of a novel about gentrification— would it avoid being preachy? Would the plot be engaging yet believable? Would the characters grow? McCall pulls all of this off effectively. By the time I was half way through the book, I wanted to spend all of my free time reading it. I was impressed by the way McCall developed his characters with just the right touch of humor (and caricature). He managed to write some exce ...more

Nathan McCall's portrayal of gentrification in a post-9/11 Atlanta neighborhood is, largely, an interesting and successful story.

McCall creates an itchingly realistic story of people living through the gentrification of their neighborhood. Barlowe, our protagonist, is a complex, interesting, and likable character who, at the end of the book, has just the right kind of a success for a story like this: not too big and not too small. The characters
Aug 10, 2014 Shavonne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although there are scenes and language in "Them" that are not suitable for teenagers, I think this novel should be read in junior high social studies classes and high school history/civics classes. Nathan McCall tells it like it is in "Them." And ofcourse, this book is still relevant in 2014. The narrator is a fly buzzing around intimate black conversations and white conversations. "The Fly" informs readers what blacks and whites say about each other when the meetings or socials are segregated. ...more
Karen K - Ohio
Painful to read because you fear it will not end well for the main characters. That one or more of them will make some minor mistake that will magnify into a major calamity. That said it was an interesting look at gentrification of a neighborhood from both sides. A topic I know very little about, as I live in a rural area of Ohio.

I have to say the whole tree cutting incident didn't feel real or true to me. Tyrone's violence, Barlowe's regret at coming home in the nick of time, Sean and Sandy no
Sep 06, 2010 Joy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Gentrification is a very touchy subject and it seems when one cultural group moves into an already established neighborhood of another culture, things can get very nasty! It ought not to be so, but that is life in America! This book touched me very much and I always enjoy Nathan McCall. I hope he writes more books!
Mar 23, 2009 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written piece of fiction based on a very real issue: gentrification. This fictional story is based on the real gentrification shift that took place in Atlanta's 4th ward. For anyone moving into an urban area, especially one that has historically had a minority population, this book is a must read!
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