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Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  87 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
Masterfully told, marked by irony and humor as well as outrage and a barely contained sadness, Jerald Walker’s Street Shadows is the story of a young man’s descent into the “thug life” and the wake-up call that led to his finding himself again.

Walker was born in a Chicago housing project and raised, along with his six brothers and sisters, by blind parents of modest means
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Published January 26th 2010 by Bantam (first published 2010)
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Lisa
Apr 27, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure: I went through the Iowa Writer's Workshop with Jerald Walker. I can't say I knew him then. After reading this engaging memoir, I feel I know him now. At least, I know the portion of himself he has chosen to reveal, which is a generous portion, indeed.
Jerald Walker and I were never in the same class at the same time while In Iowa. Nonetheless, I dimly recall hearing rumors that his narrative authenticity was in question. By all appearances, Jerald was a total Cosby-style prep. Y
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The Book Maven
Oh. My. God.

I think this book should be essential reading for every single man and woman in America.

What ostensibly seems like a story of "here's how I survived Gangland and Inner City Chicago" is in fact SO MUCH MORE. Perhaps this shouldn't surprise me; it's written by an academic who is also a creative writer, which means that the ideas he conveys are bigger than himself and his own human frailties and emotions and perspectives; moreover, they are exquisitely and rivetingly conveyed.

What thi
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Lauren
May 25, 2013 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decent memoir but I expect more from a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

Dr. Walker’s life story is remarkable: born to two blind parents, he eventually drops out of high school and joins the gangster life of drugs and petty crime. Following the murder of a good friend, he turns his life around, eventually marrying, becoming a father, and getting his PhD along the way. That along makes the book worth a read, but it’s a bit shallow and lacks a central focus. The chapters alternate between be
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Lynn
Aug 12, 2010 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jerald Walker is an Associate Professor at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. His memoir is not a set straightforward line from birth to death but more like a memory. A chapter may cover a more current situation in his life and that may lead to a reminiscence of his life in the South Side of Chicago where he was born. An African-American, he lived with Evangelist Christian parents, both of the who were blind, and became another street thug, stealing, selling drugs and doing drugs for a ...more
Lynn
Aug 11, 2010 Lynn rated it it was amazing
Jerald Walker is an Associate Professor at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. His memoir is not a set straightforward line from birth to death but more like a memory. A chapter may cover a more current situation in his life and that may lead to a reminiscence of his life in the South Side of Chicago where he was born. An African-American, he lived with Evangelist Christian parents, both of the who were blind, and became another street thug, stealing, selling drugs and doing drugs for a ...more
Tim
Mar 17, 2011 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We just had Jerald Walker as the featured speaker at our 24th annual North Shore Young Writers' Conference at Waring School. He captivated the assembled students and mentors with his memoir, which I just finished reading to my delight. Walker's youth was so dark and his current life so successful that I feared that reading the book might suggest that such risks can be overcome (and perhaps diminish the value of the book as a warning); however, I was wrong, since Walker's story of redemption is a ...more
Audacia Ray
I'm a total memoir snob, so my 3-star rating is really about the form and not so much the contents. The writing in this book is really good - but the book is a collection of essays (at the end of the book there's even a list of places where pieces were previously published as essays) and not a cohesive memoir with an arc. It took me a while to sort out why the book felt so disjointed, but its basically because this is a personal essay collection. The book left me wanting a deeper examination of ...more
Geoff Wyss
Will be using this as an outside reading book for my Eng. III class next year, the quarter on "The American Dream." It'll bring up good discussion topics relating to race and class.

From a more 'writerly' perspective, it's sloppily structured with lots of unfinished parts. Practically every scene is underdeveloped, almost as if Walker didn't have faith in the strength of his material, which is a shame. (He admits to being nervous about exploiting his background in his fiction, and I suspect that
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Matthew Winkler
Aug 05, 2014 Matthew Winkler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Double-barreled
Frank
Apr 05, 2010 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a fast, enjoyable read, but I felt that it didn't fully explore all of the tensions it raised. Jerald Walker, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, has enough life experience to provide material for several Iowa graduates—a young adulthood full of petty crime and drug abuse, two blind parents, life as a black man in a mostly white academic world, a biracial wife, a trip to Africa... Yet the pieces in this relatively short memoir are themselves quite short, at times unsatisfying ...more
Kristin Bateman
Feb 21, 2010 Kristin Bateman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the reasons I wish we could grant 1/2 stars. I would rate this as 4.5/5. Masterfully told with a careful and clever voice, Walker allows us a glimpse at a life filled with crime, race and redemption--though I'm not sure how comfortable he would be with the term "redemption." The pacing is natural and makes for a enjoyable and quick read. Well done!
Joanne
Mar 24, 2010 Joanne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Reviews I've read of this book promise an inspiring tale of a turned-around life. I was put off in an early chapter by an excerpt the author included from some pornography he'd been given to read as a child. While it undoubtedly illustrates the crummy care he received from his elders, I couldn't get past it. Can't imagine what the rest of the book would be like.
Stephanie
Jun 23, 2011 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book! I found the author's experiences with race quite interesting, and some of his insights were quite profound. I wish he had provided more details about his childhood, what pulled him into thug life, and how he was able to break free. Not a page-turner, but a well-written book with an interesting perspective on race.
John Pappas
Interesting memoir of a former drug-dealer, growing up with blind parents who belonged to an apocalyptic death cult, who becomes creative writer professor at Bridgewater State and later Emerson. Nicely written, exposing the ironies and dynamics of our suposed "post-race" society.
Myriam
Aug 12, 2011 Myriam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book inspirational and well-written. I recommend it to anyone, especially anyone touched by the ravages of drugs, alcoholism, peer pressure and depression. The books gives an account of a person who went through it all and went on to a better life. Enjoyed it.

Linda
Apr 17, 2010 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
chapters alternate between scenes of poverty, drugs and alcohol on the streets of south side Chicago and experiences in the academic world both as a student and a professor - the best book I have read this year
Stephen
Sep 07, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wry and powerfully written. Enjoyable to read. The organization is interesting, but does not push the reader to finish the book because we know he's okay from the start.
Jean Godwin Carroll
Apr 07, 2010 Jean Godwin Carroll rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
This author's story sounds compelling from the excerpts, but is poorly told in such a dispassionate manner that I couldn't get involved.
Ricky
This boook is very good. It explains how a character can turn his life around, and start going on the right track of life.
Eliza
Sep 05, 2012 Eliza marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I read an excerpt. The style is captivating and I would like to read more about the author's attitudes and work.
Mary O'Connell
Oct 14, 2011 Mary O'Connell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a a word: Genius. Also, beautifully written.
Aeon
Mar 09, 2010 Aeon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is terrfic.
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