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The Residue Years

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,122 ratings  ·  195 reviews
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 ext ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 20th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  1,122 ratings  ·  195 reviews

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Kati Heng
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I’ve mentioned this before on the site, but I am white. Very white – I’ve never been discriminated against because of color, asked to empty my pockets in a store, worried about getting service in a bar or restaurant, had to think about what colors I would wear that day based on the neighborhoods I would be in.

On the same line, I was raised amazingly middle class. I lacked no essentials growing up. My family never had to choose between necessities or worry about making the mortgage or even make m
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fucking amazing, fucking killed me. Not recommended reading for wintertime. I'm angrier and sadder through this novel than I have been in a long time. This book was written for part of me, this book rips into the reminder that I am constantly grieving over the loss of what things were in Portland, what things are now becoming.

I was safer than any of these characters, but it was only three miles from where this takes place. I've walked the same places and seen the same people. The blackness embo
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Trish by: Jesmyn Ward
Shelves: fiction, debut-author
“Son, if you’re going to risk your love, save all the space you can for hurt.”--Grace
This spectacular debut novel was a finalist for the 2014 Pen/Hemingway Award, an award that went ultimately to NoViolet Bulawayo for her astonishing debut We Need New Names. Jackson has an earlier book of stories and essays called Oversoul: Stories and Essays, published in 2012, which deserves to be unearthed.

This fiction has the feel of real lives on the brink, aided by the coldly invasive government forms and
Patrice Hoffman
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Residue Years is the gripping debut novel by Mitchell S. Jackson that explores the depths one will go to in order to make their family whole again. We are introduced to Champ and Grace through their narrated alternate chapters. Grace is fresh out of rehab and trying to remain sober. Her reason for being sober is to someday get her two younger sons back. Champ has the same idea in mind of getting his family together again by way of buying back the only home they have ever lived in together.

Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Grace is released from a drug treatment center. She's on probation, and must get a job and stay clean in order to stay free and have a chance at getting her kids back from her ex. Grace is educated, worked in corporate America until she was swept up in the crack era of the 80s. It's been an uphill battle ever since.

Her eldest son, Champ, is in college, being responsible and helping his mom the best way he can: salon visits, clothes for interviews, a car to get around, a shoulder to lean on, keep
3.5 stars? This is a challenging read, for many, many reasons, and took me some time to start getting used to it and really be able to take it all in.

The ending is set in place from the beginning. This is the bitter, harsh reality of real life. The reader watches as the inevitable happens, horrified but unable to look away. Set in Portland in the US state of Oregon, Grace is an addict trying to remain sober, while her eldest son Champ becomes a dealer to make a living, feeling he has no other ch
Robb Todd
May 01, 2013 added it
Shelves: 2013
There will be temptation to put Mitchell Jackson's formidable debut novel in a convenient box but a true reading defies segregation, one of the book's many knockout victories. "The Residue Years" speaks in melodies about a grim world you think you know yet likely never inhabited. Inhabit Jackson's song, a ballad about family, struggle—and struggle for and with family—while finally seeing the face of systemic racism, gentrification, failed hoop dreams, and a misguided drug war that makes criminal ...more
Aug 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a different kind of Portland novel and Mitchell Jackson is a different kind of Gordon Lish student. Told in alternating chapters that ramp up the turmoil while highlighting the bond between a struggling mother and her well-meaning son, Jackson's language is slang heavy and street tough without being hokey. The story (based on his own experiences) provides a searing, moving, and sometimes funny look at what it was like to be black in 1990s Portland. Should probably be required reading for ...more
Monica Drake
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It's interesting to claim it as an "autobiographical novel," intentionally setting the pace between fact and fiction. I appreciate so much seeing the Portland I know well, though now through another's eyes. I've used this in classes, and we talk about so many important things. I'm glad to share this book with students, and friends.
Joe T.
Jun 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was an emotional roller coaster! The stories and characters, the language all felt familiar to me. This is a well written account of surviving against the odds and a book that is creative in its structure and definitely worth reading.
Andrea Larson
Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a challenging, heartbreaking book. It chronicles the lives of a poor African-American mother and son in Portland in the 1990s. Grace, the mother, is a recovering drug addict. She emerges from rehab and tries to reunite her family while working a minimum-wage job and living in project housing filled with drug-related temptation. Champ, her son, is a contradiction: a bright, penetrating young man who's about to graduate from the local university, but sells crack on the side. The bond betwe ...more
Mar 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Takes some getting used to, and I almost quit right off the bat. But it "takes some getting used to" in the way Milton or Homer do -- meaning it's worth it, to stick with it, to unlock it. To get to the love and honor and betrayal and naivety. Jackson expertly develops three-dimensional characters that you can't help caring about and loving, even as they do awful things.

Jackson explains Portland's complicated history of white flight and (re?-)gentrification in one paragraph: "I was just talkin t
Doug Wells
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, horrific, lyrical, and dark novel. An amazing work, even more so as a first novel. I find myself speechless and deeply sad - both because of what I read, and because I'm done.
The CurvyJones
Jul 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2013
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Peter Gunn
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
With 'The Residue Years' a selection for community read by the local public library in Portland, Oregon -- the hometown of the author and setting for this semi-autobiographical novel -- I'm sure not to be the last Portlander to remark on this excellent first novel by Mitchell Jackson. Strangely, some Portlanders writing before me have commented on how unfamiliar Jackson's Portland is to them and occasionally on the 'uncharacteristic' poor choices made by the dual protagonists, college-aged Champ ...more
Residue Years is depressing from the start, so it's not something I will ever be able to re-read, but it's a surprisingly wonderful read all the same. It's not a book I thought I would be able to read even the first time.

Told in the voices of two protagonists - Grace, and her first born son Champ - it has no unexpected twists, and no redemption. The ending is pretty much set up from the very beginning. Grace is a crack addict who is trying to remain sober, and Champ has been dealt with such a r
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

I'm happy to see this book getting such a big push around Portland. "Portlandia" has a national image as a kooky, liberal utopia, and the fact that it's overwhelmingly white is often used as a joke. That flippancy, though, ignores a long and violent past, and a history of displacement and racism that very much continues through the present day. Mitchell's novel serves as a forceful reminder of the Portland that's removed from the national image, and even from local consciousness - the l
Ryan Mishap
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
This is some fatalistic shit: gives you the ending first, jumps you back for an open look, than cuts your heart out with straight daggers. The prose when Champ is talking to you crackles and Grace pulls you in with melancholy and hope wrestling until the inevitable. Can you believe anything they say? Hell no and damn straight.

This is a novel about options, meaning there are no good ones. About the limits imposed on the black population. About the wrong choices being more available than the right
Sep 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Really 2.5 stars. Minus half a star for betraying the character by inserting way way way too many SAT words into an otherwise convincing and compelling voice. Epicene. Ambit. Afflatus. Brisance. Just to name a few. Hard to swallow those words coming out of pretty much anyone's mouth or thought balloons but definitely not this character. Which was a shame, because despite the bleak story line (drug dealing son with a crack-smoking mother) I was hooked on the voice, and rooting for these downtrodd ...more
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If the definition of poetry is any style of writing whose line length is determined by some other principle than the width of the page, Mr. Jackson has found that missing principle and called it prose. He possesses an uncanny “mouse” that points to the new and fresh, like an upcoming trend in fashion on the radar. His love of language transcends the immaculate norm, and gets down and dirty while retaining a rhythm of intellectual beats.
Ross Mckeen
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully heartbreaking and tragic, but full of love, family, trying, failing, trying again. It took me a chapter or two to fall into the rhythm, vernacular, and structure of the writing, but it was worth it.
ms dailey
May 06, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars - some parts were triggering. Addiction rips through families and is very hard and very sad!
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Anatoly Molotkov
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brutally honest, deeply human - a reality not often written about. Skillfully executed in two voices.
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Maybe more like a 4.5 book. I listened to this via Audible.

This book at first was a bit off-putting, since the dialect was hard to pick up on. I think that the author really focused on trying to capture the speech patterns early on. I'm not sure if I adjusted or the author settled down, but after awhile I forgot about the dialect and could really concentrate on the story.

I would love to know where fact and fiction converge and diverge in this book. There were thing about it that rang true and t
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
The language in this book is fresh and the characters are ones who, despite being neer-do wells caught up in some serious business, a reader wants to root for. Former b-baller Champ resorts to selling drugs to support his family and his mother Grace is set up for failure after completing a diversion program when she is giving housing smack in a project in the middle of all of her old temptations.

The plot is not anything you haven't read or seen before, and maybe the characters aren't either. But
I always enjoy reading stories about my hometown or seeing it on film (e.g., Grimm), so that's what drew me to The Residue Years. Our local library system featured it for its "Everybody Reads" program.

But this book represents a different part of Portland than where I grew up (in the predominantly white suburbs). What makes it most interesting is that it's an autobiographical novel, based on the author's own life experiences.

Grace is a drug addict, even though she loves her children. She just ca
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the kind of book where you want to root for the characters, but you can see what's going to end up happening right from the beginning.

The author did a really good job of making you understand these people and why they are where they are. Some parts were confusing because of all of the slang used, but I was able to use context clues to figure out the gist of it. By the end, my heart ached.

My only critique is that the author must have studied the "50 Shades of Gray" book method in that t
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
WOW! Mitchell S. Jackson totally lives up to the hype! I discovered this debut author from the Other People podcast with Brad Listi and went out that day and bought The Residue Years. His writing is super tight and character-rich. His writing echoes each character's voice and it is so rich and vivid. I loved this story, even though it is a tragedy - it was a delight to read a literary novel with an urban feel. I loved the characters, their story and the writing. Thank you, thank you, thank you! ...more
Dec 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is positively heartbreaking. It takes place in my city, in my community - yet because of my race and my privilege (do those things differ much?) - a world I am so far away from. The autobiographical nature of it is at once heartbreaking and hopeful; he made it to here, to write this book. And it's god damn amazing. This man is a writer.

I'm not sure I've ever experienced a book that built its crescendo so perfectly.
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2015 Reading Chal...: The Residue Years by Mitchell Jackson 2 14 Feb 01, 2015 07:35PM  

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Mitchell S. Jackson’s debut novel The Residue Years received wide critical praise. Jackson is the winner of a Whiting Award. His novel also won The Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence and was a finalist for The Center for Fiction Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the PEN / Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, and the Hurston / Wright Legacy Award. Jackson’s honors include fellowships fro ...more

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