Lisa McKenzie's Reviews > Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption

Street Shadows by Jerald Walker
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it was amazing

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. Yet apparently his fiction strived for a street-vibe. I maintained no opinion on the matter. I had a vested interest in separating author from fictional subject. My own workshop fiction was all about drug addled bi-curious college students. Did that necessarily reveal something about me? One or two fellow workshoppers criticized me for being inauthentic. I was OK with that.
I very much enjoyed reading Jerald's account of this controversy, the definitive answer to the puzzle: Who is Jerald Walker, anyway?
It is worth your while to pick up this book, if you've ever pondered the authenticity of a person you barely know. In the meantime, I am happy to report this much: Jerald Walker is writer who is steering clear of bullshit. I have to wonder, is it a coincidence that Jerald Walker is also a writer who is steering clear of fiction? I can not say. There is some bullshit-free fiction out there, fiction that rings true. And apparently there is some bullshit-laden memoir out there, books that claim to be true, and are later revealed to be riddled with falsehoods. The best a writer can do is steer for the eloquent truth in whatever genre serves the story. I'm willing to bet Walker has done just that.
As it happens, I too, have abandoned fiction for memoir. For my (cross-my-heart-and-swear-to-die) honest account of my Workshop experience, go to:
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Reading Progress

April 26, 2011 – Started Reading
April 27, 2011 – Shelved
April 27, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Robyn (new)

Robyn Authenticity is always an interesting topic, whether it's fiction or memoir. I would think the "authenticity" stakes would be even higher in a memoir than in fiction, but I really didn't like The Help, mainly because it didn't feel authentic to me at all. I wonder, though, when people claim something is "inauthentic" are they really just saying it doesn't match their experiences.

Lisa McKenzie Interesting. When I think back to my Workshop critics, they complained that my fictional characters' recreational drug use wasn't authentic, because it wasn't as hard-core as their own.

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