Timothy Bazzett's Reviews > Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir

Burn Down the Ground by Kambri Crews
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
5491319
's review
Feb 24, 2012

it was amazing
Read in February, 2012

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 to. Family is family, and Kambri Crews' story is eloquent testament to that important fact.

I talk too much, I know. Bottom line: this is one helluva good read!

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
5 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Burn Down the Ground.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.