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Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family

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An electrifying, dazzlingly written reckoning and an essential addition to the national conversation about race and class, Survival Math takes its name from the calculations award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson made to survive the Portland, Oregon, of his youth. This dynamic book explores gangs and guns, near-death experiences, sex work, masculinity, composite fathers, An electrifying, dazzlingly written reckoning and an essential addition to the national conversation about race and class, Survival Math takes its name from the calculations award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson made to survive the Portland, Oregon, of his youth. This dynamic book explores gangs and guns, near-death experiences, sex work, masculinity, composite fathers, the concept of “hustle,” and the destructive power of addiction—all framed within the experience of Jackson, his family, and his community. Lauded for its breathtaking pace, its tender portrayals, its stark candor, and its luminous style, Survival Math reveals on every page the searching intellect and originality of its author. The primary narrative, focused on understanding the antecedents of Jackson’s family’s experiences, is complemented by poems composed from historical American documents as well as survivor files, which feature photographs and riveting short narratives of several of Jackson’s male relatives. The sum of Survival Math’s parts is a highly original whole, one that reflects on the exigencies--over generations--that have shaped the lives of so many disenfranchised Americans. As essential as it is beautiful, as real as it is artful, Mitchell S. Jackson’s nonfiction debut is a singular achievement, not to be missed.


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An electrifying, dazzlingly written reckoning and an essential addition to the national conversation about race and class, Survival Math takes its name from the calculations award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson made to survive the Portland, Oregon, of his youth. This dynamic book explores gangs and guns, near-death experiences, sex work, masculinity, composite fathers, An electrifying, dazzlingly written reckoning and an essential addition to the national conversation about race and class, Survival Math takes its name from the calculations award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson made to survive the Portland, Oregon, of his youth. This dynamic book explores gangs and guns, near-death experiences, sex work, masculinity, composite fathers, the concept of “hustle,” and the destructive power of addiction—all framed within the experience of Jackson, his family, and his community. Lauded for its breathtaking pace, its tender portrayals, its stark candor, and its luminous style, Survival Math reveals on every page the searching intellect and originality of its author. The primary narrative, focused on understanding the antecedents of Jackson’s family’s experiences, is complemented by poems composed from historical American documents as well as survivor files, which feature photographs and riveting short narratives of several of Jackson’s male relatives. The sum of Survival Math’s parts is a highly original whole, one that reflects on the exigencies--over generations--that have shaped the lives of so many disenfranchised Americans. As essential as it is beautiful, as real as it is artful, Mitchell S. Jackson’s nonfiction debut is a singular achievement, not to be missed.

30 review for Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cassie (book__gal)

    Wow wow wow. January isn’t even over and I’ve already found one of my top reads of 2019. Thank you Scribner for gifting me a free copy of Survival Math. It will be out in March. ⁣ ⁣ I have so much to say about this book, but I don’t even think I can do it justice. I was gripped by every single word. Jackson accounts his life growing up in Portland, Oregon; a life characterized by poverty, drugs, violence, and struggle. The title of the book comes from the calculations Jackson had to make to surviv Wow wow wow. January isn’t even over and I’ve already found one of my top reads of 2019. Thank you Scribner for gifting me a free copy of Survival Math. It will be out in March. ⁣ ⁣ I have so much to say about this book, but I don’t even think I can do it justice. I was gripped by every single word. Jackson accounts his life growing up in Portland, Oregon; a life characterized by poverty, drugs, violence, and struggle. The title of the book comes from the calculations Jackson had to make to survive his circumstances. Throughout the book, Jackson has included "Survival Files" - short accounts of the lives of men in his family and what they had to do to survive as well. ⁣ ⁣ Survival Math is intimate and interrogating of the choices both Jackson and his family members had to make to survive. These are stories not meant for us to judge, we are to listen, and hopefully, to learn. What makes Jackson’s examination of these topics so impactful is the combination of candor and voice. Many writers have unique voices, but Jackson’s is a blend of intellectuality and the suaveness he learned from the hustlers that marked his life in Portland; an observation he himself points out. ⁣As for candor, Jackson observes his own role in the sins of his community - his examination of how he has hurt women is especially compelling. There is nothing "holier than thou" about Jackson’s writing - he may have survived his circumstances but he is cognizant of the fact that his circumstances made him the writer he is today.⁣ ⁣ Tears fell at different points while reading this. I can’t really pinpoint the exact emotion I was feeling that produced this response from me - it wasn’t pity or sadness - it was just something about Jackson’s writing that seeped into me and affected me. ⁣ ⁣ There’s a lesson here in these pages that Jackson makes clear to readers, that I hope you too will realize when you read this book - we have the ability to help others reframe how they see themselves, what they see in their futures, what they believe is attainable. Any writer who can make you recognize that is a damn good writer to me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Thoughts soon.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    My nonfiction reads have been top notch so far this year! Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson is a phenomenal book/ experience for me the reader. Telling his story in his unique writing style, Jackson made me feel like he was having a conversation with over coffee. His story of growing up Portland, Oregon and the struggles as a black man its not new coming from a black woman who’s had her share of growing in a predominately white area, but it’s how he told his s My nonfiction reads have been top notch so far this year! Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson is a phenomenal book/ experience for me the reader. Telling his story in his unique writing style, Jackson made me feel like he was having a conversation with over coffee. His story of growing up Portland, Oregon and the struggles as a black man its not new coming from a black woman who’s had her share of growing in a predominately white area, but it’s how he told his story just sucked me into this book. Centering not only his struggles but also the generations of his families was a genius. Violence, prison, and drugs all of this played a big part of who he was and where he’s going. I personally have never been to Portland, Oregon, so reading what life was like for him really intrigued me. Jackson is an exceptional writer and this book is truly phenomenal. I will read any book that Jackson puts out in the Future. Thank you Netgalley & @scribnerbooks for the e-copy of this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Reggie

    Thoughts coming, but this book is very good. Mitchell Jackson is someone whom I'd want to read each word he writes.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jaime

    @scribnerbooks #partner | ✍🏽 mini•review . It’s an historical exploration into Black Portland + it’s also a deep encompassing look into Mitchell Jackson’s family history. It’s a collection of essays, sprinkled with poems and what the author deemed as “Survivor Files.” You see all the black men on the cover? (side note 📝 the cover is brilliant btw — y’all know I love a good cover) well the faces you see are the men in Jackson’s life: his brothers, uncles, cousins, a grandfather and a nephew and th @scribnerbooks #partner | ✍🏽 mini•review . It’s an historical exploration into Black Portland + it’s also a deep encompassing look into Mitchell Jackson’s family history. It’s a collection of essays, sprinkled with poems and what the author deemed as “Survivor Files.” You see all the black men on the cover? (side note 📝 the cover is brilliant btw — y’all know I love a good cover) well the faces you see are the men in Jackson’s life: his brothers, uncles, cousins, a grandfather and a nephew and they make up the ‘Survivor Files’ which is a short narrative about their life . One thing I loved about this is the author’s candidness and self reflection. There was so many gems that the author dropped in his prose. Also, the construction which is nonlinear and don’t let this stop you from picking it up, it’s composed so well + I think it compliments the essay collection perfectly. https://www.instagram.com/absorbedinp...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Piper

    Mitch Jackson has one of the most unique prose styles I've ever read. This memoir manages to be engrossing & diffuse, telling his own story, his family's story, and the stories of other African-American men in his community. Like his debut novel The Residue Years this book is at times wrenching to read. It kept me up at night. Mitch Jackson has one of the most unique prose styles I've ever read. This memoir manages to be engrossing & diffuse, telling his own story, his family's story, and the stories of other African-American men in his community. Like his debut novel The Residue Years this book is at times wrenching to read. It kept me up at night.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    I approached this book fully open to hearing a fresh voice and perhaps a new perspective. I would describe this book as rapper meets literature professor, lyrically and poetically written. Hence the 2 star review. However, I consider the content and the message to be a waste of time. I was staying open minded, but the further I progressed in this book, the more I became convinced that this author not only was, but definitely still is, a manipulative hustler. The final chapter, “Epilogue” confirm I approached this book fully open to hearing a fresh voice and perhaps a new perspective. I would describe this book as rapper meets literature professor, lyrically and poetically written. Hence the 2 star review. However, I consider the content and the message to be a waste of time. I was staying open minded, but the further I progressed in this book, the more I became convinced that this author not only was, but definitely still is, a manipulative hustler. The final chapter, “Epilogue” confirmed it. His weak apologies about how he could be a better father and his elaborate explanation of how he went above and beyond to attend a father-daughter dance only showed me how little he thinks it takes to be a good father. I’m sure he imagines his daughter being so impressed with his writing success and so touched by his declarations of love that she’ll forgive all his transgressions, just like he brags about manipulating so many other women before her. Wow...he really is good at making himself sound repentant while continuing to inflate his own ego. I also think he’s playing both sides. He wants to be lauded by the type of people who will read and praise this book, give him grants/scholarships/degrees/jobs/speaking engagements etc but meanwhile still wants to retain his street credibility. After listening to his TED Talk and a very different description of his encounter with “Stitches”, I’m left wondering if some of his stories aren’t even true. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he hasn’t had nearly as many women in his life as he claims, nor the thug life he proclaims, and that it has all been invented or inflated. What would stop someone of his character from telling lies just to sell more books?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kayla

    Instead of writing to you about his life story, Mitchell S. Jackson’s prose feels like he is having a conversation about his life with the reader. He talks about not only his struggles, but generations of his families struggles with violence, prison, and drugs. It truly is a tale of overcoming your surroundings and bettering oneself as a person.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    3.5⭐ rounded up This is a tough review to write. While I loved Jackson's storytelling and honesty, I really struggled with the format of this book. I enjoyed the memoir aspects, and I think I expected this to be a full memoir. However, a lot of this book had an academic tone (which is absolutely perfect for the right reader), and some parts with a lot of historical or mythological background made me feel like I was in school. Everything felt disconnected for me since there were so many different 3.5⭐ rounded up This is a tough review to write. While I loved Jackson's storytelling and honesty, I really struggled with the format of this book. I enjoyed the memoir aspects, and I think I expected this to be a full memoir. However, a lot of this book had an academic tone (which is absolutely perfect for the right reader), and some parts with a lot of historical or mythological background made me feel like I was in school. Everything felt disconnected for me since there were so many different tones in this book. I had a hard time staying focused. I think I would have had a better time with the book if it would have been a straight memoir. I was interested in hearing more of Jackson's story, and I appreciate the parts that he shared with us. The Survivor Files sections were my favorite part. They were so personal, and I liked the way that the stories were told. My review might not be very helpful. I highly recommend checking out some of the other reviews - it seems like a lot of other people had an easier time reading this one than I did. Thank you so much to Scribner for sending me a copy of Survival Math to review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    HR-ML

    [email protected] 12%. This began with stream of consciousness, not a favorite narrative. Years ago my mental health client called a drug dealer "an independent businessman." This served as a wink wink nod nod, & implied, 'we know he's there, but let's ignore him.' The author glorified drug use & drug dealing (he spent time incarcerated for drug dealing, a friend of a friend ran a meth lab), & lied about the real reason he lost his college scholarship (not a 'family emergency.') I got the "composite father" c [email protected] 12%. This began with stream of consciousness, not a favorite narrative. Years ago my mental health client called a drug dealer "an independent businessman." This served as a wink wink nod nod, & implied, 'we know he's there, but let's ignore him.' The author glorified drug use & drug dealing (he spent time incarcerated for drug dealing, a friend of a friend ran a meth lab), & lied about the real reason he lost his college scholarship (not a 'family emergency.') I got the "composite father" concept. But was it emotionally healthy for Mitchell to admire "Big Chris" a parolee bank robber and a subsequent pimp? My social work experience taught me some folks thought it easier to break the law than hold down a boring, traditional, underpaid job. One homeless client had 8 felonies! One client justified doing a stick-'em-up: to feed his family! Or really to buy 'smokes' and weed? US companies & TV shows and commercials encourage us to be insatiable consumers. Street drugs & violence : a direct result of rabid need (@ all social levels) to accumulate stuff? The author seemed proud of his Lexus, afforded via his old drug-dealing days. People trump stuff in my book. Sorry for my "old school" thinking. Revised

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    I kept thinking of the statement Black Lives Matter as I listened to Jackson read his powerful memoir, which documents his life and critical incidents in the lives of some of his black male friends and family, and provides academic/journalistic context. Like Kiese Laymon’s Heavy, this is an important, gut-wrenching story from the front lines of American racism. Jackson’s dad was a pimp and his mom became addicted to crack, so this is grim reading for long stretches, and the content mix was jarri I kept thinking of the statement Black Lives Matter as I listened to Jackson read his powerful memoir, which documents his life and critical incidents in the lives of some of his black male friends and family, and provides academic/journalistic context. Like Kiese Laymon’s Heavy, this is an important, gut-wrenching story from the front lines of American racism. Jackson’s dad was a pimp and his mom became addicted to crack, so this is grim reading for long stretches, and the content mix was jarring at first. But by the end I got acclimated to the structure, and I came away feeling moved and grateful for Jackson’s journey, his honesty in recounting it, his unique voice, and the insights he provides into the multigenerational effects of America’s racism. Plus: Portland!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nadine

    I'm not a fan of memoir as a genre (well, only fictional ones) so I may be approaching this book with the wrong attitude - I liked it, but with lots of buts. I liked the way he wove together his scholar voice and his daily life voice, but I also had the niggling feeling that he was hiding behind both voices at times, rather than honestly confronting himself. I liked reading his psychological take on the boys and men he grew up with, but I felt like he was still trying to impress the Men on the S I'm not a fan of memoir as a genre (well, only fictional ones) so I may be approaching this book with the wrong attitude - I liked it, but with lots of buts. I liked the way he wove together his scholar voice and his daily life voice, but I also had the niggling feeling that he was hiding behind both voices at times, rather than honestly confronting himself. I liked reading his psychological take on the boys and men he grew up with, but I felt like he was still trying to impress the Men on the Scale, even as he dissected them. I sensed some version of the humble brag going on. I liked the honesty and love in his depictions of family members, especially of his mother. But, and this is the biggest but, I think he doesn't extend this to girlfriends, who never come across as real people - they're barely more than stereotypes. He talks about his cruelties, selfishness and transgressions in relationships, but they were described rather than felt. For an author who is so generously, entertainingly discursive, he suddenly seems to omit a lot. Rather than engage and grapple, he quits the field in the name of 'fairness', asking them to tell their side of the story'. Five reply, and the short text response in "Statement 4" brilliantly hit the nail on the head for me: Hi - ok. I'll think about it. Question: why are you still writing about this. Ok, so your asking all of us who may or may not hv been broken to help? Just trying to understand cuz the irony feels really sad...." The question is, does he see the irony? That would be a good place to start reflecting. This book has inspired me to read some other books on my TBR that may help me put this one in more context: Men We Reaped; Heavy: An American Memoir; How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

  13. 5 out of 5

    kelly

    This is a hard one to review. "Survival Math" is not a traditional linear memoir. It's mostly autobiographical essays woven together on a variety of topics--love, relationships, racism, family, drugs, the criminal justice system--surrounding the author and the men in his life (father, cousins, and uncles) in and around Portland, Oregon. Mitchell Jackson's mother is also a prominent figure throughout, but she's mostly discussed as it relates to the men in her life. The book also includes "Survivo This is a hard one to review. "Survival Math" is not a traditional linear memoir. It's mostly autobiographical essays woven together on a variety of topics--love, relationships, racism, family, drugs, the criminal justice system--surrounding the author and the men in his life (father, cousins, and uncles) in and around Portland, Oregon. Mitchell Jackson's mother is also a prominent figure throughout, but she's mostly discussed as it relates to the men in her life. The book also includes "Survivor Files," short, second person vignettes from the lives of men in his family.  I added this book with all the fervor that it was supposed to actually be good. Still, I'm conflicted on this. There's a lengthy section in the middle when the author talks all about his life as a serial cheater, man-whore, and general asshole to women. He discusses his cruelties in a very detailed manner, in the same way one would describe the subtleties of criminal behavior or the forensics of a crime scene. I appreciated the unique approach, but I felt like he was hiding behind this voice rather than honestly confronting his past. And then there was the 'why' of all of this, especially when only a small part of this section dealt with any kinda contrition for his past wrongs. Was this a rationalization of that behavior or a catharsis? Even after reading all of it I'm still unsure. The finer points of his injuries to others laid bare, but never really heart felt. I couldn't shake the feeling that there was a very smug humble brag going on.  There's also quite a long section about 75% of the way in where Jackson writes about the many 'pimps' in his family and their experiences on the streets. I skipped this section. Pardon me for saying so, but I resolved a long time ago to never read a male's perspective of women's sex work. When it comes to "the game" (as they put it), men are almost always the power brokers and exploiters, no matter how you slice it. There's also nothing glorious about physically and emotionally abusing women and taking their income, unless of course all the posturing is just another form of a humble brag, which I've already told you about.  It took me almost three months to read this. It's an ok book, but overall I just don't think it's my cup of tea. [Note: A free digital copy of this book was provided to me by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.]

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Mitchell S. Jackson’s SURVIVAL MATH: NOTES ON AN ALL-AMERICAN FAMILY comes out Tuesday March 5. Jackson chronicles his life growing up in Portland, OR — a city comprised of only 3-5% African American individuals. Using an investigative voice, Jackson uncovers his and his family’s history involving drugs, hustling, violence, pimping, poverty. He writes specific stories about himself, but he places these narrative stories within a big-picture context using stats, interviews, data. This context pro Mitchell S. Jackson’s SURVIVAL MATH: NOTES ON AN ALL-AMERICAN FAMILY comes out Tuesday March 5. Jackson chronicles his life growing up in Portland, OR — a city comprised of only 3-5% African American individuals. Using an investigative voice, Jackson uncovers his and his family’s history involving drugs, hustling, violence, pimping, poverty. He writes specific stories about himself, but he places these narrative stories within a big-picture context using stats, interviews, data. This context provides the reader with a deeper understanding of “why” and “how” and “where do we go from here.” I’ve not read anything like this book. Here is what makes SURVIVAL MATH unique: ➕Jackon’s voice and experience. He writes with a specific cadence, slipping in and out of academic language and a poetic/smooth voice. ✖️He attempts to combat ignorance, not innocence. ➕This is a memoir placed deeply within a historical context, which gives his whole community a voice and shows the greater need to imagine the possibility of “next steps” and “healing.” ✖️I loved Jackson’s conclusion: comparing living life to the work of writing. We revise and collaborate in community. We are always trying to improve and not accept anything less. As a reader, I did have some trouble switching between the two styles of language (academic and conversational). The overall vision of the book made more sense at the end, and, until that point, I had trouble continuing with the book in the middle. Jackson doesn’t shy away from content — so triggers are heavy in this one (see above content list). Jackson is honest and incredibly creative. I am glad he is willing to share his story, and that I had the opportunity to read it. I have so much more to learn. Thank you to @scribnerbooks for my free copy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I think a more appropriate subtitle for this book would be something like "Notes on American Masculinity." Yes, Jackson talked about his family, but he focused on the men in his family almost exclusively. He talked about his mother, but much (though not all) of what he said about her is couched in her relationship to the men in her life. I had conflicted feelings about this book. I enjoyed the combination of memoir and sociology. I liked the structure that included what the author termed "surviv I think a more appropriate subtitle for this book would be something like "Notes on American Masculinity." Yes, Jackson talked about his family, but he focused on the men in his family almost exclusively. He talked about his mother, but much (though not all) of what he said about her is couched in her relationship to the men in her life. I had conflicted feelings about this book. I enjoyed the combination of memoir and sociology. I liked the structure that included what the author termed "survival files," vignettes from the lives of men in his family. I thought the narrative voice was strong. I understand that Jackson was sharing the life he knew and making sense of the world he inhabited. He was bringing an authentic voice to the topic of black masculinity. I appreciated his insights on the religion of whiteness and the relationship of white womanhood to both black and white manhood. I think those may have been the strongest parts of the book. But that didn't make it any easier to read detailed accounts of his philandering or accounts of sex work and the relationship of men in his family to sex work. As a reader I wasn't sure if his narrative processes was an attempt to come to terms with his past behaviors or to justify them; was it rationalizing or an act of catharsis? The book in some ways made womanhood feel less than, but at the same time, I appreciate that someone would be willing to be as honest as he could be about his world and about masculinity at large. I think I'll have to consider this book for a few more days and see what stays with me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “Survival Math” by Mitchell S. Jackson, published by Scribner. Category – Memoir Publication Date – March 05, 2019. This book could be classified in several categories. I picked Memoir but it just as easily could be classified as Biography or History. This is the story of Mitchell S. Jackson growing up in a very fluid time in life, both his and the United States. It was both a very confusing time and one that garnered many choices, both good and bad. Mitchell made many choices, both good and bad a “Survival Math” by Mitchell S. Jackson, published by Scribner. Category – Memoir Publication Date – March 05, 2019. This book could be classified in several categories. I picked Memoir but it just as easily could be classified as Biography or History. This is the story of Mitchell S. Jackson growing up in a very fluid time in life, both his and the United States. It was both a very confusing time and one that garnered many choices, both good and bad. Mitchell made many choices, both good and bad and it is a wonder that he was able to overcome the bad and lived to write about it. Mitchell’s early life was living with a loving mother but had problems with men and drugs. His father, although absent for most of his life, did love him and had an influence on his choices in life. Mitchell spent much of his life as a hustler. He was, lucky for him, a small time drug user and dealer. He and his family were subjected to drugs, prostitution, and people who had little or no regard for human life. The history side of his story tells about life in the Portland, Oregon area that was neglected by government and crime was more a way of life. It is to his credit that he was able to overcome the downside of his life and pull himself up to not only tell his story but become a writer of exceptional ability. An excellent read that gives a wonderful perspective of what it takes to overcome what seems to be impossible odds.

  17. 5 out of 5

    J Beckett

    Survival Math was possibly one of the finest memoirs I've read in the last few years. Long a fan of Mitchell S. Jackson, I was wowed by this brother's ability to take the reader to a place they've never been but is so familiar. I knew his friends, family, sounds, sights, and the sorrows that reality and the unknown brings. This book was beautifully, although brutally, written, infused with the power to evoke emotions the reader may have rather remained hidden. But because Mitchell honestly expos Survival Math was possibly one of the finest memoirs I've read in the last few years. Long a fan of Mitchell S. Jackson, I was wowed by this brother's ability to take the reader to a place they've never been but is so familiar. I knew his friends, family, sounds, sights, and the sorrows that reality and the unknown brings. This book was beautifully, although brutally, written, infused with the power to evoke emotions the reader may have rather remained hidden. But because Mitchell honestly exposes himself, he pulls, extracts, from our inner selves, the demons and angels we'd prefer to remain hidden. I knew the book had to come to end, eventually, and the few lines, the feeling of his continued struggle, despite the many wins he's embraced, reminded me that our battle is never truly over. Survival Math was inspiring, insightful, profoundly honest, shocking, frustrating, abominable, blessedly vulgar, and worthy of every hour it took to read it. Bravo Mitchell S. Jackson!!! BRAVO!

  18. 4 out of 5

    David V.

    Received as an ARC from the publisher. Started 2-25-19. Finished 3-4-19. Memoir of 16 Black men in one family and their effect on the author over a period of many years. Also tells about the American society's effect on these men. Slavery, lack of parental interaction, lack of adequate employment and education, lack of opportunities, prejudice and other American ills take their toll upon these men. Should be required reading in every Race Relations class. Forces the reader to do much soul-search Received as an ARC from the publisher. Started 2-25-19. Finished 3-4-19. Memoir of 16 Black men in one family and their effect on the author over a period of many years. Also tells about the American society's effect on these men. Slavery, lack of parental interaction, lack of adequate employment and education, lack of opportunities, prejudice and other American ills take their toll upon these men. Should be required reading in every Race Relations class. Forces the reader to do much soul-searching.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie G.

    It was great to read a book that gave philosophical, sociological, historical and psychological context to a life barely escaped by the author and not escaped by many who mattered and to read about 3rd chances and 4th chances take. It was great to read about transformation. Jackson says "revision is a philosophy." If it is it is a hopeful one, a decent one, a non-racist one. This book took a lot from me, in the best ways. I was a criminology major, and the sociological underpinnings of sex work It was great to read a book that gave philosophical, sociological, historical and psychological context to a life barely escaped by the author and not escaped by many who mattered and to read about 3rd chances and 4th chances take. It was great to read about transformation. Jackson says "revision is a philosophy." If it is it is a hopeful one, a decent one, a non-racist one. This book took a lot from me, in the best ways. I was a criminology major, and the sociological underpinnings of sex work (including pimping) is something I have read about widely, and many years back wrote about. I found myself returning to source texts, both academic and non-academic and to some basic philosophy texts, mostly Immanuel Kant. Jackson did a great job stitching together separate but related disciplines to provide a framework for the paths taken by the people around him, both biological and chosen family and close friends. This lens is something I have not seen before, and it broadened the way I look a social dynamic that needs to be altered without being destroyed. As it is, it serves no one. I did ding Jackson a bit for the prolonged hagiography of several pimps. He talks a good game about how terrible pimping is, and he deploys feminist theory admirably, but he goes on and on about the brilliance and swagger of these men, thereby creating a monument to men who survived by helping to degrade and kill women. The story of his late aunt and the men around her (an apologia for this guy pimping his woman and exposing her son to terrible things) pissed me off and made me sad in equal measure. Jackson may want to do some further thinking about that. I am not saying pimps are necessarily monsters to their cores (though many are), or that you can't celebrate what is good in these individuals, but he celebrates aspects of pimp life that are very much a part of the problem. He really needs to read some more Audre Lorde IMHO. This is the second time in recent weeks I have had something to say about GR reviewers. As an ally I can't not call this out, even though I recognize its kind of jerky. It was so interesting to me that when the white people in Educated did TERRIBLE things even though they had other options for success handed to them Goodreads reviewers sympathetically expressed that the author should get over it, accept that you can love people who are toxic but that the toxicity meant that she must distance herself from her family. When Jackson wrote about black people who did terrible things and did not have other options for success handed to them many GR reviewers attacked him and the people he had grown up thinking of as family. Several reviewers said that his longing to stay connected to people he knew had done bad things was evidence not of love (as with Westover) but instead evidence this was a con job. This even though working against even greater odds than Tara Westover (whom I greatly admire, this is not her fault) Jackson turned his life around. Jackson is demonstrably better educated than me , and I am guessing most reviewers, and he writes about important things and teaches at Columbia. To many reviewers, despite his Herculean accomplishments, he is still just a drug dealer not an exemplar. Bad news reviewers, y'all racist. You are free to not like the book, it is very different than Educated, but on this point, the missing of loved ones who are still doing bad things and the admiration of accomplishments despite a lot of people and structures dragging you down, the only real distinction is that Jackson is black.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Sad, honest, powerful, seminal, this is an intricate masterpiece of a braided memoir about the experience of growing up as a black man in America and, specifically, in Portland, Oregon. It's also remarkable in that the writer spends a significant portion of the book being honest about, coming to terms with, and taking responsibility (and eventually showing remorse) for treating women, including his own daughter, horribly in his past. This book is so many things, among which is arguably the best Sad, honest, powerful, seminal, this is an intricate masterpiece of a braided memoir about the experience of growing up as a black man in America and, specifically, in Portland, Oregon. It's also remarkable in that the writer spends a significant portion of the book being honest about, coming to terms with, and taking responsibility (and eventually showing remorse) for treating women, including his own daughter, horribly in his past. This book is so many things, among which is arguably the best example of a self motivated accountability/ reckoning process around misogyny that I've encountered from a male writer.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Norrine

    I don't know why. But I tried several times to read this book and couldn't get past a couple of pages.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    4.5. An incredibly lyrical, thoughtful, self-reflective work that examines racism and sexism and growing up poor and black in Portland. Required reading for anyone who lives here. I struggled some with his reflection on his relationships--it's clear he's trying to do the work but has some blind spots still. Highly recommend listening to this on audiobook!!!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This was too innovative in form for me. I really appreciated it, but it shifted between memoir and history and sociology and journalism and second person storytelling too much for me to really settle into it. I think this book is really good, but not good for me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    This is one of the few books I've had difficulty getting through. The longer I read, the less I liked it, and I admit to just skimming sections of the back third. The narrative voice wasn't consistent, and if the narrator of a memoir hasn't figured out who they are yet, that memoir's going to suffer, as this one certainly did. I think if the author could have settled down to maybe three themes, and concentrated on those, it would have been better.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Mitchell Jackson's " Survival Math" brought out more than an autobiography in my opinion. In the book, he talked a lot of his life of crime, his family's generations to gentrification and settling in parts of the northwestern area of the US that were unknown territory to African Americans at that time. I really enjoyed the way the book was written. Thank you for letting me review.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    Hard to review this one. The writing style is something else. I mean this is the best example of authorial voice I can think of. I really liked the survival files sections, and my favorite section of the book was on blood and plasma donations. but I think the author tried to do too much with this book and there were times I lost the trail.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Darcee Kraus

    I won this book in the giveaway! Survival Math provided a tantalizing story that opened my eyes to a life I couldn't begin to imagine. Wonderfully written, I am obsessed with finding more by Mitchell S. Jackson.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    On the sentence level, I appreciate Jackson’s writing, but the book is disorganized and choppy and feels forced. The whole time I read it, I imagined him sighing in front of his computer and saying, “ugh I guess I’ll write a section.”

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    3.5⭐️ I wish this had more of the ‘survival stories’ that were interspersed in between chapters. The author’s story was interesting but lacking...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nick Rath

    It is amazing that a single book has managed to teach me more about the racial history of Portland than the 11 previous years that I have in the Portland Public School system. The fact that this is the case is saddening, but it also provides testament to the amount of detail that Mitchell Jackson manages to incorporate the memoirs that make up this book. These memoirs investigate the inequalities and difficulties that Jackson and other African-Americans have had to endure while living in Portlan It is amazing that a single book has managed to teach me more about the racial history of Portland than the 11 previous years that I have in the Portland Public School system. The fact that this is the case is saddening, but it also provides testament to the amount of detail that Mitchell Jackson manages to incorporate the memoirs that make up this book. These memoirs investigate the inequalities and difficulties that Jackson and other African-Americans have had to endure while living in Portland or the rest of the United States. The narrative that Jackson explores counters the common ideology that Portland is at a higher caliber in terms of its diversity and acceptance, which is simply disproved by the statistics and reasoning that he provides. Some of the key things that I learned in this book were that African-Americans only make up 3-5% of Portland’s population, with this representation being even lower than I had anticipated before reading. Jackson also informed me that this lack of representation has been reinforced by the events of Portland’s past that some may not really associate with involving race, such as the Vanport Flood. It is revealed that the consequences of this flooding disaster were much more severe for the African-American community, as their housing options become severely limited and inaccessible compared to the whites, due to clearly biased regulations that were developed. I even learned of the prejudice that exists in the corporate industry of blood/plasma donations, with Jackson providing an anecdote involving his mother that reveals the greed driving this industry and the ways that it manipulates poorer minorities to give up something essential to their lives for such little recompensation. Jackson’s ability to present the information and his reasoning on societal inequality is the major reason why I would advise anyone looking to learn about these disparities in Portland/the rest of the U.S. to read this book, because it thoroughly examines the issues from different perspectives that all share this suffrage. It is sad to think these inequalities have persisted for so long, but there is a quote from Jackson that is useful in understanding how American society can move forward and make positive changes that promote equality. This quote (what I believe to be the book’s golden line) states, “While faith needs… words and deeds” (Jackson 286). In this excerpt, Jackson examines the true difference between faith and truth. He reveals that faith only requires an inclination to believe in something, where as truth must accompanied by logical proof and evidence. This is why in order for society to find change, we must value truth and think rationally about what appropriate steps are appropriate to take, rather than putting value in just faith and aspirations, which may not adhere to the conditions of reality.

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