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AUTHOR: Charles M. Blow
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
DATE: 2014
PAGES: 228
AWARDS: Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction (2015), PEN Open Book Award Nominee for Longlist (2015)

Fire Shut Up in My Bones

by Charles M. Blow

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow mines the compelling poetry of the out-of-time African-American Louisiana town where he grew up — a place where slavery’s legacy felt astonishingly close, reverberating in the elders’ stories and in the near-constant wash of violence.

Blow’s attachment to his mother — a fiercely driven woman with five sons, brass knuckles in her glove box, a job plucking poultry at a nearby factory, a soon-to-be-ex husband, and a love of newspapers and learning — cannot protect him from secret abuse at the hands of an older cousin. It’s damage that triggers years of anger and searing self-questioning.

Finally, Blow escapes to a nearby state university, where he joins a black fraternity after a passage of brutal hazing, and then enters a world of racial and sexual privilege that feels like everything he’s ever needed and wanted, until he’s called upon, himself, to become the one perpetuating the shocking abuse.


Charles M. Blow identifies as bisexual, and discusses his sexual identity in Fire Shut Up in My Bones.

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