Book Reviews: January 2020

The latest from Daniel McGhee and Reginald Dwayne Betts.

Lauren LaRocca - January 2020

Book Reviews: January 2020

The latest from Daniel McGhee and Reginald Dwayne Betts.

Lauren LaRocca - January 2020


chasing-a-flawed-sun.jpg#asset:124155

Chasing a Flawed Sun

Daniel McGhee (Phoenix Rising Publishing)

From page one, Daniel McGhee races down to the depths of hell on Earth and drags the reader along with him, every inch of the way. As painful as this memoir is to read—one horrifying, self-destructive story after the next—one can only imagine how painful it must’ve been to write, much less live. McGhee grew up a white, middle-class kid in Baltimore County, and in this gut-wrenchingly honest narrative, he takes us down the rabbit hole into his heroin addiction—but not before years of drinking every day and getting high on cocaine, Special K, and ecstasy (and selling them all, too), while constantly instigating fights, jumping people, pulling guns on people (seemingly nothing was off limits) and finding himself in and out of rehab—and prison. When retelling his story, he sometimes interrupts his own train of thought to comment on how ashamed he is, how lost and clueless he once was. Many addicts don’t find themselves living the happy ending, but this book serves as some hope. It’s a story every addict must know deeply, and this book would certainly resonate with them. But perhaps its greater gift lies in showing people who have not experienced addiction firsthand what it’s like—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—and why addicts keep “chasing a flawed sun.”

FELON.jpg#asset:124154

Felon

Reginald Dwayne Betts (W.W. Norton & Company)

Whether delivering a one-two punch reminiscent of rap or the quiet revelations of a man brimming with wisdom, the poems in Reginald Dwayne Betts’ Felon traverse the realities of re-entering society post-incarceration. Throughout the book, he explores reconnecting with family, struggling to find viable work, facing the grievance of years lost, and ultimately learning to navigate the world as an ex-con. “Redaction is a dialect after prison,” he writes in the first poem. Originally from Prince George’s County, Betts was incarcerated nearly nine years for carjacking when he was 16. After his release, he graduated from Yale Law School and has since published a memoir and four collections of poetry. Perhaps the most compelling aspect to Felon are four poems that show Betts’ redactions in legal documents that had been filed by the Civil Rights Corps to challenge the continued incarceration of those who could not afford bail. Traditionally called blackout poems, this literary device has soared to new levels of meaning under Betts’ hand. Among the thick, black lines of his redactions are the words and phrases that he’s chosen to keep, ultimately transmuting the court documents into works of art.





You May Also Like


MaxSpace

Movie Review: Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee takes on Vietnam, in his inimitable way.

Arts & Culture

Five Local Makers to Support Right Now

We celebrate a sampling of local artists who’ve been cut off from their clientele by COVID-19.

Arts District

Roundtable: With Many Funds Exhausted, What’s Next for the Arts Community?

Creative leaders gather to discuss artist relief, pivoting programming, and existing resources.


Arts District

WTMD’s First Thursdays Go Virtual for the Rest of the Summer

The planned overhaul of the annual festival will be postponed until next year.

MaxSpace

Movie Review: Irresistible

The average episode of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show had more substance and humor than his new film.

Arts & Culture

Selections from Baltimore School for the Arts’ Senior Photo Class

BSA seniors might be the last students to work in a darkroom setting for months ahead.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Baltimore Pride’s Legacy Lives On Despite Canceled Festival: Community comes together virtually to celebrate with discussions and events.

Bottoms Up Bagels Rolls Into Harwood: Owners debut their new “BUB Hub” at 28th and Greenmount.

Amid The Economic Chaos, Downtown Partnership’s New President Has a Plan: Shelonda Stokes was just named president after serving in an interim leadership role.

WTMD’s First Thursdays Go Virtual for the Rest of the Summer: The planned overhaul of the annual festival will be postponed until next year.

The Womanist Reader Creates an Online Library of Black Literature: A Baltimore writer curates an evolving list of women writers for her women followers.