Survival Math is a brilliant memoir told in a unique and powerful voice. Jackson explores his family history, the history of Portland, and the larger issues that surrounded his childhood. “Survival math” refers to the hard economic choices he and his family made in one the whitest cities in America. Jackson’s eloquent and mesmerizing prose makes this a standout read. Recommended By Mary Jo S., Powells.com
Combining scholarship and personal history, and writing with his uniquely brilliant voice, Mitchell Jackson takes on the struggles, consequences, and even responsibilities that spring from growing up with the inherited burden of poverty and marginalization. Survival Math is a gorgeously crafted memoir and, in its wider scope, a downright important book. Recommended By Gigi L., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"A vibrant memoir of race, violence, family, and manhood...a virtuosic wail of a book" (The Boston Globe), Survival Math calculates how award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson survived the Portland, Oregon, of his youth.
This "spellbinding" (NPR) 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 story of Mitchell 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 experience, is complemented by survivor files, which feature photographs and riveting short narratives of several of Jackson's male relatives.
"A vulnerable, sobering look at Jackson's life and beyond, in all its tragedies, burdens, and faults" (San Francisco Chronicle), 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. "Both poetic and brutally honest" (Salon), Mitchell S. Jackson's nonfiction debut is as essential as it is beautiful, as real as it is artful, a singular achievement, not to be missed.
"Relentlessly clear-eyed and virtuosic, Survival Math offers revelation after revelation; in the end, it remakes our understanding of the world and those in it."
Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing
"This is a mesmerizing book, full of story, truth, pain, lyricism, humor, and astonishment: the stuff of a difficult life, fully lived, and masterfully transformed into art."
Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses and The Golden House
"This story is grit and gilded; a space where individual pasts collide with our collective hopes for America's future." Damaris B. Hill, author of A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing
"Mitchell Jackson's Survival Math is riveted by his exacting and tender calculus of each subject's depth and humanity. Each hustle, dodge and scramble we witness in these pages is anchored in the turbulent sea of American history."
Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olio
About the Author
Mitchell S. Jackson's debut novel won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. His honors include a Whiting Award and fellowships from the Cullman Center of the New York Public Library, TED, the Lannan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, PEN, NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts), and the Center for Fiction. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, The Guardian, and elsewhere. The author of Survival Math, he is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Chicago.